Jada is our working student in our team “The Rights of Children and Young People”. She is currently studying International Relations and Organisations and tells us how her study life has changed in times of the Covid-19 pandemic and how studying alone feels like.

Author: Jada Henkel, Covid-19 – Studying Alone in Fron of the Computer

Covid-19 – Studying Alone in Front of the Computer  

For one year (already) the coronavirus is dominating our life and is confronting us with a global challenge. Alternating between lockdown and loosening determined last year. Politicians were in a dilemma: On the one hand, they had to support the economy to save businesses from ruin and on the other side, to stop the virus to spread and to protect lives, hospitals and their capacities. Even though as a student I do not have to fear any existential losses, the corona pandemic has heavily influenced my life and especially my studies.  

When I started my studies in autumn 2019 in the Netherlands, I still had seven normal months ahead of me. Thereby, my studies in “International Relations and Organisations” started as all studies should start. I joined a rowing association, visited guest lectures, organized cooking evenings and went to parties with my friends. When in March the university had to switch to online teaching, I took the next bus heading home to Germany. Not because I wanted to go, but because I thought it just would be a short “thing”. At this point, I did not know that I would not come back for six months. Looking back at this time, all these months seem like one single day; each day looked the same. This does not mean that the lockdown was solely negative; I started doing more sport, started knitting and learning Dutch and played board games online with my family. This motivated me to do the best out of the corona-situation after the lockdown. I joined a (shadow) boxing course and a Dutch language café and did many walks with my friends exploring the city. This gave me again motivation for my studies.  

By this time, I have done more than half of my Bachelor and had more online teaching than on-campus teaching. Therefore, I have the feeling, many contents have only been treated superficially. Pre-corona we could debate over current topics with our fellow students and professors, the online teaching is preventing this now. “Click” and the recorded video of PowerPoint slides with a small video of the professor in the upper right corner starts. Interactions and questions? No chance. In the last ten months, only one out of my eight courses were live. This new kind of lecturing – without any exchange –takes the fun and joy of studying. Moreover, the question arises, how we should learn critical thinking without being able to ask critical questions ourselves. 

There are ten months behind me in which I sat in front of the computer for ten hours every day. Nevertheless, I consider myself lucky as I at least had a “normal” semester in the beginning in order to settle myself and find new friends. Unfortunately, the new students in 2020 did not have this opportunity. They had to find new friends in a new city and maybe even new country and to try to build up a social life. What was already difficult for many before the pandemic becomes an impossibility in times of digital exchange.  How should one make new friends without ever having spoken to each other in person? To support the new students under these difficult conditions, I applied for becoming a Community Support Officer of my study program. Even though the online meetings were just once a week, I still recognized how good it felt for them but also for me. Due to the absence of joined lectures on campus, we no longer have the opportunity to exchange ideas about the challenges and problems that each of us faces. We can no longer vent our feelings together, which creates the feeling that we are all alone with our problems. However, we all sit there with the same fears and problems, but alone in front of our own computers instead of next to each other in the lecture or the cafeteria.   

Finally, online teaching is good and necessary. Additionally, my university was able to switch to this new mode of instruction fast and quite good. Nevertheless, I hope that it will end soon, and I am already looking forward to meeting my fellow students again in the lecture halls and talking about this – especially during on-campus teaching – super interesting and unique study program.