Interconnections: Studying in COVID times - Maria Kuznetsova

I am from Russia and I am in my second year of my Master's degree in Language Sciences. Sometimes it seems to me that it is not me who chose Ca' Foscari, but that the university chose me. After my Bachelor's degree, I worked for a company that deals with studying abroad, and at one of the educational exhibitions I got acquainted with Ca’ Foscari. This university offered me everything I wanted to get from studying abroad, and who would refuse to study in the heart of the Italian capital of culture? That is how I decided to take the most adventurous trip of my life.

Did you stay in Venice during the lockdown period?

I decided to go back home in the middle of March, right before the whole of Italy became a red zone. The flights used to operate daily, but as I got to know later, starting right from the next day after I flew away, all the flights from Venice to Russia were cancelled, so it was a bit scary for me to come back here. I decided to take offline classes this year, the fact that I enrolled in order to study in Venice and that I have to be here physically pushed me forward. Although I had to make a new visa to come back (the police had closed before I received my first residence permit), Venice was beckoning me back and I could not resist. 

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

As for my studies, I was talking to my friends from different universities, and I know that Ca’ Foscari dealt with the task of delivering online classes very well. Everything was operated quickly and without serious difficulties. Moreover, out of the blue, the university came up with the idea of holding a lot of online events like online meetings and talks with visiting guests and professors - it was quite impressive and interesting, you know. And as for the closeness, some professors supported us very much, keeping in touch with us on Facebook. Besides, being a Ca’ Foscari collaborator in the International Office, I got a lot of backing from the curator’s and colleagues’ side. We are a team of international students, and due to the pandemic, we found ourselves in completely different and difficult situations, like many international students, of course... Also, our curator recorded a short supporting video to cheer students up in these hard times. We posted it on the students’ Instagram page and it had feedback! So I think I got the support I need.

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

I did miss offline classes! It was not tough for me to follow online classes but I very much prefer in-presence lessons to the online ones. And as for student life, of course, I missed my friends and the beautiful city of Venice. You find a shared language with this city very fast and after leaving it, you start longing for this place and all the activities and fun you used to have with your friends there.

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

As I was at home with my family, I cannot say that I suffered a lot. I accepted the thought that the virus is something we need to wait out. Now it is actually more difficult as the level of uncertainty rose and we cannot even guess when it will all end. I came back to Venice but I am staying in touch with my family and friends in Russia and we support each other a lot. And of course, my university friends and delicious Italian cuisine help me cope with the stress I might have!

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

My opinion is subjective here and I might be wrong, but online education seeming the only type of education this generation has, may be a reason for an irresponsible attitude to education itself. Students may stay home and watch an online lesson, and at home, there are many distractions, so it could be tough to concentrate. Though it depends on a student’s character, some are even more comfortable with online lessons. But it undoubtedly is a challenge for them we did not face.

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

I do not have many courses this semester, I actually have few, and I prefer to visit the university so as not to be stuck at home. However, it is surely a great idea to implement these dual-mode courses as a lot of my group mates from abroad and from Italy have decided to stay home or attend classes rarely because of the virus, so it is very useful for them.

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

As for now, for the middle of October, my second academic year in Ca’ Foscari goes quite smoothly. I am fine with it but a bit worried about my future plans. For example, I am not sure whether it will be possible to do an internship I wanted to do, and I am also not sure that we will not be closed in again. Uncertainty is slowly becoming a part of our life and we have to deal with it and live with it somehow. My daily routine did not change much, it just became “masked” but, all in all, it is pretty the same. As for my student life, I, of course, would love to participate more in different student activities organised by the university and some student organisations, and it is a pity that we do not have the opportunities to communicate and cooperate as lively as we did last year, you know... It is a bit sad, of course, but if there are some periods in life when we need to do a lemonade from the lemons that life gives us, well, this year we just need a bit more sugar to add. ☺

What do you expect from the next few months?

Good question. Though a tricky one. Well, I expect we will continue studying in the same mode as we are doing now. I hope that we will not end up being under lockdown again, that some new ways of curing or protecting us from the virus will be invented, that borders between regions and countries will remain open and that I will pass the exams in the most difficult subjects that I have! So everything seems quite obvious: I am an ordinary student who wants to live a healthy and interesting life. I came to Venice to be surrounded by beautiful architecture and diverse people, and I just hope for the best. Wear a mask, keep your social distance, attend classes (in any mode) and do not forget to relax. I have always been optimistic, and this situation will not be an exception.

Rachele Svetlana Bassan