Coronavirus: Staying in touch is vital

Illustrative photo: StartupStockPhotos/Pixabay, CC0

The coronavirus pandemic is already changing our lives. Many everyday activities have moved into the virtual world. This applies especially to our social life but increasingly work and learning as well. Psychologists underline that the key to getting over this difficult time is to stay in touch and not to get into isolation. Vít Pohanka describes how he deals with the problem with his foreign students at the University of Pardubice.

Illustrative photo: StartupStockPhotos/Pixabay,  CC0
Tina Enders is a student of social sciences is in the German town of Fulda. We are in touch over Skype and e-mail, like with other participants in the Course of Communication in English at the University of Pardubice, Eastern Bohemia. Apart from her, there are two students from Spain, one Czech, three Ukrainians, and one Iraqi. They all came to the Czech Republic on Erasmus and other exchange programs to study for a few months. When the crises started, Tina decided to go back to Germany. Once back at home, Tina started a routine which is more relaxed but does not mean, that he resigned from her studies even though she is hundreds of miles from Pardubice, where she was supposed to be:

“I have more time for cooking and other activities that we can do inside. We can be slightly more relaxed, now, I think. But I still go on studying online. I want to finish the semester!”

Tina laughed as she said this during one of our “Skype consultations”. And that is the key: not to lose contact. That is why we are keeping in touch regularly even if it means just a short chat over skype do discuss the main assignment: written essays of some 500–600 words, one for each week.

One of the Ukrainian students, Viktoria Markovska also decided to go back home, which in her case is Kyiv. In her case, she needed a visa to stay longer in the Czech Republic and was not sure she would be able to travel between the two countries later on. But her fellow Ukrainian student Darja Marinets chose to stay put in Pardubice. And it does not seem to make any difference. They both get the same assignments, we talk our Skype and write e-mails.

It still feels a bit strange, just a few weeks ago we were meeting in a seminar room at Pardubice university. Now we are hundreds, even thousands of kilometers apart. Yet we meet regularly, the teaching and learning have moved effectively into virtual reality. Ibrahim Alameri is a doctoral student from Iraq. His specialty is computer networks, so he was probably better prepared for our present situation than most of us:

“It is a global issue. The crisis has stopped or normal lives. However, I think we must thank modern technology, the internet, and all the communication applications. It truly removed the borders and distances, whether we talk about contact with our parents and friends, or with college supervisor, etc.”

Tomáš Sedláček | Photo: Jana Přinosilová,  Czech Radio
Online education, of course, is nothing new. Even the most prestigious educational institutions, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Harvard University have been offering free online courses for years. So why did it take a world pandemic for this type of education to really take off? I asked a Czech economist and author Tomáš Sedláček:

“I think we were shy and unwilling to embrace the new technology. Now we are nudged to use it and we have no choice. Even Ivy League universities offer online lectures for free. So that is another thing we can during the standstill. Let us not be shy and start using the internet as the real and main platform for our work!”

Perhaps this is the first positive thing to come out of this crisis: it is making us do things we could do even before but were just to set in our ways to try them out.