For the longest time I was imagining what my exchange semester in London would be like. Long walks along the Thames, evenings spent in pubs getting to know international students, afternoon tea at the Peggy Porschen café (cheesy – I know right). Well, it turned out to be quite the different experience for me – as it has for many other students as well. Covid-19 came and turned all my plans upside down.
Walks along the Thames turned into walks to the supermarket in my hometown in Switzerland wearing a mask at all times, pub crawls turned into Houseparty and Zoom sessions with friends from home and afternoon tea turned into watching baking tutorials for banana bread… It is all quite different from what I had in mind.
In midst of all these new developments I still decided to pursue my exchange semester, although, in a slightly different setting. I am currently studying remotely from Switzerland and enjoying the King’s College experience digitally. While I miss the experience of actually exploring London, meeting new people physically and seeing what is said to be some magnificent architecture of the university – this experience is not half bad.
I was positively surprised of the variety of online events and workshops I was welcomed with during the Welcome Fortnight that was held to welcome all new students to King’s College. I was able to attend events on digital skills and academic writing, mental health and stress relief as well as workshops helping me to find my entrepreneurial self – and all this directly from my home on the King’s Welcome App. So the topics were not only relevant for new students in general but were completely up to date talking about issues that concern all students in the digital age, working from home and needing to focus during these challenging times. I remember thinking that I wish I would have had a session on ‘How to beat Procrastination’ already three years ago, when I first started studying at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. But better late than never, right?
Since the semester has properly started, I have been welcomed into the online sessions by professors and seminar-leaders who have been nothing but positive and helpful in these special times, acknowledging that this is something new for everyone – students and lecturers alike. Sitting at my desk in Switzerland I spend my days watching pre-recorded lectures and taking part in a few live online seminars. These still give me the chance to interact with students who are partly currently in London but many of whom are also all around the globe at the moment. Weirdly enough these few moments shared online with people who are in the same situation as I am are enough to give me a sense of belonging to the community of King’s College students. Of course, I do miss the structure of a daily routine of going to campus, having lectures and coffee breaks there with fellow students as well as getting in my study sessions at the library. But considering the circumstances that we all are in at the moment I think I cannot complain. I still get to experience an exchange semester in London while remaining in my own safe four walls back at home.
Once the pandemic is under control, I am sure I will get the chance to visit the sites of King’s College and enjoy London again physically and not just via stories told by the students who are there now. But until then, let’s Zoom away and stay safe!