How the Corona Pandemic has changed the Master's program ...
... and what's missing most at the moment
The entire summer semester 2020 of the Master's Program in European and International Law LL.M. is taking place digitally since April: This includes lectures, group works and exams. Nobody expected this - neither the students, the lecturers, nor the team of the Europa-Institut. Covid-19 met everyone unprepared, for many a shock.
Who would have thought that while summer in Saarbrücken is on the rise, some of the students of the international Master's program would return to their home countries to join online meetings regularly from their home, just like the students who stayed in Saarbrücken.
At the beginning of the semester, an e-mail from the management highlighted that the only thing the students needed for their online studies was silence, electricity and a stable internet connection.
The application materials for the Master's program at the Europa-Institut contain all the necessary information, but it is not possible to describe the atmosphere that is created when almost 100 young people from all over the world come to Saarbrücken to study together, when international friendships are formed, when students learn from the experiences of other cultures and thereby shape their own personalities.
Meanwhile, the program schedule is filled with lectures just as it was in "pre-Corona times", only now in the form of pre-recorded lectures or via live chat with the professors. Online teaching is completely feasible, apart from small technical irritations with some internet connections, however.
Not all components of a successful lecture can be transmitted digitally, i.e. the direct communication between student and professor or working on joint projects in small teams. Studying thrives on the exchange between lecturers and students, on the extensive questioning, on creativity, liveliness and enthusiasm.
While recorded lectures can now be fast-forwarded and rewound online, the scent of the stale air flowing out of the Europa-Institut's upper lecture hall is missing when, after several hours of concentration, the blue doors suddenly open and a colorful babble of voices from the most diverse languages fill out the previous silence.
It is the students' shared experiences, stories and work that fills and inspires the halls of the Europa-Institut. Meeting spontaneously in front of the coffee machine in the basement, exchanging thoughts on the return trip in the bus or gathering early in the morning at the Saarbrücken bus station for an excursion – to be part of an active community of fellow students is an unforgettable experience and great motivation.
Of course, the online studying opens up new possibilities, i.e. there is no time lost in commuting from home to the university campus and organizing your studies can be arranged more individually. But these are minor benefits compared to the fact that shared moments are missing.
At the bus stop on the university campus, distance points have been set up on the ground and a poster reads "Separate yet connected".
Online channels help bridge this time. Nevertheless, nothing compares to real face-to-face encounters which have recently become possible again. Seeing a familiar face while having a coffee, speaking one`s mind and making plans together helps in feeling a little more connected and less cut off from society again.
From the very beginning, the Study Program Team of the Europa-Institut made a great effort to support the students in these challenging times. Information on the current situation was sent out continuously, introductions to new learning platforms took place and online consultation hours and coffee meetings were set up to maintain personal contact.
All in all, a high quality Master's degree (LL.M.) has been offered by the Europa-Institut during the corona crisis and it remains to be hoped that in the near future many things will again return to normal and that we can all meet again at the Europa-Institut.