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A paradigm shift: Starting university in 2020

A paradigm shift: Starting university in 2020

You don’t have to look far to realize that things have changed dramatically for college-bound students across the globe since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic. So it appears only natural that the same would go for EF Academy’s Class of 2020. Or does it?

To see just how much has changed over the past few months, I talked with three of my former classmates. My aim was to get their take on starting college during these interesting times in which we find ourselves. Jannis (Germany), Matisse (USA) and Roberto (Italy) kindly voiced their opinions.

Roberto, who will study at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore beginning this fall, says ‘‘I don’t feel it as real as it should. I expected to meet new people, create connections with the subjects and the teachers, adapt to the university environment but I have to wait at least a semester for that.’’ Like many other high school graduates around the world, Roberto carried with him a genuine sense of excitement about going off to college. But with the changes brought about by the pandemic, this joy will be transmitted in a different way. His university, which boasts one of the largest student populations in Italy, mandated each of its academic departments to choose how they will deliver classes this fall. The School of Political and Social Sciences, where Roberto will study Communication Management, ‘‘has chosen to deliver online classes for the first semester.’’ To ensure the safety and health of its students, numerous universities around the world have adopted similar measures.

A 1,963 kilometer drive from Italy will take one to Spain, where Matty will be studying Business Management and Gastronomy at CEU Universidad Cardenal Herrera. Amidst the pandemic, Matty feels ‘‘more prepared than I thought’’ and the pandemic has given her ‘‘a lot of extra time to get to school’’. It’s worth noting that her stoical outlook shows that it is possible to respond to challenges positively rather than negatively. And this mindset is more important now than ever before. Matty’s college will hold classes in person ‘‘starting in October’’. It’s clear that the university is optimistic that the ‘curve’ will ‘flatten’. Hopefully, it will and CEU Universidad Cardenal Herrera students will be able able to safely and effectively pursue their education.

Across the Atlantic, Jannis will be studying Finance at New York University. For him, ‘‘starting college amidst the pandemic is not as challenging as I anticipated given that universities have adopted their own policies and setting to a primarily online teaching system’’. He believes that “this time at home may be the last one of such length’’ which is why he is ‘‘trying to enjoy quality time with my family as much as possible!’’ As is the case with many universities worldwide, NYU will be ‘‘split between online, in person’’ and hybrid classes. Nevertheless, based on Jannis’ observations, ‘‘most classes will be hosted online’’ which makes him ‘‘feel more comfortable as an international student.’’ He believes that if everybody has ‘‘similar circumstances’’ in terms of studying, learning, etc., ‘‘all of the students will have a level playing field and be rather empathetic towards each other’s situations.’’ History has proven that when people are facing a common problem, they have a tendency to stick together, sympathize with one another and try to find solutions to it. Such has been the case during the pandemic and it is highly encouraging to observe!

Hearing from all three of my classmates makes it clear that, in one way or another, they have had to adapt to the new environment ushered in by the pandemic. And I too can relate to the process of adaptation. In the same breath, my mind jumps to 2017 when my classmates and I encountered a novel living and learning environment. For some, it was the first time being away from home for an extended period. For most, it required adaptability and a growth mindset. For all, I believe, the results of their courage and collaborative spirit were priceless. This is why I am convinced that as individuals who have experienced boarding school life and countless new situations, we are well equipped to use our knowledge, resilience and creativity to jump over life’s hurdles including the one we are facing today. So I encourage you to forge ahead with optimism even when you feel like you can no longer do so. Because in the end, it will only make you stronger!