It has been three weeks since UP students, along with the rest of the world, switched to an online studying regime and it’s about time to share our experiences. What do we think about online classes? Can they replace real classroom training? How do we manage to stay sane at home? We interviewed students from different faculties to answer these and a few other questions in this blog post.
First and foremost, due to the health emergency that stormed into the lives of more than a million people and showed its immense effects, it is worth acknowledging what a challenging time we are going through now each as an individual and collectively. At this moment of unease, taking responsibility for our own and others’ well-being is an extreme necessity. Ignorance, on the other hand, might have detrimental implications for many more people.
Yet there are simple steps one can follow to stay safe and keep the panic away:
- Make sure Corona virus-related information you immerse yourself in and spread around is retrieved from reliable sources. *
- Mind easy precautionary methods, which include following rules of confinement, physical distancing and basic hygiene.
- Take care of your body and mind.
* World Health Organization provides primary necessary information on COVID-19 here https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1
Returning to the topic of quarantine, immediate reaction and responsiveness of the staff of the University of Pécs are those things that have been especially helpful during the period of distress. We appreciate elaborate guidelines received from the instructors and relevant information provided by the administration when we felt most uncertain. Based on the feedback from the interviews, UP students were assisted through the adaptation process patiently. Regardless of the prevailing circumstances, there are on-campus services that keep assisting students online such as student counselling, Legal Aid Clinic, University Ombudsman and a number of student organizations.
To find out more on this, check: https://pte.hu/en/covid/news
Interestingly, looking at the responses of some interviewees and taking my personal experience into account, quarantine has not been as terrifying as it seemed in the beginning. “It’s going alright, not that bad as it seems to be for others,” says Gulbakhyt, a second-year student at the Faculty of Engineering. Reflection, cooking, family time. These are the words she associates her quarantine with, which, I dare to assume, are true for a significant amount of UP students. Just like that, Costa Fasheh, who’s doing his fifth year in the Medical School, shared, “At the beginning, it was kind of tough staying at home and having nothing to do. But I guess now I have learned how to fill my day with things to do.” The way he describes the confinement is “enlightening, coping and surviving”.
On top of that, both of the students see the benefits of integrating online classes into the educational system. “In my opinion, concerning medical school, I think it would be a good idea in the future for lectures to become online,” says Costa, “while the practical practices to take place at the hospital, of course.” He adds that this way students and doctors will have fewer transportation problems and more time on their hands. Both. Some classes are perfect for distance learning, while for others I’d prefer real-life explanations, a whiteboard and just the whole atmosphere of the real class.
Alternatively, there is another share of the student community that finds quarantine somewhat challenging. Hugo Henriques, an exchange Psychology student from Portugal, felt studious, bored and stressed. Although he enjoys waking up later, he also admits, “The one thing I miss the most is socializing with different people.”
André Rocha, a student at the Faculty of Sciences, sees online classes as “hard to keep the students focused”. Allegedly, it is the matter of individual preferences as well as a set of other factors. One of them, as Andre says, is that “The system used is quite organized, however, when it comes to the interaction between the students (and them with the professors), it's not so good.” He gives an explanation familiar to the majority of us: “Usually it's preferable to write instead of speaking (in order to not make a mess at the chat room) and by doing so, sometimes I miss what is being said...” Yet, despite the inconveniences, just like Andre, we also spot the bright sides of studying from home. “To be honest, I thought it would be worse,” he replies, “I like the facility of being ready for the class only a few minutes before its start, instead of having to reserve a greater period of time to reach the university.”
Although we might understandably be experiencing a whole spectrum of feelings right now, it seems like there’s a common ground where the vast majority of us would agree - we all miss interacting with each other. Here’s how the students feel about social isolation:
- “I miss the interaction with my doctors, learning hands-on experience and I really miss talking to patients, taking history and having the challenge of getting to the right diagnosis during classes, not to mention, of course, my classmates whom we have fun and form friendships with.”
- “Nothing compares to the actual experience of having presential classes.”
- “I really miss the social interaction in real life with classmates and friends.”
Hereby, in times of scarcity and restraint especially, the importance of basic human presence and small mundane talks becomes obvious than ever.
Taking advantage of the interviewing opportunity, I couldn’t help but ask the respondents for some tips on how to keep on track as a student. This is what we’ve got:
- Hugo suggests to “maintain focus and routine.”
- Andre thinks it’s a good idea to “reserve a period of the day only for solving the college assignments.” “In other words, try to be as disciplined as possible.”
- Similarly, Gulbakhyt encourages you to “organize your workspace - a place just for studying/working.” “Talk to your roommates/family,” she says, “so that they don’t distract and disturb you while studying.”
- Lastly, Costa accentuates the importance of balance between fun, relaxation and studying in surviving this quarantine successfully. “Organising yourself and setting a plan to move along is the best step you can take right now,” he says. “I know it is difficult to focus or even to sit on your desk and attend seminars, but this is all for our benefits, thus, having a good sleep, then attending classes, going for walks or to the shop, then doing some kind of revisions, after that filling your time with a new hobby like watching series, puzzles, online games or anything will help to shift your thinking about studying.”
It was exciting and amusing to inquire about how UP’s diverse student body is doing during the quarantine. I genuinely thank the participants for sharing their routines, opinions and emotions. I ask you to stay strong, stay at home and remember that just like every temporary occurrence in the world, this will pass, and we will enjoy a newly acquired appreciation for the things we used to take for granted.
Written by Diana Seitkanova
International Student Ambassador from Kazakhstan
BSc in Psychology
University of Pécs, Faculty of Humanities