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How COVID19 disrupted my life as a student at Babson College

What happens when your college suddenly shuts down due to a pandemic and you have to scramble to fly home? Hundreds of thousands of students have had that experience this year. We spoke to one of them about being in the eye of this storm.
BY Skendha Singh |   15-04-2020

BrainGain Magazine
Photo by: Fox from Pexels

Benji Funk is a first-year student at Babson College where he’s studying entrepreneurship. Like hundreds of thousands of international students, Benji’s life was also disrupted by the COVID19 crisis.

BrainGain Magazine spoke to Benji about life at Babson before the epidemic, studying remotely, and how he looks forward to returning to the wonderful community of students at college.

On life at Babson:
Life at Babson before COVID19 was really great. I had adjusted really well to the university, I was getting on top of my academic work, had a great network of friends whom I really connected with... Life was good. [Before the virus spread] the spring semester had only just started. Everyone was having fun in the quad, enjoying the sun, and bonding. It was a really fantastic experience.

On the first inklings of disruption:
I first got the sense that the pandemic was going to disrupt my life when I started [hearing] rumours of nearby colleges closing. From that point on, I began to [understand] that I was going to leave my university abruptly on very short notice. With the rumours, we assumed it was only a matter of time. [We would need to take] immediate action to deal with the situation.

On the college closing down at short notice:
[When it came to] Babson’s decisions to close down its halls, to say that I was adequately prepared would be too much of a stretch. I feel that I was able to handle the situation well, but I definitely wasn’t emotionally prepared for the closing down of the halls. Or logistically.

I was given two days to pack up all of my things and say bye to my friends. And I was expected to go to classes at the same time. Managing those three things at the same time was quite a challenge. The logistical elements of getting all the stuff out of the room and finding a storage unit didn’t make the emotional parts of it any easier. But in the end people persevered and the campus was helpful. Resources were made available to us. So that the process could be accelerated to the extent possible. In the end, Babson came through and the students came through as well.
 

Benji Funk
Benji Funk

On studying at home:
Studying at home has been interesting so far. Most people can agree with me that there are pros and cons. The pros being that I get to spend a lot of time with my family, with the people close to me, and I’ve been loving that. My whole life [I’ve lived] in the same town in Switzerland, which is my home. So being able to reconnect with everyone here has been fantastic. I’m sure a lot of international students feel the same.

There are some reductions in productivity due to a number of factors. One of them is I’m so close to a number of people who I want to catch up with! Another factor is the lack of ability to move to different classes. That enables you to put yourself in the mindset to learn. But when you’re in the same room that you sleep in, have fun in, and spend your leisure time in – it [does have] negative effects on productivity. To be honest, it diminishes the [experience of] learning. But we can only make do with what we have. And it’s clear that the technological advancements enabling [remote education] are fantastic.
So it’s been okay. . .
 

On studying business remotely:
Business education is hugely dependent on that interaction with faculty and peers. It’s pretty clear that online classes specifically are reducing the value of that business education. Although classes have adapted somewhat by trying to foster interaction on online platforms – it’s not the same. That [lack] is definitely felt throughout these online classes.
 

Recommendations for international students at home due to COVID19:
My personal recommendations for students to stay focused on their education and cope with this entire COVID19 crisis?  I’m at the same level of understanding of how to best cope with this situation as all the students across the world. One thing I’ve learnt is that we need to limit the amount of time that we are exposed to the Corona virus talk. My family is only starting to understand this now, and only starting to realise [the] negative effect on mental health.

So maybe setting aside time in a day, set a weekly schedule, set academic goals, [and check things from the list day by day]. Also finding opportunities to do things, engage in hobbies that are beyond academics - that distract you from the COVID19 situation.
 

On returning to Babson after the epidemic:
Babson is a very small campus. It’s very focused on entrepreneurship and business education. As a consequence, it has a tightly knit community. I love it. It’s engaging and leads to meaningful connections and interactions on an everyday basis. And I [knew] I would enjoy these things about Babson.

[At Babson] you can not only learn business in a unique and engaging way, partly enabled by the small class sizes… but  the people at Babson, whom I have been able to connect with, have been truly transformative for me. They’ve been a constant source of happiness in my life. Being able to reconnect with my friends … is going to be what I most look forward to.

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