Testimonies of confined GETT students, between videoconferences and visions of the future
The EDHEC GETT program, Global Economic Transformation & Technology is an international track of the Master in Management (MiM) built around an exchange programme in South Korea and California with two prestigious institutions, Sungkyunkwan University SKK Graduate School of Business and Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley.
In these times of confinement, we have interviewed 3 GETT 2020 students to know more about their feelings and experience during this such unprecedented time.
Rachel Msika, 21, is studying on EDHEC’s GETT programme. She is currently in her Master 1 year at Sungkyunkwan University (SKK) in South Korea.
You’re currently studying in Seoul. Did you think about returning to France when the crisis broke out in Asia?
I followed the Ministry’s instructions and the recommendations of our Programme Management team. I wanted to have this experience of living abroad, so it was out of the question for me to return to France. At the beginning, I didn’t imagine the virus spreading so much and I was in no way scared when coronavirus arrived in Korea. I got more concerned when it hit Italy hard and then France, where most of my family and friends are.
How do you organise your day?
For the first weeks we had a mix of online and face-to-face classes, before shifting fully online in mid-February. It wasn’t easy at first. Studying in our 10m2 was unthinkable, so we used to go to cafés, but it got too noisy to concentrate. I gradually organised my day: I drew up schedules to set aside time for classes, and time to do sport, prepare my food and search for internships… Then some rooms freed up in the student residence - a goshiwon in Korea – and the manager allowed us to use them to work. I’m not alone here: there are five of us on the same programme living in the residence!
How do the professors help you?
They made a lot of efforts to ensure online classes go as smoothly as possible. We use the Zoom platform, which allows students to follow classes live, to participate and ask questions easily. The professors are highly accessible and reply during the class or at the start of the next one. They encourage interaction by creating online polls so that we can all express our point of view. We’re going to restart classes at the University next Monday with the MBA students. As for EDHEC, we’re in regular contact with the team in charge of the GETT programme. Last week we took part in a video meeting with Ludovic Cailluet and Richard Perrin.
What advice would you give to French students who’ve just switched online?
Don’t follow your classes from your bed! The aim is to create a good working environment. For example, do not keep your telephone next to you, as it’s a big temptation. I urge everyone to stay strong in France and I hope confinement will end soon!
Do you feel the crisis will trigger some wide-ranging changes? Will it have an impact on your view of society and your career aspirations?
Yes, I hope there are some changes. If there’s one positive thing to come out of all this, I hope it’s that the crisis prompts society to react! I’m particularly thinking of the health sector in France and more generally in Europe and the US. This period of confinement is going to change mentalities. Being deprived of freedom like this is bound to have an impact. For my part, the current period has only strengthened my career plans. Already before my experience in Korea, I was particularly interested in issues related to the transition towards healthier food, food that respects the environment better, notably in terms of packaging. While doing my shopping in Seoul, I’ve even seen single bananas wrapped in plastic! I’d like to do my next internship in the venture capital field, oriented towards foodtech or cleantech. I’d like my work to have a positive impact on health and the environment.
A student on the GETT programme, Alexandre Hoba (21) is currently in the Master 1 year at Sungkyunkwan University (SKK) in South Korea.
Why did you decide to stay in Seoul?
I arrived in January. At the beginning, Seoul was not affected by coronavirus and is still only very slightly affected. Starting in early February, the University set up a programme of hybrid online/offline classes, before moving everything online. The transition went really smoothly. No sooner had you asked the question… and the situation was getting more serious in Italy then in France. Over here, we’re not in strict confinement and we never have been. I’m also sharing a flat with two other students on the GETT programme, so we’re not alone. Finally, the situation in South Korea seems to have stabilised: my programme restarts face-to-face classes on 6 April.
Have distance classes altered your day-to-day organisation?
My timetable has stayed the same. I generally have four hours of classes in the day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Sometimes six hours counting electives. All classes are given on Zoom, an application that is incidentally rocketing on the stock market with the surge in video-conferences! You need to be motivated and clearly separate working and rest areas. I also do sport outside on a regular basis.
What are online classes like?
Our professors do classes in the same way, but in front of a computer from their home or the university. The programmes are the same. We have a chat session that allows us to ask questions live for professors to answer. Some professors adapted really quickly to doing classes online, while handling the technological tools. There’s also an interesting functionality that allows students to be separated into small groups of four or five, so as to reproduce group practical-work type sessions. It makes classes more lively and more interactive.
How are you supported by your professors/the EDHEC team?
We’re lucky to have a team that follows us very closely and asks for our news and sends us e-mails on a regular basis. Last week, for example, we had a video-conference with the programme director and the international director to exchange and get replies to our questions, particularly regarding visas.
What tips would you give to students who’ve just switched to distance learning?
Set yourself a routine, get up early (which means not going to bed too late either), get dressed and don’t stay in your pyjamas!
More generally, do you think there’ll be “a before and an after” coronavirus?
I’m sure there will be. Everyone’s aware there’s going to be a before and an after, not just in economic terms, but also for education and health.
How do you think the crisis is being experienced in Korea, compared to in France?
Asian countries already had to deal with a first coronavirus in 2003, SARS, and then with MERS later on. They learned the lessons and South Korea was well prepared for Covid-19. They used wide-scale testing right from the start of the epidemic: over 20,000 tests a day. A combination of several factors have enabled the country to manage the epidemic in a controlled manner: massive testing at “drive-in” or “phone box” facilities, organisational adjustments (teleworking, staggered hours for the public administration, etc.), transparency from the authorities regarding the number of cases and where they were detected. Many Koreans were already used to wearing masks on a daily basis due to the air pollution and they were all equipped from the start of the epidemic.
Emily is enrolled in EDHEC’s international GETT track. She has been studying for a double degree at the Graduate School of Business of Sungkyunkwan University (SKK) since January this year, and decided in the midst of the coronavirus crisis to stay in Seoul. She tells us about her day-to-day life and experience of studying at distance in the era of confinement.
What made you decide to stay in Korea?
I arrived in Seoul in early January for a stay of nearly four months studying for a double degree at SKK University. I therefore experienced the early stages of the pandemic here in Korea, without imagining the magnitude it was going to attain in Europe a few weeks later. As long as health conditions permitted it, I really wanted to see this exceptional international experience right through to the end. Both EDHEC and SKK have been particularly present and attentive during this period. They let us choose whether to stay or not. To enable us to continue our adventure without concern, they were very quick to adapt, showing attention to each individual’s needs and keeping us informed of changes in the situation by Skype, e-mail or Workplace.
What is your typical day like in the era of confinement?
The Korean government chose an effective technological response rather than full confinement. In Seoul, although universities and cultural facilities are closed, cafés and restaurants remain open and we can move around freely. What’s changed is that we follow classes at distance. Whereas our days were previously punctuated by our comings and goings between the university and our goshiwon – the typical student house in Korea – our classes now mainly take place in our rooms. Paradoxically, this situation has meant more frequent get-togethers. Between students from all over the world, we organise some great moments to share our experiences and talk either at home or outside. The meals we generally used to take at the university have now been replaced by some great culinary discoveries in our shared kitchen. Relations are spontaneous and convivial. We have the feeling we’re part of a community brought together by destiny at the other end of the world. It brings us much closer together and overcomes cultural boundaries.
What is your experience of distance learning?
I have three to four hours of classes a day in highly varied disciplines: digital marketing, coding, financial analysis, Korean. Certain professors were really involved in making distance learning more attractive, by rapidly getting to grips with Zoom’s functionalities and incorporating quizzes, for example. Interaction with them has not been lost, but is different. We can ask our questions by activating our micro directly or via a written chat function. This enables us to structure our questions and also allows shyer students to intervene. For certain classes like coding, I can review the technical points in replay, which is an advantage over face-face classes.
A tip to make the most of distance learning?
Switch off your mobile, so as not to get distracted!
What have you learned from this experience?
It’s been a time of introspection during which we’ve learned more about ourselves, how to organise ourselves and to think about what we really want to do with our life. You discover autonomy – learning alone in front of your computer – but also solidarity and mutual help between friends and classmates. You take care of those dear to you, even at distance. I’ve never communicated with my family as much as during this confinement! Every Saturday at 2.00pm, we organise a zoom meeting to catch up on everybody’s news.
What are your plans? Has the crisis changed what you want to do in your career?
I was planning to work in the social economy sector and more specifically in financing social entrepreneurship. This unprecedented health crisis has strengthened this idea, particularly thanks to the fine solidarity initiatives we’ve seen emerge. I hope this experience will have an impact on people’s attitudes and encourage them to act and engage in the future. My view is that this crisis reveals the ills in our society. It makes us aware of major social problems like isolation, abuse and unequal access to care. As with a lot of current problems, health is a global issue, so the response needs to be global as well!