My name is Fabio Zheng, and I am an MSc International Management student. I am from Italy and arrived in London this September. If you ask me what I expected life at Imperial to be like earlier this year, frankly, I had no idea. Just before the term started, the situation appeared to be getting better and COVID-19 seemed to have given us a break during the summer vacation.
However, shortly after the beginning of the programme, the second wave of the pandemic arrived and I began to question whether life would return to normal or not. This led me to another question – what exactly is normal anyway?
Adapting to multi-mode study
Wake up, get dressed, and go to school. The typical morning trilogy of student life. With the pandemic, none of these three elements remains the same. You still have to wake up, but probably later than usual, because you don’t need to account for the time to travel to lectures.
You also dress decidedly differently if you are going onto campus versus attending an online class. However, you are encouraged to turn on the camera and be engaged during these sessions, which although not quite the same as getting up and heading out the door, is very useful to help you remain focused during remote lectures.
All our lectures are now multi-modal, meaning that both in-class students and remote students attend at the same time. This is due to government restrictions limiting the number of students in the lecture room.
Thanks to this new teaching method, students who are in London can attend lectures in person, and those who are remote can still experience the in-class atmosphere and connect with their peers. This isn’t without its challenges, such as finding the balance between the participation of people in class and people from the virtual world, however thanks to the Business School's newly refitted advanced lecture rooms, the faculty can interact perfectly with both sides to make lectures engaging for all.
The future of teamwork?
Teamwork is at the centre of the Business School's teaching methodology, although during the pandemic, the way we collaborate with other people has been drastically changed. The usual meetups at cafes, college spaces or other physical locations, are limited by government guidelines and we’ve all had to adapt to find new ways of working together.
Thanks to technology development in the past few decades, people can seamlessly collaborate through the internet in difficult times; something which Imperial has been quick to embrace. Emails, phone calls, video conferences, and instant messaging are widely adopted.
For example, you can work together with your classmates in London, New York, and Shanghai simultaneously using your choice of Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams! Nonetheless, you will encounter many new obstacles in your team projects, such as time zone difference, technology problems, and virtual engagement.
Working/studying from home might also cause people to feel disconnected and distant from each other at times. Personally, I think this is a great opportunity to become familiar with new technologies for virtual collaboration that might become essential in the future workplace.
Social distancing isn’t always a bad thing
If there is something that is not negatively affected by the current situation, it would be self-study. During lockdowns, students have more times to focus on themselves. Being alone is a precious chance to self-reflect, be introspective, and increase our self-awareness. Never have we had so much freedom in managing our time, either for studying or doing extracurricular activities. For example, I started learning keyboard during the lockdown, which helps me relax and rest my mind after a busy day of being a postgrad student.
Students are advised not to visit campus unless necessary. While social distancing is enforced, the Business School and the College still offer a lot of self-study spaces on campus. The college libraries, the cafe, and the study rooms are all open while respecting government guidelines. This is great news for those students who do not have a quiet study place at home.
A great opportunity
Overall, while the study experience at the Business School has indeed been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, thanks to the changes that the College has implemented and the collaboration of the Business School community, the negative impact has been reduced to a minimum. We are indeed facing a great challenge, but with great challenge comes great opportunity.
So, should we still plan for the future?
In my view, yes. But we must be ready to face and accept future challenges. Instead of waiting to go back to the old normal, we should search and adapt to the “new normal”. The Business School encourages us to embrace new challenges, to accept new technologies, and to overcome obstacles through the fusion of business, technology, and entrepreneurial mindsets.
I want to finish my blog with the motto of the school: Imperial Means Intelligent Business.