Sofia is a first-year Bachelor in International Relations student at IE University’s Segovia Campus. Thanks to the online classes that IE University offers, she has been able to continue her education at home in Silicon Valley. Read about her experience taking classes in a new time zone and how she thinks the process is helping her grow.
It is of no doubt that the arrival of coronavirus has shaken up the lives of students across the world. Canceled graduations, dry job markets, and lost opportunities to make new memories are plaguing the hearts of millions. As I reflect on my own experience during this pandemic, I have realized that I am incredibly lucky to have the ability to continue the path towards a bachelor’s degree, and I have IE University to thank for that.
The day that coronavirus knocked on IE University’s doorstep feels like an eternity ago. With small restrictions quickly turning into lockdowns, I rushed to find a way home. Similar to a lot of my classmates, IE University is located many kilometers, even continents away from home. Returning to the United States was by no means an easy task. It also required a complex thought process: what if I couldn’t get back into Spain later? How would my classes change being so far away from school? Was it even possible to operate in a time zone nine hours away?
After nearly two months of taking online classes from home, I can confidently say that, under the circumstances, I’m in a lucky situation with my university. Many universities have made their classes asynchronous during the pandemic so as to avoid saturating online calls with large class numbers. This robs students of the chance to continue forming close bonds with their professors and of participating in intense academic discourse. Rather than working online together, universities are sending students videos and simply asking for deliverables week by week to track progress. IE University is different. One of the things that makes IE so special is the in-class discussions paired with the highly interactive coursework.
I will admit, I was skeptical of the decision IE made to maintain its time schedule for classes, considering we are an international university. This fear was exemplified by the fact that of the 25 students in the course, 10 of us are located in extraneous time zones (more than six hours +/- CEST). IE University offered their students the choice of attending recorded sessions if they were not able to join the live class because of the time difference. However, leaving nearly half of our class behind would have greatly diminished the ability to have discourse and maintain the quality of the classes. I am part of the group of students who decided to attend these live sessions.
Attending live sessions has not been an easy feat. Most of my classes are from 00:30 to 7:20 a.m. my local time. Lately I’ve found that if a class starts at 5 a.m. I’m excited about how late it is, which is something I never would have thought possible before this pandemic. I would be lying if I said that the beginning wasn’t extremely rough. However, now that I’ve adjusted and have seen how unfortunate other university students are, I can’t help but be thankful for how seamless my experience has been thus far. I am lucky to be attending classes, engaging in debates, working on projects, and forming connections with my professors.
My latest perspective towards finding positivity during the pandemic was realizing that being flexible with different time zones is actually preparing me for the international job market. The future of the post-pandemic job market will be virtual collaboration and now I am so much more confident in staying organized and working in teams online. I’ve learned that there is a series of etiquette to follow in order to adapt to online presenting. In a recent economics group project, I was working with students in both Europe and Asia. Having to collaborate with a range of 15 hours between myself and Asia was tough to say the least. This seems crazy as a university student, but the professional job market operates this way on a daily basis. I am so privileged to be attending a school where these real-life scenarios are happening so early on in my professional career. I certainly will be more capable of launching myself into the international business market after this experience.
Although the transition has been quite difficult, I am confident that I will look back fondly on this experience and the learning opportunities it gave me. I hope to return to IE University’s campus soon and continue my higher education with our diverse student body that has constantly challenged me to think in new ways. I am sure that we will all come back as more well-rounded and adaptable students.