The Room as University, the Laptop as Classroom, the Cellphone as Cafeteria: My CEU Experience in 2020

December 28, 2020

by Cezar Braga, MA student in the Department of Political Science

If you are reading this, it means you have managed the impressive task of surviving 2020. My heartiest congratulations on that! For many of us, CEU students, going through this eventful year felt like a losing cause at times. In the end, we made it, thanks to the collective resilience of the CEU community.

The difficulties predate the beginning of the academic year. As the pandemic gained ground, it was far from certain that there would be classes at all. To make matters worse, consulate services and international travel were severely disrupted, and this affected CEU students particularly hard, given our diverse national backgrounds.

The university, however, committed itself to providing students with classes this year. Given the worldwide restraints on the circulation of people, this entailed offering online classes and services. Many students managed to get to Vienna and enjoyed on-site classes for a few weeks. Yet, as the pandemic progressed, all classes were moved online, and this is, doubtlessly, the foremost way in which the pandemic is affecting us.

It’s hard to overstate the effects of this change in our lives. To start with, many of us (including myself) have never met our colleagues in person, even though at this point we know an awful lot about each other. Also, because we are so spread out globally, our online forums teem with activity 24/7. It’s never too early or too late to chat with my colleagues!

Our studies have been affected by this as well, obviously. Moving online means we must provide our own study environments. This is challenging for everyone, and for some more than for others. In my case, I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by considerate, attentive family, and to have a private space with a reliable internet connection, where I can spend my day watching classes and studying. I know this has been particularly challenging for some colleagues, and CEU has stepped in to help us in at least three ways.

First, we have been provided VPN access to library services. This means that all we need, in practice, to follow our courses, is a functioning laptop and internet connection, since we have access to a world of resources through the CEU library. Secondly, since the beginning of the academic year, those of us who have earned scholarships and financial aid have been provided with our stipends regardless of our location – and this has been a boon, since many students (once again, myself included) have left their jobs to study at CEU, and apart from our everyday financial obligations we have been having to deal with very strict (and costly) visa-related bureaucratic demands, due to the pandemic.

Finally, the university is also equipping student dorms with adequate study rooms. This is great news, and I can’t wait to test them, once I get to Vienna. Before that, however, I will most certainly have a much-anticipated tour around campus (and around town) and finally meet my friends!