Erasmus in Corona times

An Erasmus stay at Linköping University
[Photo: Stefan Köbel]

A stay abroad despite Corona - is it worth it at all? And what remains of the experience abroad when the teaching at the host university consists largely of online courses? Stefan Köbel is studying electrical engineering and information technology (M.Sc.) and decided to spend an Erasmus period at Linköping University in Sweden despite the Corona virus. Here he reports on his first impressions and experiences in an interview.

You decided to spend a semester abroad despite Corona. Did you doubt your intention during the preparation period? Why did you decide to stay abroad anyway?

Yes, at first my stay abroad was completely on the back burner. However, it became clear around May that the Swedes were dealing with the virus somewhat differently than in Germany. That gave me new confidence. In order not to leave my decision to a feeling or to chance, I drew up a kind of requirements catalog of what I wanted to do in Sweden and what was important to me. This way, I could easily determine how much my semester abroad in Sweden would be limited and ask myself if the semester abroad was worth it. In the end, the decision to do the semester abroad in Sweden was not very difficult for me. The restrictions were within limits and it was clear that I would be able to do most things.

Preparing for a semester abroad is always a bit time-consuming. How would you rate the preparation time, also with regard to the special circumstances that arose due to the Corona situation?

I would say that the Corona situation did not make the preparation much more time-consuming. Most of it was already organized digitally via web, e-mail or MOBILITY-ONLINE. The process for signing the learning agreement was the most likely to be affected, but this resulted in poorly readable PDFs rather than more time.

You have now completed your first days at the host university. What are your first impressions? How was the orientation program? What is the teaching like? Are there any face-to-face events offered in addition to the online courses?

The first impression was mixed. In part, the organization was not optimal due to Corona. On the other hand, despite Corona, relatively many events were organized by the student organizations ISA and ESN. Through events such as barbecues, city tours and pub crawls, I was able to make some contacts with whom I have since done further things.

Unfortunately, the on-site faculty orientation week was crammed into a two-hour online meeting. The ISA and ESN events before the semester started couldn't really compensate for that.

Before the mobility, the Swedish university promised that about 70% of the lectures would be face-to-face. In fact, however, 100% of my lectures are held digitally via Zoom and pre-recorded videos. However, they say that this can still change, as the university is successively increasing the percentage of face-to-face lectures from the lower years on. And I know other students who already sit normally in the lecture hall for at least one lecture.

Regarding my lectures, I have the impression that they are very time-consuming. The weekly deliveries are designed as group work and give me the opportunity to get in touch with other students despite the rest of the online meetings.

What are your expectations and plans for the coming months?

I hope that the restrictions in Sweden remain similarly relaxed. I would like to see more of Sweden and do some weekend trips or possibly a trip to Lapland. And of course it would be nice to have my lectures in the lecture hall in the 2nd semester.

Norrköping, Schweden
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