On the International Day Of Education, six students from Qatar Foundation (QF) partner universities have shared their experiences of a new normal in teaching and learning, concerns about future career path and their aspirations.

Speaking about the transition to remote learning, Muna Almasri, a Palestinian student of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar, said: “With online schooling, studying became a largely independent task. Although it affected our social life, it taught us discipline and productivity through setting routines, which taught us how to prioritise and perform to the best of our ability.

“I believe this form of independence is a crucial skill upon entering the workforce, and it is of great benefit to learn it now.”

“Although the hospital and clinical visits we were accustomed to for training and assessment purposes have been on pause since the start of the pandemic, they are slowly being reintegrated in a way that still prioritises the safety of students and patients, and this is restoring our confidence,” she continued.

?or?e Popovi?, a Serbian student majoring in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, believes the shift in learning methods has actually positively affected the potential experience.

“This shift to a remote setting, where obtaining help is an elongated multi-step process, has actually pushed me to become more independent and resourceful when encountering countless minor challenges that I would usually consult friends or faculty for,” he said. I believe this ability to work independently and efficiently will undoubtedly benefit my work and early career.”

“This expectation that technology will play a significant role in shaping our society has only been further affirmed by the events of the past year,” he explained, “and I am even more excited and eager to start practising and applying myself to solving the continuously growing set of problems in computer science.”

For Bandar al-Abdulla, a Qatari student majoring in chemical engineering at Texas A&M University at Qatar, the shift in learning during the pandemic has been "draining".

He feels, “The lack of human interaction and seeing your peers as names displayed on a screen can be demotivating at times. I also think that our presentation skills might be affected in the online setting; in normal circumstances, presentations would be in front of an audience and you have all eyes on you, with the need to speak effectively and utilise the proper body language and gestures. But because presentations are now online, and facing the crowd is online, it gives a sense of comfort that will not be there during the real deal.”

Meanwhile, Sara Lidetoft, a Swedish student who is majoring in international politics at Georgetown University in Qatar, feels that she has missed the classroom experience more than anything.

She said, “Although I’m extremely grateful for online tools, which have enabled us to come this far in adapting to the pandemic situation, I feel that the class doesn’t really ‘come alive’ when it’s online.

“I also think the pandemic has encouraged us to think creatively about how we work and communicate; it has opened our eyes to new possibilities of connecting online, and I am positive that this will be beneficial to me as I start my career.”

Similarly, Arya Mainali, a third-year student majoring in Media Industries and Technology at Northwestern University in Qatar, said: “The shift to an online environment and the fact that education is no longer limited to a physical space is actually quite impressive. There is a lot of room for improvement in the way we do virtual learning, and I am optimistic about a future where learning from a distance will be as fruitful as taking classes in-person.”

And Naima Almajdobah, a Jordanian who is studying graphic design at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, believes this year brought her out of her comfort zone and made her a better person.

“Never underestimate the amount of patience and self-determination this generation has. We are fighting against a world pandemic, digging deep into the majors we love, working creatively to change and adapt to new ways of learning and, against all odds, aspiring to a bright future,” she added.