A Remote Start to the Academic Year

November 13, 2020

by Ferowza Swapnil, Alumni Scholarship Recipient and MA student in the Department of Economics and Business

When I first applied to CEU, I was excited about many things: to be part of a diverse community, network with people from the same field of interest and – most importantly – live by myself in a new country!

Nevertheless, just like the rest of the world, my plans crumbled beneath the vicious stampede of the global pandemic. Consequently, my journey with CEU got off to a rocky start.

Today, I attend my master’s classes via a collage of video tiles in Zoom, approximately 4,000 miles away from the university. This platform for remote learning came with an unfamiliar set of intricate challenges, draining me both emotionally and physically. Keeping up with the time lag is the toughest of all. With a time difference of 5 hours between Vienna and my country, there are times when I find myself in class till 11:00-12:00 at night. But even with droopy, fatigued eyelids I spare no effort to persist through them. Because I know that everyone else is doing their utmost and this is the closest we can all get to the real-life university experience right now. This credence is what keeps me going.

But what has been exasperating this whole time are the technical challenges. It has become the new normal for me to lose my connection at least twice in every class. Again, every so often the Zoom app starts throwing its uncanny fits, muting the professor or us automatically. And suddenly you have a screen full of people waving their hands in sync from their little boxes, trying to get the attention of the professor. It’s annoying, but in the end, we have a good laugh. (Yes, we can use the chat box, but the hand signaling works faster when the professor is in a flow).

Even so, I am grateful. I got to virtually meet a bunch of extremely cordial classmates, who are always a text away. I have professors ready to mold their courses as circumstances dictate. And then there is CEU, reminding me of one of my favorite quotes from a favorite childhood book: “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” Right now, CEU is nothing less than Hogwarts to me.

Now that I think about it, amidst such a cacophonous ordeal around the globe, it is a luxury to be part of a community that supports each other to the core. During orientation, I remember someone mentioning “No matter what, we are in this together.” I can’t be happier that we are still maintaining that solidarity, because without it, my rocky start to this academic year would have been even more challenging.