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Far from Home

Semester abroad during a pandemic? History student Roxanne Honardoost from Freie Universität interviewed four students who dared

Apr 22, 2021

Alex, Pietro, Louise, and Teresa are in college far away from home. In video interviews, they describe how that feels.

Alex, Pietro, Louise, and Teresa are in college far away from home. In video interviews, they describe how that feels.
Image Credit: Personal collection

Roxanne Honardoost is a student in her sixth semester at Freie Universität Berlin, studying the history and culture of the Middle East. Even before she enrolled, she knew that she wanted to spend at least one semester abroad. In the fall of 2020, in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, she went to the American University in Cairo. Describing her time there, she says, “I met a lot of great people and was exposed to a completely new way of experiencing my subject.” She was lucky: At the time, there were some restrictions on campus related to the coronavirus, but life in Cairo and the surrounding area was almost normal. In many countries, however, that was different. Back in Berlin, Roxanne Honardoost spoke extensively via Zoom with four students about their experiences doing a semester abroad during the pandemic.

Episode 1: Alex in Haifa, Israel (in English)

Alex, who is enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in Islamic studies, went to Haifa, Israel, for a semester abroad. He wanted to gain first-hand experience of one of the most fascinating countries of the Middle East and North Africa. In an interview with Roxanne he tells how it feels to live in a foreign country during a global pandemic, while making new friends and being surrounded every day by many people with weapons.

Episode 2: Louise from Nancy, France (in German)

Since Louise came to Berlin in July 2020, “anarchists” and “Spätis” often catch her attention. Louise is studying “Sciences Sociales” and political science in a double bachelor's degree at the Institut d’études politiques de Paris, or “Sciences Po” for short, in Paris and at the Otto Suhr Institute of Freie Universität Berlin. From her own experience she knows what it feels like to live and study under pandemic conditions both in Germany and in France. She talks about this in an interview and explains why it is so important to live in a shared flat at the moment.

Episode 3: Pietro from Rome, Italy (in English)

Although Pietro was able to continue looking for signs of life on Jupiter's moon Europe, it was almost impossible for him to find signs of life in his new home in Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly after he arrived in Berlin from Rome to do a doctorate in planetary geology, the whole country of Germany went into a lockdown. In his interview he talks about how he dealt with this situation, about the deafening silence in the city's public transportation, and the beautiful district of Lankwitz.

Episode 4: Teresa in Coimbra, Portugal (in German)

Teresa says that in the degree programs in classical archaeology at German universities, very little atttention is paid to the Iberian peninsula, so she decided to spend the third semester of her master's program in Portugal. Just getting started, she already has a lot to talk about, for example, the differences between her mother's Brazilian Portuguese and that spoken by her instructors. In her interview she also reveals how much truth there is in coronavirus archaeology memes.

This article originally appeared in German on April 16, 2021, in campus.leben, the online magazine of Freie Universität Berlin.