Though enrolled abroad, freshers experience university life from UAE homes

Nandini Sircar/Dubai
Filed on October 31, 2020
Supplied photos

Many students in the UAE who are attending Indian universities find themselves stuck in a virtual campus experience.

College freshers, who are enrolled abroad, have been lamenting how they are missing out on ‘real’ university life. They had virtual orientations; met their teachers and friends online; and sat for their 101 classes in front of a screen — a far cry from what the kind of experience they had been looking forward to.

Many students in the UAE who are attending Indian universities find themselves stuck in a virtual campus experience. They didn’t even have to leave their homes in the country as classes and events are all online.

Though they understood that safety is a top priority in the time of Covid-19, they are disappointed with how their ‘university welcome’ had turned out.

Dubai resident Jagruti Dilani enrolled at a university in India but she’s showing up for e-classes in her UAE home.

“I have taken admission in Mumbai University and I am pursuing Mass Communication and Journalism there. I was looking forward to joining college this year and enjoying the whole campus experience. But it’s quite disappointing as physical classes will only resume early next year,” Dilani said.

“I met my professors and peers online and attended classes virtually every day. But the experience is obviously not the same. College life is such a significant part of a student’s life but this year proved to be so unprecedented for everyone.”

Another Dubai-based student, Nupur Vaswani, was just as eager to start her college life in Mumbai. Having enrolled herself in an advertising college, the 18-year-old said that although her college is trying to make up for the lost experience, students have been missing out on field work and practical understandings.

“I enrolled in NMIMS School of Branding and Advertising. The orientation was impressive and we are having online classes successfully but, typically, we would have attended workshops and would have had field experiences,” Vaswani said.

“Big names in the industry like Prahlad Kakkar and many others would have visited our college and assigned activities to students. But those experiences are missing. So, while we have embraced technology well, the social interaction, which is a key component, is amiss.”

Parents’ concerns

UAE parents whose children travelled abroad for college are not overly scared but definitely concerned about leaving them in a foreign country for the first time amid the new normal.

Madhulika Chatterjee sent her 18-year old son to Warwick with an open mind, but the family didn’t know what was in store for them next.

“After reaching England, he was at a relative’s house under mandatory quarantine as per the required norms. Then he joined the university. On video calls, he seemed happy telling us about his new friends and rugby matches but, soon after, things changed and he tested positive for Covid-19,” said Madhulika.

She later said: “So he had to undergo isolation again at one of the Covid-19 centres on campus and attended classes virtually.”

Simon Jodrell, a Welsh expat in the UAE whose daughter Mia joined the Bristol University this fall, is worried like any other parent.

“You are letting an 18 or 19-year-old to be away for the first time from their parents with some money in their pockets. You trust them to live a sensible lifestyle and make the right choices.

“It takes a little bit of time to mature into that type of an adult who knows how to be careful and when to go out or not. Besides, the Covid-19 protocol implementation is very different in each country.”

Parents also underlined that the lack of normal university experience had been hard for students who were settling in in a new environment. Classes were mostly virtual with limited face-to-face contact with faculty and peers.

“There is a huge expense in going to the university abroad but the normal experience of going to a varsity is not really applicable this year. So when my daughter went to her college for the first time, she was a bit upset. Onsite interactions with lecturers and classmates are quite limited due to the current situation, so they’ve all mostly turned to virtual platforms,” Jodrell said.

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