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Life Under Quarantine: How the Coronavirus Is Affecting University Students

Italian students coronavirus

The global spread of coronavirus has put governments and universities under severe pressure. As the situation develops, you can keep track of the latest developments with our coronavirus information hub.

Students in Italy have already been affected, with the entire 60m population advised to stay at home and universities suspending all in-person activities from lectures to graduations.

Talks between universities and the government are currently in place in the UK and US to see whether Italy-like measures should be adopted.

To find out what life under quarantine is like and how universities are helping their students navigate the outbreak, we spoke to three students who have already been affected by the situation.

Lisa

Lisa is an Italian student doing an MSc in Product Design at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. She was in Northern Italy visiting family when the coronavirus outbreak began, and within a few days she was on a plane back to Scotland.

Upon arrival she immediately called the university to ask for advice.

She said: “I didn’t think I had the virus. I hadn’t been there [in Italy] long enough to catch it, but I still decided to ask the uni what they thought I should do.

“My university year advisor advised me to self-quarantine as a precaution, so I did. Today is my last day.”

Lisa spent the past two weeks at home alone, unable to go to venture outside. She said her professors and university peers were really understanding of the situation but being indoors was a struggle.

She said: “I had group projects and a project with an external client, but I had to do everything from home. For someone like me, who is used to spending most days on campus between classes and the library, being at home is a real motivation-killer.

“Everything took longer than it would if had I been on campus, but it was my choice to self-quarantine, and I know it was for the best.”

Lisa thinks the university tackled the situation in the best way possible, especially because Italy wasn’t on lockdown when she returned to the UK.

She said: “I think things will change in the next couple of weeks, but I really can’t complain about my experience. I’m just glad to be able to go outside now!”

Sveva

Sveva-coronavirus-quarantine

Sveva is a third-year languages student at the University of Turin specializing in English and Spanish. Soon after returning from a semester abroad at the University of Leeds, Italy was hit by the first cases of coronavirus.

She said: “I feel lucky as a university student because I’m used to studying independently, but I do think young people are still underestimating the importance of the quarantine.”

Sveva said the University of Turin quickly took harsh measures, such as suspending classes and closing libraries, observing Italy’s national lockdown, which will be in place until at least April 3.

She said: “I think [university staff] are doing the best they can. PowerPoints, course summaries, pre-recorded lectures are all very effective ways to help.

“In my case, because I study languages, I was given different translations to do at home, and now instead of turning them in in class, I send them to my lecturers via email and they send them back to me graded. It’s a very efficient system.”

However, she said universities all over Italy are struggling to give relevant information regarding dissertations, exams and graduations, which normally take place between June and September.

Some students from other schools have already graduated via Skype, but the University of Turin still hasn’t made an executive decision.

Sveva said: “The only thing I find almost ridiculous about the situation is how graduations are being held. I think the uni should just communicate final grades and hold off in-person ceremonies until the end of the outbreak. We all want to be with our friends and families!

“However, I also know this whole situation is new to everyone, and no one really knows how to properly face it. They’re doing the best they can.”

Umberto

Umberto-coronavirus-quarantine

Umberto is a fifth-year medical student at the University of Bologna.

Originally from the south of Italy, he has been under quarantine conditions for the last few days and won’t be able to see his family until the national lockdown ends.

He said: “Every aspect of my daily routine has changed. Even though it hasn’t been easy, I know it’s necessary for everybody’s safety and this gives me motivation to follow quarantine rules and stay at home.”

As part of their medical studies, Umberto and his classmates had been working at a local hospital for the past few months.

However, their work experience has now been suspended by the university, and nobody really knows when or if they’ll be able to continue.

He said: “This will probably affect my studies, but I know it’s not ethical to work with vulnerable patients or study with friends under these conditions. I think universities need to keep communication open with students and give them adequate advice and reassurance during this difficult time.

“I also think they have a duty to share important scientific information with faculty and students, who can inform their families. The real solution to this virus is behavioral change, and schools need to educate people as much as possible.”

Umberto said his university has already digitalized all lectures, exams and graduations, encouraging students to use Microsoft Teams to collaborate on group projects or study together.

He said: “I expect my university to fulfill its duties as an academic institution, and I hope it’ll take all the necessary measures to protect us students, the faculty and staff.

“The university isn’t just a place to study, it’s also an institution that represents the state. It needs to act in our interest.”

For more information on the coronavirus and how it might affect your studies, click here.

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Written by Linda Mohamed

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