Samuel Chan came to IE University as an exchange student with a double major.
He talked to us about his experiences of being enrolled in two courses, and then the sudden necessity of going back home and continuing classes virtually with a six-hour time difference. He tells us how he made the best of the tough situation and how IE University proved to be the best choice for his study abroad experience.
Tell us about yourself
Hi, I am Samuel, from Singapore. I am a third-year student at my home university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU). In Singapore, I double major in Public Policy and Global Affairs and Communication Studies. So, while at IE University, I am taking a mix of courses from the Bachelor in International Relations and Bachelor in Communication and Digital Media programs.
How was your exchange experience here at IE University?
My experience at IE University in Madrid was really rewarding. I left my comfort zone and learned quite a bit more about myself. I also enjoyed being exposed to new cultures.
IE University is truly a high-tech institution. I remember being greeted by the facial-recognition enabled signs. Oh, what an interesting experience! When the first thing I saw was such advanced technology, I knew that IE University really meant it when they said that they are at the forefront of education.
Beyond the building, I thoroughly enjoyed the interactive and collaborative learning experience. There were a lot of project-based learning opportunities, which is a method I enjoy. Project meetings allowed me to interact with students from all over the world. I didn’t only interact with former exchange students, but also with international students who were living in Madrid. Being able to have discussions along the school corridors, in the areas where tables are provided, in discussion rooms, or even the cafeteria has made the collegial learning environment something I will definitely miss.
IE University is not just about academic work, it is also about meeting new people and having fun. I loved playing table tennis and spent quite a bit of time hanging out with fellow exchange students.
What did you like the most about Spain?
This is a tough question because there are a few things I love about Spain.
Firstly, I really love the weather. It’s not blisteringly cold, nor is it unbearably hot. Especially in comparison with Singapore, which is known for temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius and 70-percent humidity. Madrid seems to always blend sunshine and warmth with a gentle breeze, which makes most days wonderful for spending time outdoors. The parks are beautiful! I thoroughly enjoyed running to Retiro Park just to watch people laze in the sun.
This brings me to my second thing, museums! The museums are free for students, and they are brilliant! I encourage incoming students to make use of their student ID and visit the world-famous museums that are available to them.
Last, but not least, the Spanish fiesta culture. The party scene was amazing and I really enjoyed it.
How do you think IE University managed the whole situation of coronavirus?
I think IE University managed the coronavirus situation rather well. They were quick to keep us updated via emails, as well as creating and seamlessly rolling out an online platform. The team was efficient in ensuring that our sessions could continue. While it’s understandable that some students might have felt like they were caught in a bind due to time differences and travel issues, the systems in place helped provide a sense of normalcy and reassured me that my semester would not be considered a waste.
How do you manage your online classes and group projects with the differences in time zones?
Now that most of my classmates and I are back in our home countries, the lecturers and professors have been really understanding of the situation. They try their best to keep classes engaging and to accommodate any of our needs.
Keeping up with my online classes has been interesting. With regards to time, I am six hours ahead of Madrid, but the time difference hasn’t been as terrible as expected. My morning class is now an afternoon class, which is working out perfectly because I’m very active in the afternoon. However, my evening class is a slight problem for me because they start at midnight and last until 2 a.m. The content covered is a little difficult to understand at those hours, and it can be hard to interact synchronously with the professors; however, it is still a rewarding experience. I dare say that I am learning as much as I would have in a regular classroom setting, albeit requiring a bit more effort.
I must add that it has been a very worthwhile experience working with people from many different time zones. Having to find a time that accommodates everybody is not always an easy task, but as for all my group projects, we have managed to overcome those issues. We utilize a lot of cloud computing tools, such as Google Drive, to collaborate effectively. Tele-conferencing tools have also been our go-to application, allowing us to become very familiar with work-from-home solutions. Indeed, I feel that I have been trained to work in a global and remote workforce setting, which will be useful for future employment. All in all, such unprecedented times calls for unprecedented measures.
What are the main takeaways from your experience abroad?
My biggest takeaway from my experience abroad is practicing cultural awareness. I learned to work with people with different nationalities, backgrounds, political views, and ideologies. I would recommend an exchange in Spain, specifically in Madrid at IE University, to anyone I encounter. The strong international student culture is unlike any other program. Oh, I forgot to mention; IE University treats their exchange students really well—think tapas and sangria! 😊
We enjoyed hearing Samuel Chan share his unique and special experience with us. Even during hard times, IE University makes it possible for their students to stand together no matter the hour or distance by providing online opportunities and digital classroom settings. We are glad that Samuel loved his exchange experience at IE University in Madrid and are looking forward to him returning for a visit for an alumni event in the future.