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Covid-19: One Year On

17/03/2021

Wednesday 17 March 2020, 12pm. The French government followed the example of Italy and introduced a strict national lockdown to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Within days much of Europe was in the same position. What was originally planned for 2 weeks ended up lasting almost 2 months, even more in some other European countries. Life as we knew it was turned upside down.

This of course had major consequences for higher education and CIFE too. Universities were forced to close and classes were held exclusively online. For our 2019/20 students, CIFE made travel arrangements to return home for those who wished. They would never come back to CIFE in person during that academic year, as the third trimester, final exams and graduation ceremonies were all held online. The pandemic also led to the cancellation of the annual study trip to the European and international organisations.

Yet, thanks to CIFE’s experience of online teaching with the Executive Master in EU Studies, we were able to adapt quickly to classes via Zoom. Although nothing can replace the motto of learning and living Europe, we were able to continue providing high-quality teaching online.

The start of the new academic year brought fresh optimism in October 2020. All of our programmes began the year in Nice, Berlin and Rome with hybrid teaching. Some classes were held in person, others were held online with the teachers remotely and the students together in the classrooms. This required much organisation with social distancing measures in place, and reusable masks and hand sanitiser provided. Students in Berlin had the luxury of living together in one large social bubble at the Studentendorf in Schlachtensee, meaning they could interact freely with each other without masks.

Unfortunately, a second national lockdown was introduced in France at the end of October and classes had to move exclusively online again. Similar constraints were implemented in Germany and Italy. However, unlike the 2019/20 academic year, most students had the opportunity to travel to the second study location at the beginning of January 2021, moving from Rome, Nice and Berlin to Berlin and Nice, with the exception of the Trilingual and Mediterranean students, who were unfortunately unable to move to Canterbury and Tunis due to travel restrictions in place. Many of them decided to stay on in Nice instead.

One year later, in spite of continued restrictions preventing in-person teaching and a weekend lockdown in Nice, we are delighted that our students will all be travelling to their third study destination at the start of next month as planned, be it Istanbul, Rome, Berlin or Nice. The adventure continues, and as this year has shown, it is still possible to “learn and live Europe” during a pandemic.

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