Back to the grind: UAE students eager for new semester

University students in the UAE share their thoughts on returning to campus and what lies ahead in the new norm

By Ayisha Alka

Published: Sun 26 Jul 2020, 4:18 PM

Last updated: Sun 26 Jul 2020, 8:05 PM

Saher Suthriwala, BA Honours in PR, Advertising and Branding

Having to be quarantined and too cautious to even step out, it will suddenly feel new to go back to university for my final semester. I surely would be overjoyed to meet my friends after six months. After being away for too long, I'm looking forward to the lifestyle I initially thought was humdrum. Never would I have thought that I would be highly anticipated to travel by the bus, attend classes and sit in the library, working on my assignments. What makes it more special is the fact that this is my final year and I, fortunately, get a chance to make more memories with the people I love most!

Aakanksha Sunil, BSc Honours International Tourism Management
When I received an e-mail from my university that we would be welcomed back on campus, I was beyond excited. We are all fortunate enough to have in-person classes while simultaneously using online courses to ensure a better learning experience. My university is doing a great job implementing social distancing, sanitiser dispensers around the campus and much more. I understand that all of us will need to be cautious and responsible while we are on campus for our well being; however, I'm looking forward to Year 2 BSc Honours International Tourism management. All in all, I believe we all are responsible for our actions, and together can help fight the virus. I'm eagerly waiting to get back to the university grind in September 2020!

Mihir Bhalotia, BA Honours Marketing
Things were extremely different this year because of this whole pandemic situation and it was a whole new experience for my family. I'm usually very tensed about getting my final grades but this time I was more keener on knowing when my second home will reopen again. My university has been keeping in touch with us through social media and informing us about the precautions implemented for our return on campus in September. Unfortunately, sports and other events will not be taking place anytime soon this year, however, the department has kept us engaged through fitness challenges and workout routines. I am looking forward to starting my year two in BA Marketing and I cannot wait to meet my friends and trying to get back to the norm. I am counting down the days until I can go back to my second home.

Mohaddesa Meherali, BA Honours Creative Writing and Journalism
To be honest, I'm really just joining university to get my hands on the club logo stickers and get out of the pesky old school uniforms! Although, I can't say I'm not looking forward to bumping into some old faces and getting to know new ones. A mix of nervousness and excitement is how I'd describe it. It's definitely going to be challenging with social distancing in place, but nevertheless, we'll make it work. With all the new courses and perks being introduced, there's nothing but a good time to look forward to. And even though the times are uncertain and unpredictable, I absolutely cannot wait to finally delve into what I love most this semester and make the most of it!

Neha Bhatia, BA Honours Business Management (Marketing)
Student life has been hit hard by social distancing, but this experience has taught me that dependence on community and face-to-face interaction is a basic human need. Unlike any student, I am eager to get back to my university with no compromise on safety. Returning to the university during the Covid-19 pandemic will not be the same again and feel like normal for a while. However, I am confident that policies KHDA will implement and additional measures my university will be taking to adapt to the change quickly will address preparedness and redefine a future-proof resilient and safe campus.

Akhilesh Daljeet Bacchoo, Bachelor of Economics
The next academic year is going to be an authentic one with a whole new touch to it. I am expecting a more blended approach to the teaching on campus since my university has made use of highly disruptive technology to allow us to continue our classes during lockdown. It will be interesting to see a combination of conventional and innovative teaching being delivered in an attempt to enhance the learning experience of students. I cannot wait to see my classmates and have a proper conversation again. I am a people person and it has been a very rough patch for most of us. But it will soon be over, and we will be back on campus for an absolutely amazing year ahead, which will also be my last year of undergraduate studies.
Dheeraj Chaudhari, Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)
I look forward to my sophomore year to learn about the UAE business and culture. I am an optimist and see opportunities in challenges, I am excited to create new milestones for myself, leverage on the hybrid set of student life activities, organise and attend fun events, make new friends, and gain a new perspective on life through new experiences.

Raveena Nigam, International Tourism Management
In few months, I'm going to be enrolling into my 3rd and final year of university. I'm really looking forward for it this year because I've chosen my favourite module - Events Management. I am so happy to be looking forward to learning and understanding concepts of every aspect of events, hospitality and travel. I'm also excited to meet my friends and classmates and get back to the daily hustle of travelling back and forth to university. I am waiting to be back on track with my studies and engaging in social activities.

Faculty speak

Stephen King, Lecturer in Media, Middlesex University Dubai
I think we have to look at the current situation with a positive outlook. The forthcoming year will be a unique and memorable experience. It's going to be challenging, but challenges always inspire creativity and this is where our media students really thrive and succeed. Diamonds can only form under great pressure and so the learning experience this year is going to be something that will be really special.

Prof. Christopher Abraham, CEO and Sr Vice President, Professor of Leadership & Design Thinking, S P Jain School of Global Management Dubai Campus
We have always been on the forefront of disruptive innovation and the current challenges to offer our students a memorable and seamless learning experience. With strategic partnerships with global universities and courses taught by global thought leaders, our students will enjoy an outstanding and experiential experience, collaborating with students from different universities and being taught by a team of outstanding faculty members.
Come September we are waiting to welcome our cohorts across different programs to our Dubai campus, which is well equipped with game changing technologies to prepare our students to face the uncertainties of a VUCA world, equipping them with the right vision, understanding, clarity and agility.

Dr Arindam Banerjee, Associate Professor, Deputy Director - Global MBA & Master of Global Business, and Director - Student Recruitment (UG Programs) at S P Jain School of Global Management Dubai campus
We are truly excited to welcome our new cohort and quickly adapt to the new normal. Our new concept of borderless campus is a new feather on our cap where students would be exposed to a whole new world of blended learning coupled with joint projects with international universities, globally renowned speakers sharing their insights with our students and enabling them to reimagine the future that will only belong to those who can adapt to the underlying uncertainties and demonstrate resilience and prepare themselves for an array of amazing opportunities.

Prof. Elsa Ashish Thomas, Head of Department of Arts and Humanities, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Dubai
As we head towards a new reality, we are looking at long-term reforms in education. There appears to be no clear path to resuming on-campus education without some form of online learning. Flipped classroom and blended approach are going to be the new normal. This also calls for renewed orientation amongst students about their roles as learners in a hybrid learning environment. Our responsibility extends to the safety and overall experience of our students. From addressing the root of the problem, that is overcrowding, by revising schedules and staggering batches to catering to their mental and emotional needs, we are geared to take on this challenge and emerge with a more robust and durable model for years to come.

Dr Ashok Iyer, Chairperson, School of Design & Architecture (SoDA), Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Dubai

The pandemic has opened various doors of 'Learning by Doing' for the budding architecture and interior design students in the UAE. The experience of built environment at School of Design and Architecture (SoDA), MAHE Dubai will transcend the physical domain with students learning to reflect on design elements and principles through the three-dimensional canvas of the digital environment with a balance of physical, one-to-one sessions with faculty in-campus. September 2020 will unveil reflective practice in architecture and interior design where both; students and faculty at SODA will traverse the analogous and digital domain of learning pedagogy. Blended learning will open creativity within the ever-changing vista of the design student's learning curve.

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