The first semester of a student at the university is usually an exciting and challenging moment. If this first semester is abroad, we probably may double these two variables. What about if it is overseas, and you face a lockdown just after your arrival? Well, in this case, it is time to keep the excitement and be prepared for some extra challenges. But don’t worry; there will also be lots of fun and discoveries!
I arrived in Germany, two weeks before the summer semester start date; this means more or less two weeks before the Covid-19 lockdown in Bavaria. I landed at the European Campus Rottal-Inn full of expectations about the new time ahead, especially about the cultural exchanges that an international university environment provides. I had no idea what was about to happen.
During these two weeks before lockdown, I was able to do some essential procedures to get my residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). I went to the town hall (Rathaus) to do my registration, to the bank to open my blocked bank account, and I also to get my health insurance. This was my time to use all my German language skills because people there didn’t speak English. But I was lucky; I have a German friend that helped me in all these steps. What to do if you don’t have a German friend? Well, try to get one, it is not that hard. If you don’t succeed, don’t worry, you still can do that hands down; or as we say in Brazil, “with one foot on the back”. People here are friendly and try to help you as much as they can. At the immigration office (Landratsamt), my experience was just great because there they were not only very friendly and professional, but also spoke English.
Next step was the classes. This was supposed to be a time to meet other students at the European Campus, to make friends, to study and also to have fun. But class, friends and fun didn’t come. The Covid-19 hindered my expectations. The order was to stay at home, wash hands, keep social distance, and stay healthy (bleib gesund). At this point, I could see how cultural behaviour may play a significant role in times of crisis like this. The competent way how the German government and society dealt with this crisis was proof of that. To a certain extent, I was happy to be here at this challenging time!
The classes were now online. It was hard at the beginning to adapt and accept this new reality. Mainly because it came with some disappointment on my side, and I guess it was the same for almost all students in this situation. But I bet it was much harder for Professors and university staff that have to change their plans quickly. Everything that was planned to be delivered on Campus had to be adapted to online. Well done! They did just great!
It has to be said that taking classes online is not the same as taking classes on Campus. However, I’ve learned so much from this experience. Knowing the Professors, speaking and studying with colleagues from different countries were still possible despite the lockdown. I have to say thank you for all people that have made this experience possible!
At the end of the day, the Covid-19 was not a barrier at all. We were much stronger and smarter than this virus. Despite of all limitations, I finished my semester and also made friends and had fun. Now I’m hoping to see each one face to face on Campus in the next semester. It will be a little bit strange meeting Professors and colleagues, people that are already familiar to you, for the first time in person. Let’s go to the next phase!
Celso is a Brazilian master student of International Tourism Development at DIT (ECRI). Experienced travel manager and tour leader, he has visited many countries around the world, mainly in Europe, South and North America. He loves literature, art, music, wine, gastronomy and is always ready for a trekking adventure.