UNECON students on exchange about living through a pandemic

Our students shared their experience of living in the eye of the storm while they are staying on exchange in another countries.<--break- />


Aidana Belenova

I guess I should mention that I'm a third-year student of a Faculty of Business, Customs affairs and Economic Security. This semester I got a chance to spend a semester abroad within the International Students Mobility programme. I am in Berlin at the moment.

I was supposed to start my semester on March,20 at the Higher School of Economics and Law. It was meant that the semester would start with a two-week German course and Orientation programme. Unfortunately, till now I have been to the University classroom only once: next day we were informed that all the schools got closed and semester start was postponed. We were immediately provided with relevant information by email. Orientation programme was called off, the German course took place online. We have been in constant contact with the International Department of the University, which is very important as they helped us feel we were not alone.

Greater part of students decided to get back home. It has not been prohibited to leave home in Germany, although almost everyone preferred to stick to the isolation rules. Yet, all the public places have been closed, except for grocery stores. On the other hand, one could feely do sports and go jogging.

Once, going jogging, I appeared on the central streets, the area of Alexanderplatz – Hackescher Markt, where one can find most famous sightseeing of Berlin, it was quite weird as there was nobody except for me. In general, isolation has been going fine. I had plenty of time to improve my German. Besides, we got bounded with other international students; we played board games, cooked national dishes and had lots of fun.

At the moment I keep on studying in the online form, which is quite easy thanks to modern technologies. I meet my classmates and teachers daily during video-sessions. It seems that I am getting used to living without metro, shopping and walks with friends after two months of quarantine.

Now, quarantine rules are getting less strict: some other shops are allowed to work, as well as public office are getting back to a regular regime, people start leaving homes. I really hope I will have a chance to attend an offline lecture and to see my classmates and lecturers. For now, the only thing we can do is to wait, hope for the best and, take care!


Elizaveta Plechova

Since January to May 2020, I am a student of a Finnish University of Applied Sciences Metropolia. All the Finnish University switched to the distant learning as soon as actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 had been started. There were no questions related to the organisation of the process, as we had already been studying partly online even before the pandemic. A platform OMA (something like Moodle) has been widely used by the University. Lecturers send their lectures, presentations and tasks there. At the end, it took only two days to the University to organise the distant learning process.

Lessons take place through the service MicrosoftTeams. Each student has full access to all the Microsoft services. The service works without any interruptions, lectures take place regularly and almost all the students take part in them. Exchange of materials and tasks is organised through OMA, which is very convenient for everyone.

Exams are also organised via OMA: students get tests or essays topics and complete them. Besides, some courses are automatically recorded in the transcript without any exams – but you should get a sufficient score for it.

From my point of view, distant learning is very well-organised in Finland as even before it was half-distant. Finland had been ready for full distant learning even before the pandemic, and I am happy I chose Metropolia University for my semester abroad programme.



Daria Flud

This semester I am spending at the Bucharest Academy of Economics, Romania. Local authorities demonstrated an immediate reaction to prevent the virus from spreading: schools got closed, and citizens got limited in their movements around. If you need to leave home, you should fill in a declaration explaining where, what for, and for how long you are going. And you should have a good reason to leave – to buy foodstuffs or medicines, work of physical activity (only individual, nearby home). It seems that these measures are paid back as the rate of infected keeps staying quite low.

The Academy showed its ability to adapt new reality and in three days (which were official days off) organised online leaning for us. We listen to lectures in Zoom and hand in our tasks through the local platform.

It has been already two months of quarantine, but Romania is a good place to stay in: it is quite nice to study on the balcony where you can enjoy some sun.

All the students are being supported by Erasmus +. We regularly get translated governmental orders, and enjoy online lessons of salsa and Romanian. It is a pity, that the exchange period appeared to be quite limited. On the other hand, it is still interesting to see how another country manages this period.



Anastassia Shamina

I came to Germany on March 3, when the virus had not been taken seriously yet. I spent my time walking around, going sightseeing and meeting new people. Then, on March 13. My University announced the cancellation of German course and Welcome week, besides they said that the beginning of the semester would be postponed until April 20. The University apologized and suggested postponing the exchange programme until the following semester, but I made a decision to stay. That meant that since that day I have not been able to leave the dormitory as all the museums, cinemas, restaurants and shops (except for the grocery ones) got closed and all the public events were called off.

All the period I have been receiving up-to-date information from the Universität Hamburg and have had answers to all my questions. Staying in appeared to be rather challenging as the weather was getting better and better. Yet, I was lucky to have my friends at the Dormitory with whom we organised movie nights in the kitchen and played board games. At the end being on quarantine is not as difficult as it seemed at the beginning.

By the middle of April, the University had made a decision to start the semester online. I have been attending my lectures in Zoom and BigBlueButton. Besides, the University has a few user-friendly platforms for distant: STiNE (where you apply for courses, keep all the documents, schedule and relevant data), OpenOlatи CommSy (where you can join a course and get all the materials and literature). All the lecturers are doing great, and there no technical issues. At the moment, the quarantine is getting less strict, some shops are allowed to open their doors. Although, from April 27 there is the rule of «Maskenpflicht», which obliges us to wear masks in transport and public places. We still do not know when the University will get back to regular work, but the situation is getting better every day.


Vladimir Azarov

At the moment I am living in Lappeenranta, Finland and studying at the local University of Technologies. As soon as the epidemiological situation in Finland had started to aggravate, our University along with other European ones, started acting to keep students and employees safe. Later it appeared that hands sanitation at the entry and cancellation of some lectures were not enough. So we went online. At the beginning, we were allowed to go to the University canteen, but soon it also got closed. It has already been a month since we went online. We stay in the dormitory and save money on public transport as there is no need to go to the University. Fortunately, there are no strict isolation rules in Finland, or at least in the region I am. We are free to move, so one can stroll around the empty town or to have a walk in the nearest national park.

Distant learning was organised fast within MOODLE which had been sed before. From my point of view, for some courses, it is even better as there is no need to go to the University, which makes us save much time. Even the University Rector mentioned in one of his emails that there are certain advantages in the current situation.

I cannot say that life of local students has changed considerably. People have become even more cheerful with each other. In general, everything seems calm enough.



Irina Klochkova and Aleksandra Evseeva

We came to Kioto for an exchange programme at the Doshisha University on March 17. Study period starts on April 1 in Japan, which let us have plenty of time to deal with all the documents and get adapted. We were supposed to have an orientation week before the beginning of the semester. During the week we would work out study plans and sign up to local clubs. However, clubs presentation was cancelled due to the situation with coronavirus. Later we were informed that our semester was postponed until April 21, and then until May 12. After that, we got an official email announcing that all the lectures would take place online.

We got frustrated with the news, as one of our main goals was to communicate with native speakers as much as possible to improve our language skills. We wanted to make friends with locals and other international students. To cap it all, our University is located in the very city centre right by the Emperors' palace of Kioto, and we imagined our study period marked by such a location would be one of the best memories.

Well, it has been already three weeks since we went online. Our course of studies is Japanese Language and Culture, which means that 5 days a week we study Japanese language and culture, besides optional courses on comparative research of the world's cultures.

Kioto has an amazing climate. It is the beginning of May and it is already +20 outside. Hardly could we argue, that coronavirus spoilt out exchange period at Doshisha University, but at least we are free to move. Despite the state of emergency, daily life has not changed dramatically. We are allowed to have walks, picnics and do outdoor sports. By the way, locals enjoy jogging and bike riding so much that we also got inspired to spend our free time in a healthy way. There are no fines applied to those who are outside. There is not tormenting atmosphere of pandemic in the city. Although some of public places had been closed, there were still plenty of places to go, even restaurants and shopping malls kept working. From April 18 till May 6 shopping malls got closed, except for the supermarkets..

We believe that Japan managed to keep the rate of infected quite low thanks to the local mentality which makes people abide by the rules and keep the distance. We decided to spend our free time going sightseeing, and so far we have managed to visit Golden Pavillion, few famous Shinto Shrines, Geisha region, Maruyama Park and we have even climbed a mountain. We will never forget picnics under the blooming sakura and beautiful views we could enjoy even from the Dormitory balcony.

There are less people in the Dormitory at the moment, as many students decided to stay home because of coronavirus. Although, besides us, there are 15 other girls from different countries.



Maria Zhukova and Ekaterina Shevelina

Bella vita: pandemic in Italy

It was March, 5 when we got our lectures cancelled for the first time. It seemed to be a precaution as there had not been any COVID-19 case registered in Rome by that moment. People walked, went to work etc. Yet, March, 4 appeared to be last day we could enter the University; On March,10 the official quarantine was announced. It would be extended twice later.

At the very beginning, we did not take it seriously, it seemed to be another Mass Media action, and it did not bother us. Then it got scary, and we started thinking of getting back to St. Petersburg. Not it is more or less fine, there is a feeling that it has always been like this.

The first question for us was how to deal with studies? After all, that was the main purpose of our trip. In the middle of March, we started studying remotely. We do not have any seminars, and lectures take place either in Zoom or in Microsoft teams. Zoom has been used for Italian lessons (so that the lecturer can divide us into groups and work individually), Microsoft Teams if for regular lectures

The lectures took place according to the schedule we had received before. It was strange at the beginning to have online lectures, however, quite soon we got used to it. You can have your breakfast or listen to a lecture staying in bed. Nobody will notice if you don’t switch the camera on. The University administration kept on sending emails to calm us down and to warn that we had to stick to the rules of quarantine.

Our everyday life had changed dramatically. We first got terrified when saw a queue to a grocery store: people wearing masks and gloves (which were being distributed at the entrance), restricting lines… Panic seized everyone. People would leave grocery stores with bags stuffed with products. It was possible to enter one by one. People were avoiding contact with each other everywhere anytime. There was nothing around: no people, no cars, no public transport. We spent home 24 hours, and would leave only to do shopping or to throw away rubbish. Having spent a month like this we got seriously scared and started thinking of getting back home. Although our parents and common sense made us stay here, as we could see that Russia was still at the beginning of it, and Italy started having a slight decrease.

We sometimes felt as getting mad. Everything was the same every day: 4 walls and online lessons. We had read all the books we had. But 10 days later we got used to it either.

Now it seems it has always been like this. People around are panicking anymore, and nobody shouts at us to get away for 2 meters in a grocery store. It seems that after the Easter life started getting its regular path: people go out with dogs and children, to do some sport or just for a 30-minute walk. We also go out when the weather is too good to stay home.

Quarantine officially lasts until May,3. Starting from May,4 shops, cafes, restaurants etc. will get back to work. Surely with masks, gloves and queues, but will be working! We are not sure quarantine is going to be over on May,4, as numbers are still quite bad. Although, we are given a chance to dedicate our time to studies and things we would like to do. If you do not read the news, it seems even ok.



Anastassia Starikova

Studying and living in times of pandemic

My name is Anastasia; I have been studying International Regional Studies for the last 3 years. At the moment I am having my exchange semester in Turku, Finland.

Since the middle of March, when the situation with COVID-19 started getting worse, the University of Turku has been sending all the students emails with basic recommendations and relevant information on the current situation. Almost at once, it was decided to go for the distant learning. A bit later, all the study zones and libraries got closed.

First days appeared to be the most difficult ones. Many of those who had come within exchange programmes, decided to get back home. I made a decision to stay and continue my studies. The study process has obviously changed but thanks to technical support and our lecturers this abrupt transition went quite smoothly and did not affect the quality of lessons. Greater part of lectures is recorded by the lecturers at home, and are later uploaded to Moodle along with ppts. Moodle had been used quite much before the pandemic, so nobody has encountered any problems using it so far. Exams are carried out online too.

In spite of having the majority of companies working online, life in the city still goes its way. Cafes and canteens offer takeaway goods. People are recommended to use a disinfector distributed at the entrance to every grocery store and mind the distance between each other. There are plenty of parks around, so people can go out to have a safe walk. Hardly could anyone argue that pandemic changed our life considerably, yet we are given a chance to get a unique experience now. I am happy to go through this period being in the international environment as I have a chance to witness how people from different corners of the World get united. I would like to finish with the phrase that has replaced well-known clichés in all the recent emails: «Stay safe».



Contact information

191023, Russia, St. Petersburg,
Griboedov canal emb., 30-32

Department of International Cooperation
+7 812 7105644