Interconnections: Studying in COVID times - Maryam RahimiHaghighi

I’m from Iran. I’m doing my Master’s degree in Science and Technology of Bio and Nanomaterials. I actually chose Ca’ Foscari simply because of the program I’m studying right now. It is a multidisciplinary course with an interesting approach towards material science and bionanotechnology.

Did you stay in Venice during the lockdown period?

As a matter of fact, I went to another city in Italy right before the lockdown began and I had to stay there for most of it. I had no idea at that time how serious the COVID situation was and certainly didn’t have the slightest clue that we would be in quarantine once we came back to Venice, while the restrictions were being removed gradually. For the current academic year, I decided to be in Venice because my course involves some practical lab sessions which require physical presence. Of course not all my classmates could manage to be here in Venice for a.y. 2020/2021, which is a fact that is being considered by the professors and the academic staff. They are doing their best to make sure that learning opportunities are equal for everyone regardless of their current location.

How have you been staying in contact with Ca’ Foscari and how has Ca’ Foscari been staying in contact with you?

Ca’ Foscari has been in contact with students mostly through emails about updates on the health emergency. I personally think it would have been nice to hear from someone from the university asking about students' well-being - physical and mental, of course. The lockdown was hard and especially harder for international students who were far from home and didn't know what would happen next. Although to be completely fair this was new for all of us, students and the university, so I guess everyone was taken by surprise.

The Instagram account Studentlifeinvenice really feels the closest to me during these times. Especially during the lockdown, it was nice to know from other students and their challenges. Knowing that everyone is somehow going through the same things that you are, will create a sense of community. 

What part of your student life did you miss the most during the lockdown period?

I mostly miss events, scientific conferences, and social gatherings held by the university. Of course, most of them are now being held but in a virtual-mode. For me it’s not the same, I prefer the human interaction and exchanging feelings and ideas in person.

Was there something specific that helped you cope with the situation?

Since we were not allowed to move around like before, there was plenty of time for the stuff you usually don’t have time for. Cooking and having long conversations with my friends and family were the things that kept me going. 

How do you think the COVID situation has changed, if at all, this generation of students?

It definitely has changed the life of this generation of students. Having to attend classes virtually is just the first thing that has changed. Many opportunities were taken away from students because of this pandemic. Many had to graduate and defend their thesis online, many lost their internships, and most of the mobility programs were canceled. The sad thing is the fact that most of these opportunities can’t be recovered because they are “now or never”.

How would you describe your university experience in this new academic year?

I personally attend most of my classes in person. I am more focused this way. The dual-mode helps the students who couldn’t manage to physically be here because of this pandemic. It is also very useful when you miss a class, you can watch the recorded version on the Moodle platform

What does it feel like to start a new academic year?

Everything is a little bit different now, of course. But after eight months I think we all have got used to this “new normal”. 

What do you expect from the next few months?

Hopefully, a vaccine will be developed in the next few months and this situation will end. We all have already lost a lot during this and I think we all can’t wait for it to come to an end.

Rachele Svetlana Bassan