“It opened my eyes to appreciate the small things we took for granted”
The current lockdown during the COVD-19 pandemic has profoundly changed the way students experience their studies and their environments. Four GUtech students who study in different programmes share some of their experiences.
Abdulaziz Al Sinawi, a 2nd year student in Mechanical Engineering says: “I can say it opened my eyes to appreciate the small things we took for granted, for example meeting friends or eating out in peace as well as the smallest things we might never had considered before such as breathing. I dare to say the lockdown has strengthened a lot of our relations, mostly within families.” However, currently Abdulaziz biggest struggle is that he misses his friends and colleagues at GUtech. On the other hand, he has discovered many positive aspects in working from home and with less disturbances. “It shows how easily everything is accessible online and how we can work from home with little disturbances.” Currently his main worry are his studies. “My batch of graduates may be lacking important concepts related to their fields of studies due to not being able to understand the entire course materials. This may have drastic impacts on our future,” he said.In addition, practical learning in laboratories is currently on hold. Abdulaziz believes that students can ask for more support from their professors. “A main issue most students face is the overflowing of assignments and deadlines. Some students take up to seven courses per semester and we usually receive weekly assignments. I really understand lecturers have a lot of work pressure and I appreciate their hard work, but easing up on deadlines will definitely put a lot of load off our backs. An important thing to bear in mind is that assessments should be made to test the knowledge of students and not to challenge them. I understand that the assignments should be difficult to some extent but they should be solvable within the given time frame.”
Similarly concerned is Sadiyah Manidhar, an 8th semester student in Process Engineering. “Students awaiting to complete their projects and theses, are especially concerned about delaying their graduation. Not being able to work on projects would require them to postpone their work. Internships and employment opportunities post-graduation face uncertainty,” says Sadiyah who initially wanted to conduct her Bachelor thesis at the Department of Process Engineering at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. Sadiyah had to change her plans and conduct the thesis here in Muscat. “When the pandemic started, I knew that it would influence my thesis writing. I was mentally preparing myself for it by looking for alternatives with my supervisors at RWTH Aachen University and GUtech. Ultimately, my supervisors and I felt that it would be best to pursue the thesis at GUtech. I knew it was for the best – risking to exposure by traveling and delaying my graduation didn’t seem worth the risk.” Now, her Bachelor thesis topic is very different. “The reason for this is that my previous topic required experimental work. Given that practical work has been suspended until further notice, I don’t mind a fresh start,” she said.
Hilal Al Mahrouqi, an 8th semester student in Logistics says the most significant challenge that he faced in this crisis is to gather data from several companies that he needed for his bachelor thesis. “I don’t blame them because this crisis has affected many companies. They have other priorities to handle, which are more important than my research.” Hilal believes that the crisis has positively affected students’ lives. “It forced us to count on technology more efficiently and to generate new ideas to enhance our knowledge and to understand our personal needs. I believe, every bad thing happens for a good reason,” he says while highlighting that he has been spending much more time with his parents and other family members. “That’s something I didn’t do before, because I was busy going to university and staying late there for studying or meeting with my friends.”
“The biggest challenge I have faced is learning online with the computer only in front of me. In case I have any questions I have to struggle and write a comprehensive email to the professor in order to get a response,” says Shamsa Al Harthi, a 2nd year student in Applied Geosciences. On the other hand, Shamsa has become more resilient, increasing her knowledge on how to cope with different environments and circumstances as well as having an increased awareness on the importance of technology. “I personally think that we will work much more efficiently in groups in future because during this crisis we have realized the true meaning and value of group-work,” she says. Shamsa tries not only to learn for her studies but to manage her hobbies and practice what she likes.
With regard to the impacts of the pandemic on society at large, Sadiyah believes: “The best way to make a difference is to be self-aware – of your actions and their impacts on the society. I have been using my social media to create awareness about the need to quarantine. I also hope to volunteer to do grocery shopping for my neighbors to prevent exposure, and donate hand-sanitizers, gloves and masks to those who may not have access to them such as construction workers, car washers and cleaners. Considering that, most of the temporary service staff may not find work and would have a lack of income. I would check-in with at least those whom I am familiar with and provide their some advance payments.”