Davide, Lorenzo, and Tommaso are three Italian university students who experienced Covid-19. This article gives voice to their story. How did it feel to be a student positive for the virus that brought the world to a halt? Let’s hear what they say.
Davide is an Italian undergraduate student at the University of Siena. He is studying to become a physiotherapist and describes being diagnosed with coronavirus as ‘living in complete darkness’.
On 9th March 2020, the Italian government imposed a national quarantine that shutdown every university in the country. Despite other Italian universities setting up online lessons straight after the lockdown via platforms such as Zoom and Big Blue Button, his faculty activated online classes only in April, almost a month after the total closure of universities. Despite numerous students like Davide asking the faculty asking for clarifications, no one from the university provided students with clear and precise instructions.
During his illness, no support was put in place by the university. Davide experienced moderate to severe symptoms and had to quarantine for more than thirty days. While being too ill to attend online classes, his university refused to put other arrangements in place.
In terms of examinations, Davide explains all his written exams have been transformed into oral examinations. He strongly believes this is a negative change, as all those written exams that originally followed a multiple-choice format have now become much more complex. No proper support such as safety-net policies has been established and no one among his teachers and university staff reassured him that his health condition would be taken under consideration when grading. Despite saying he studied hard, Davide worries Covid-19 has reduced his chances of being able to be a physiotherapist.
Lorenzo, a postgraduate student at the Polytechnic of Turin, is studying to become an engineer. Because of the number of cases in Northern Italy, his university was shut down some days before the official lockdown called by the Italian government.
His experience is not that different from Davide’s. No official forms of support have been set up to help students overcome the anxiety coronavirus was creating. Even though teachers often told students not to worry, as the current ongoing situation would be taken under consideration, no support schemes or safety-net policies were put in place. Even though very needed, no extensions to deadlines were given to students and the lack of appropriate support from the university made his experience with the virus much more stressful.
Unlike Davide, Lorenzo praised his university’s ability to provide online teaching straight after the general closure. As he explains, his classes have been promptly moved online and, one week after the university closure, all students were already able to access lessons and material. Even though no official support was put in place to help with exams, better organisation and communication meant he understood what life as a postgraduate during the pandemic would look like. He says this is the first step all universities should have taken to support their students and their academic career.
Tommaso is an undergraduate student studying music in London. On 17th March he decided to leave the UK in order to quarantine together with his family. Four days after the beginning of the self-isolation imposed by the Italian government on those coming from foreign countries, he tested positive for the virus.
To the question ‘do you feel your university has supported you?’ Tommaso replies ‘my teachers and university staff always cared about my wellbeing’. His university, as he highlights, immediately set up online lessons, and as soon as the pandemic started, a group of therapists was assigned to support students facing difficulties. According to Tommaso, the promptness in the organisation, and the mental support offered by his university were key to alleviating some of his anxiety.
Tommaso is studying to become a musician and he believes studying remotely strongly disadvantaged him. Not being on campus means he cannot use all the resources, services, and instruments required to learn.
Even though not being in class has been disadvantageous, Tommaso believes his university has done quite a lot in order to assist him and the other students. As he explains, exam deadlines have been postponed for all the students and additional extensions have been given to students tested positive for Covid-19, if unable to meet deadlines. Tommaso experienced mild to moderate coronavirus symptoms and had to isolate for more than forty days. His faculty gave him the possibility not to attend classes if physically unable and this, according to him, was a great and essential form of support.
Depending on the university you attend you may have had a drastically different experience as a student living through the pandemic. Covid-19 has turned the world completely upside down. According to the three Italian students Roar interviewed, the first question universities should ask is ‘Are we doing enough to support our students through this time?’.