Interview: virtual mobility at TUM during Covid-19
International Relations and Study abroad Service
21 July 2020
Back in February, when the Covid-19 started to appear in most European countries, our students had barely left for their exchange semester, and a good group of incoming students had just arrived at USI. Little we knew that in a matter of days, mobility, as we have known it for so many years, would dramatically change.
Since then, universities have been on a roller-coaster of discussions and decisions on how to best adapt to this new normal. But how did our students live this experience?
We asked one outgoing and one incoming student on virtual exchange during the Spring Semester 2020 how they have dealt with virtual mobility during this particular time of Covid-19 pandemic.
Please tell us something about yourself and your educational background
I graduated in economics at USI and now I am finishing my master's studies with pre-specialization in quantitative finance.
What was your initial expectation when you signed up for an exchange period abroad?
In the beginning, I was convinced that I would personally meet various people and that I would get to know Bavarian customs and habits.
Why did you choose TUM?
I chose the TUM in Munich because it is a very diversified and well-organized university centre. During the various courses, I had the opportunity to work with people from different faculties, which is a new experience for me, as USI is still a very young university environment and there are not many faculties
The Covid-19 pandemic changed your arrangements quite dramatically. What was your first reaction, with regard to your academic plans?
My first reaction was to understand what I could do safely to improve my work and human profile.
In the beginning, it was not yet clear whether TUM could provide online courses or not and therefore in the meantime, I started taking USI courses that I had always dreamed of following but that I had never been able to attend.
You decided to carry out mobility without “setting a foot out of your house”. What factors did you consider to make this decision?
I considered the fact that there was still an opportunity for improvement even in this situation and that, although not 100%, I could have had a different and stimulating university experience.
Can you share positive and negative aspects of your 100% virtual mobility?
On the positive side, there was the ability of TUM to organise online lessons in an exemplary way and the speed of adaptation of all of us students in totally changing the way we organize and work in a team.
On the negative side, the impossibility of personally knowing other people and of not being able to fully experience the exchange semester.
Did you have the opportunity to be confronted with a different culture, or was this a limitation of virtual mobility?
USI is a very multicultural environment, so I have already had the opportunity to deal with different cultures.
Obviously, the fact of carrying out all the lessons virtually did not allow us to get to know each other outside the university activities and therefore to fully confront each other.
Can you tell us how a typical day of classes was organized?
The various lessons were organized very well from the beginning.
The online lessons in some ways were better than the standard ones because the need to adapt to the virtual world created a stimulating and dynamic environment in which we could always ask questions and receive an answer immediately.
In many lessons, the professors gave us the quizzes that we had to solve and to each question, they gave us the answer and explained why.
Overall, are you happy with your choice?
Taking into account the events that have happened I am more than satisfied with my choice and on equal terms, I would do it again.
Do you have any interesting anecdotes to share?
After enrolling in the USI university I had to live very far from my hometown.
The fact that I had to stay at home did not allow me to visit Munich but on the other hand, it gave me the opportunity to rediscover the places where I come from and to be able to spend a lot of time with my family, which in the last few years was impossible.
Are you planning to visit Munich, in the future?
Yes, surely I will go to visit it because I believe it is a beautiful city with very nice people and with whom we have promised to get to know each other personally as soon as possible.