IEE Newsletter

MADM: The First Online Semester

Our studentsTrina Mutsuddy and Setonji Sunday Ogunbiyi tell us about their first (online) semester at the IEE

Uncertainty with entry in Germany

When we were selected for the MADM program in early January of 2020, we were beyond excited to embark on a new journey. The opportunity to learn, visit new places, and meet new people from all over the world got everyone daydreaming. Then, Covid-19 was declared a pandemic and everything became unpredictable. We had no clue whether and when we would be able to make it to Germany with uncertainty surrounding lockdowns, flights, and getting visas. Despite many hurdles, most students were able to get their visas, but DAAD scholarship holders were only able to arrive in Germany due to amazing cooperation of the DAAD office and respective countries’ embassies.

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Following the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic posed on the structure of the MADM program and the difficulties in international travel, for the first time in MADM history, it was decided that the Bochum and Cape Town groups will be jointly taking the MADM program together in Bochum.

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Online classes and examinations

For the first time in MADM history, the winter semester was held entirely online. The program began while some students were still in their home countries and the several time zones meant that individual adaptation to the online classes was challenging. The structure of the courses made it possible for study materials like recommended texts and audio recordings that were provided to students in the morning. This was followed by zoom classes that included practical application of learning in the form of student presentations, Q&A sessions and further clarifications in the afternoon. This structure allowed for interaction between the students and the course instructors. Constant use of break out rooms for group work, case study analyses, and role-plays were also important for simulating real-life scenarios for us to apply.

Despite having well-structured courses, learning was difficult in an online setting because we missed the physical environment of a class, being able to study in the library, and enjoying exciting activities on the university campus. Furthermore, one of the biggest challenges of the online semester was taking exams online. For a couple of courses, we had oral exams but for the Statistical Methods course, taking a written online statistics exam was an unprecedented challenge. We had to perform technical statistical calculations, take pictures of our sheets and send the pictures in a PDF file within a limited period of time that left many of us on the verge of a nervous meltdown. Given the fact that everything was online this semester, including our sources of entertainment; such as social media, Netflix, and Amazon prime, it is safe to say that our eyes are the ones that suffered the most.

Covid-19, Mental Health and coping mechanisms

The fatigue from zoom classes and increased screen exposure indeed made an impact on our mental health. Luckily, the students who arrived earlier were able to arrange cooking and sporting events, tours to nearby cities, and hangouts in limited numbers. These events were extremely helpful to get through long periods of extended lockdowns and deal with the stress of the online semester that came afterwards. Many of our classmates resorted to different individual coping mechanisms like walking, running every day, exercising, and yoga.

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When asked about his own experience, Setonji said:

“The multiple extensions of the lockdowns and rules about social distancing brought about feelings of loneliness in a system and country that we were not used to. Sometimes, as group, we tried to organize online and limited physical interactions. While these meetings were very important as a coping mechanism during these periods, it sometimes was not enough to fill the vacuum of social interaction for me. This was when I got in touch with the Fortuna Düsseldorf Amputee Football team in October 2020. This is one of the three amputee football teams in Germany and the one closest to me in terms of distance. I was accepted and was able to join the training session immediately. We usually have training twice a month during weekends.

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These training sessions gave me opportunity to develop social connections and also engage in structured exercises that my body has been lacking for a very long time. During the rise in cases in December, however, our physical training was discontinued and moved online. This gave me the opportunity to continue our interactions and training, albeit indoors. The whole team is always willing to give social and emotional support to anyone who needs it, and regularly checks up on me to ensure that I am doing well. In April, my team won the German Amputee Football league after the remaining matches were canceled due to the Corona situation. Without my classmates and my team’s support, it would have been very difficult to undergo the whole online first semester.”

Furthermore, every weekend, the DAAD Ruhr region arranged webinars on current affairs with experts around the world, game nights, and networking events. For the DAAD scholars, these events also helped in keeping a healthy mental state. One of the best events so far was the workshop series: ‘Getting prepared - Reintegration into job markets’ organized by the DAAD in partnership with AGEP (The German Association of Postgraduate Programmes with special Relevance to Developing Countries). The workshops covered topics on career planning while studying in Germany, CV writing, interview techniques, and German and international job market demands. Just after the end of first semester, the workshops had been very useful for getting an understanding about how to prepare ourselves in advance to reintegrate into the job market after we graduate.

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At the end of the first semester, we can only be proud of our achievements in the unusual times we are living in right now. We cannot predict how the Covid-19 situation will pan out in the coming days, but we are sure that we can adapt and use our experiences to improve in our personal lives and foster friendship with others. Despite the fact that we are missing out on some of the amazing aspects of the MADM program, we are making the best of our situation with little steps. Last but not the least, we are thankful to the IEE staff and our course lecturers, who tried to make the semester as smooth as possible by providing prompt assistance when we needed.

MutsuddyOgunbiyiTrina Mutsuddy and
Setonji Sunday Ogunbiyi

MADM Students

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