Having just finished his third year of study, undergraduate student Matteo De Palma shares some thoughts about his IE University journey so far. Reflecting on how his experience has evolved over the years, Matteo describes how IE University has provided the ideal environment for a positive and formative university experience.
His studies in Business Administration and International Relations have also helped him to develop an interesting perspective on the crisis we are currently living through. While an interesting subject for academic analysis, the circumstances have also presented us with personal challenges. Matteo explains how he manages to maintain a balance in lockdown, suggesting some ways in which we can use the situation to recenter ourselves and move forward.
My name is Matteo De Palma and I’m from Italy. I’m currently completing my third year of the five-year Dual Degree in Business Administration and International Relations at IE University, Segovia. I chose the course mainly because I’m interested in the subjects covered by both degrees, but also because I felt the program’s interdisciplinary nature would best prepare me for today’s globally interconnected world. Given current circumstances and the rapid changes we are witnessing in both economic and geopolitical terms, I feel it was probably the right choice for me.
The last three years have definitely been memorable. I’ve had the chance to meet incredible people who have helped me grow, both as a student and on a more personal level. My first year in the student residence, where most of us were experiencing life away from home and family for the first time, wouldn’t have been the same without the great friends I made there to share the journey with. The roommates I went on to live with in the following years have become my family away from home and are now the people I would turn to for support if I ever needed it.
On an academic level, I’ve learned a lot from the professors at IE University, who are highly qualified and experienced professionals in the areas they teach. By using engaging teaching methods such as class debates, they made learning about complex topics much more enjoyable and relatable. As the relationship between faculty and students is strong, I have had the opportunity to meet many professors outside of the classroom environment to further discuss opinions on particular topics. In my view, this easy relationship is something that makes IE University unique, in the sense that professors and students feel comfortable with each other and don’t hesitate to approach mentor-mentee relationships in new ways in order to learn from one another. I’m glad to say that I am proud of our community and could not have hoped for a better university experience.
Having said this, I believe it is important that those who choose to apply for the program I am studying know it is a rigorous endeavor, as a dual degree workload will be more intense. Two degrees necessarily entails more hours of reading, more exercises, more hours of studying, and, at times, longer class schedules. In my personal experience however, the topics and debates in class are sufficiently interesting that studying is not necessarily something you dread, but an interesting personal challenge which you try to excel at. The topics covered in both degrees are heavily interconnected, so you often find yourself drawing on skills or knowledge you covered in one area of studies and applying it to the other.
The International Relations Unplugged syllabus, for example, involves analyzing current events and news under the guidance of professors who help us make appropriate connections between the theory we’ve studied and real-life scenarios. This is a very useful exercise for gaining the knowledge and global context required to analyze business-related topics or decisions of any kind. The current coronavirus crisis is a perfect example of this. It is an unprecedented situation which can be analyzed from various perspectives, and the ties between international relations topics and business ones can also be highlighted.
One discussion we had in our AID, Development and Social Entrepreneurship class was particularly memorable. We reflected on how this crisis creates, amongst other things, scary precedents for democratic institutions to lawfully call for states of emergency and greatly restrict civil society’s unalienable freedom. Although hopefully most governments will revert back to normal once the pandemic is under control, we’ve seen certain governments use modern technology in potentially undemocratic ways in order to protect overall public safety. Examples of this range from South Korea’s use of phone lines to monitor people’s movements to Israel’s use of drones—once reserved for counterterrorism efforts—as a way of monitoring large gatherings of ordinary civilians in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In Europe, more severe and drastic measures are exemplified by the experience in Hungary. Only time will tell whether governments choose to respect their population’s right to privacy, or whether the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in will instead become our new normal.
In addition, the coronavirus pandemic has meant that we as students have had to change how we learn and interact, with distance learning and social distancing becoming our new reality. We have all had quite a lot of time to reflect on this very particular situation, and what all these changes have meant to us.
Personally, I’ve taken some valuable lessons away from this long confinement. In the first instance, I have learned to appreciate face-to-face classes as our time online (although very productive) has not been quite the same as the experience of on-campus lectures. The dynamism and energy of in-person lectures are inevitably restricted by the online format at times. Secondly, no matter the extraordinary circumstances, I have learned the value of continuing to strive for excellence. The quality of work I’ve managed to produce in difficult times will hopefully teach me to be resilient in the future.
Importantly, I’ve also learned not to waste time. Very much connected to my previous two thoughts, I think it is important to find activities and personal objectives which can help you grow. Although the lockdown has had many negative aspects—loss and uncertainty; being confined indoors in our homes and unable to go to class; internships and exchanges cancelled—we should nevertheless make an effort to see some positives. For me, one of these positives is that I’ve had time to dedicate to new things I would have otherwise never attempted. In my case it’s been learning how to “play” guitar (for those wondering, I am still quite terrible at it…) or taking the time to learn to play bridge with my grandparents.
I’d really encourage everyone to use the time to do something you enjoy. This could be learning something new which may seem unrelated to your studies but fun, or reading things you otherwise wouldn’t have time to. You could find new ways to exercise at home, perfect your cooking (always handy), prepare ahead for courses you’ll take next year, meditate…and hopefully it won’t be long before we can get back to class and back on track.
Through Matteo’s experience, we can see how students at IE University have been making the most of time in lockdown. Our students have shown resilience and creativity in their approaches to maintaining both academic and personal development. While we hope to be back on campus soon, we remain united as the IE University Community and endeavor to keep inspiring each other to grow.