Exchange during COVID-19: Interview with Mira Kuderinova
Mira Kuderinova, student of 2nd course, sat down with her classmate, Bekhzod Rahmatulloev, to discuss her experience in Turin Univerisity during fall semester 2020/2021
Mira: Yes! Let’s start!
M: My academic mobility took place in Turin, most of it online. The host university, despite COVID-19, organized my exchange program at the highest level, which I am very pleased with: the coordinator of the mobility programs at the University of Turin was in touch with me every day; the exchange programs office advised and informed me of any changes, new rules, restrictions (in conditions of pandemic), and, of course, about my learning process. It was nice that despite the difficulties associated with the pandemic, the feeling that I became part of another university did not disappear anywhere.
M: Two main things which I can mention. First is, of course, about learning process. Second is about restrictions and other rules in the Piedmont region of Italy. COVID-19 primarily influenced the learning process: all disciplines were studied online. Even at the beginning of my arrival in Turin, I managed to attend several lectures at the university, but then we all went online again. And the second thing, it is forbidden to go outside without a mask in Italy, everywhere you need to use sanitizers and wash your hands. And the government of Italy introduced different zones: red, yellow and orange. If, for example, we are in red (zone), we can go outside only to supermarkets or pharmacy.
M: Of course, due to pandemic we had a lot of restriction in (additional) curricula activities. But I had a chance to learn Italian at Italian courses in University of Turin and at the student organization. The latter, an occasional performing club with exchange students for the purpose of learning Italian, was mostly offline: in the bar and café, which was in non-official atmosphere. The former were official courses. It was very helpful for me, very interesting. Because I managed to attend several times and get to know local students and exchange students from different countries.
M: Yes, Italian language in the north of Italy is very necessary, at least on a basic level, since many locals do not speak English. Free courses were organized for us, which took place online. I also tried to practice on my own in the supermarket, in different places.
M: I consider that social space includes both teachers and students. According to conversations with teachers, it is very morally difficult for them to teach online. They miss classic lessons and live student interaction a lot. I think, like many universities around the world, they are looking forward to a return to a normal life. If we are talking about students, they are more patient with new conditions, but almost a year online also affects their morale.
M: It was an exciting moment to pass the exams. Since you are an exchange student too, you know that it is different education system! And it was difficult to pass exam online in new university because most things depend on your (internet) connection, laptop, sound, etc. So it was very stressful. Moreover, there was uncertainty in the procedure for passing and grading exams. But everything went well.
M: No, it did not, I very quickly adapted to the new culture, any changes caused me only positive emotions. But I saw difference in some policy issues, for example, in human rights protection. Second thing which made me surprised is, of course, about Italian students. Because they may study the bachelor degree for 7-9 years. And for me it is very difficult (to perceive). Because everything has its time, deadline. It would be better to be more organized.
M: Despite COVID-19, I tried to see as many interesting places in Italy as possible, when I had the opportunity and there were no restrictions on movement. So I traveled and go to Verona, Venice, Genoa, Milan, Como and mountains around Italy and France. So it was very interesting to be the exchange student and to have opportunity, chance to travel.
M: Thank you too!
And here is what Mira has written about her exchange period previously:
"My semester at Turin University went by so far! I was studying in the faculty of law. Despite the pandemic, I had the opportunity to leave for Italy and experience my exchange programme and leave with a lot of new knowledge, friends, and memories. At the beginning of my studies, I attended classes on campus, but in November, we were forced to go into another lockdown. But I can attest that it was very organized and logical. In Italy, we did not have any seminars - just lectures and projects. There are some classes, where attendance is important in order to pass it without an exam. Therefore, you should always read the syllabus beforehand and choose a strategy for yourself. You can take your exams up to three times: there are three time slots, and if you are not satisfied with your grade, you can just choose the next date. Italians often pick the last possible one and usually are very surprised, if you have 5 exams during one session. They also have the option to take the exams at the end of their studies. My exam session lasted almost two months, and I had big gaps between tests. This way, I had the time to study, work and write my thesis. Online studies were interesting: lectures were interactive and projects did bring the students together. During various tests I have proved that the knowledge we gain at HSE is sufficient and we should be proud to be students of HSE.
I met a lot of nice people during my stay in Turin, so the time flew quickly. Despite lockdown, we tried to communicate and travel as much as we could. I traveled across Turin suburbs, Milan, Genoa, Como, Venice, Verona, and French Alps. But some things weren't easy: it was hard to find an apartment because Italians expect you to rent for the whole year. I got lucky and through mutual friends, I have found a place for half a year. Also, before I flew to Italy I have thought that everybody knew English there. But if you look at statistics, Italy is in the top-5 countries, where it is difficult to speak English. By the way, other countries are Hungary, Spain, Bulgary and Czech Republic. That is why it is important to know basic Italian to do things like shopping, traveling or even buying a sim-card. It depends on the region, but in Turin it is like that. University has offered us free courses, which I attended. They even extended the courses even after we have finished our exchange period. I was really happy as i fell in love with the language and I want to study it in the future as well. Oh, and the professors were really attentive to exchange students and helped us with all of the problems we had. At the end of the day, I just want to say thank you to my academic supervisor and HSE staff for this opportunity".
Prepared the interview