Study rooms, libraries, coffee shops, chit chats in university hallways…
University life as we had known up to 2020 was made up of all the above. Student life used to be known as a period where young people discovered themselves both on a personal and on a professional level. Yet, as of today, everything seems to have changed and been compressed inside a computer screen. Lessons, professors, books, exams, study plans, and group meetings have all become virtual with the COVID-19 health crisis. Much has already been said about the mental health struggles and the missed opportunities virtual life is bringing into the youngest generations. While some people patiently wait for the old world to come back, others have already hypothesized that 2020 could change for good the way in which schools will be offering their lesson plans.
While negativisms are inevitable, and much has still to be done to guarantee students’ rights during this transition to the virtual teaching world, for once let us take a closer look at what 2020 can leave to the future generations – in a positive way. What if we used this year as an opportunity to capitalize on virtual platforms to equalize network opportunities amongst students? It used to be that University and student lead fairs would require people to meet in jam packed rooms, and to hassle through the crowd in order to get the information they wanted from the representative of a stand who was already busy juggling three other students and their parent’s continuous questions regarding their offspring’s life choices (as if a 18 year old could really find the answers to the life long question “what do I want to do with my life?” from a 10-minute chat in a noisy hall). In 2020 University Fairs have become virtual. This could change everything for students who used to not be able to travel to the event venue, or to impose themselves inside a crowded room and ask the questions they wanted from the representative of their dream university stand. Similarly, representatives from smaller and newly established colleges can now connect at a deeper level with their audience and convince a larger pool of students that they have equally interesting programs.
Take for example POLITICO’s EU Studies and Career Fair, that will for the first time in 22 years go fully virtual. The agenda of this new two-day open-door Fair will permit students from across the globe to connect and network with international exhibitors on a deeper level. Now a student can receive first-hand information and tailor advice from a representative that can finally have the time to interact properly with each visitor, without having to hustle through the distracting noise of the surrounding crowd.
While in previous years the ever so popular workshops from the events’ partners would make it so that only a limited number of students would be able to find a comfortable chair to follow the
session along, online webinars can now equally reach everyone connected through a virtual platform. Students can now decide to spend 30 minutes following an online webinar on, for example, how to write a great CV, while working directly on their document. In just about an hour’s time, they can now have a fresh and improved portfolio to show off to that University exhibitor they are trying to impress.
The opportunities are unlimited with a virtual platform. If we learn how to use these resources in a smart and efficient way, we can perhaps leave to the future generations a flexible, efficient, and equal platform to improve student life as a whole.