International perspective: a Serbian student returning home from France

Serbian student Milica Bozanic shares her experiences of having to return home from her university in France, and how she is studying online and keeping in touch with friends

May 15 2020
coronavirus, studying, international student, covid-19

I am now back home in Serbia. I decided to return after the Serbian president declared a state of emergency here.

My trip home from my university in France (École Polytechnique) is a story filled with unpredictable occurrences – cancelled flights and last-minute transport changes. Because I had travelled from abroad, when back home I had self-isolate for 28 days (these are the current regulations in Serbia since we are not under complete lockdown yet). I was not allowed to leave the apartment and go outside at all during this period.

After my self-isolation, I still have to observe the restrictions that are in place across the country. A partial lockdown has been put in place now, which means that no one except doctors and essential workers may go outside during nights, weekends or holidays.

I am finding it a bit difficult to deal with the current situation: it is hard to go home on Thursday afternoon knowing that I am not going to be able to leave again for the next three days, and then repeat it all over just few days later.

Concerning my classes, they are all online now, which I really like because that allows me to work at my own pace and in my own time.

We get almost all the necessary material in advance, and we are supposed to prepare it before a Zoom session that is scheduled at the same time as the class would have been in normal conditions. These Q&A sessions give us the opportunity to clear up all questions or uncertainties we might have. I can go through material at my own pace, and I feel more comfortable this way.


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The grading system has changed quite a bit. For now, it has been decided that we are going to have a pass/fail grading system, and this has relieved a lot of stress and anxiety for students.

However, because we can’t have normal exams, we have a lot of extra work to do outside of class time, such as homework, quizzes and reading assignments, which we must balance with everything else. I have already had an online exam, which was an oral interview, and I think it went very well. I still had an opportunity to communicate with the professor and to correct myself immediately or to be guided if it was necessary, which is not the case with non-interactive types of exams.

I have short-term plans for my academic future, which ideally would be an exchange during semester 5, from September to January. I have just been informed that I have been accepted to Technical University of Denmark, which was my only choice, and I am beyond excited and grateful for this amazing opportunity. However, given the current situation, I still do not know if I am going to be able to do the exchange because I do not know how the situation will develop over the next few months.

In my free time, I used to watch a lot of sport matches, especially handball. I also used to play handball once a week on the École Polytechnique campus. This activity was great for “recharging our batteries” and releasing any kind of negative energy we might have built up over the week.

Unfortunately, I am not able to do any group sport at the moment. Nevertheless, I try to exercise a few times a week or go walking and running, which helps me to stay in a good mindset. This whole process has been very stressful and unexpected, but I am trying to see the positive aspects of it.

I enjoy spending time with my family and being home, despite being far from campus and my classmates, and not being able to see or visit anyone else for the time being.

Read more: Coronavirus: the abrupt end to my year abroad

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