Omar, lockdown in Warsaw : "who could have imagined that we’d miss our 8:15am class?"

Omar Mernissi; a student at Grenoble INP - Industrial Engineering; doing a year-long Erasmus exchange; is currently in lockdown in Warsaw, Poland.

How’s the lockdown organized ?

The lockdown has enabled us to realize that some tasks we often avoid or do in a half-hearted manner have all of a sudden become the only tasks we can do. They’re often the only tasks that justify going outside (walking the dog or going grocery shopping). When we go out, we no longer think “did I turn off the stove and take my keys”, instead we think “should I really be going out…”, “do I have my sworn statement?”, or “what if I finish what’s in my fridge and go out at a later date?”

We also spend a lot more time cooking and eating. The fear of being idle has led me to discover a passion for dishes and desserts that are long and complicated to prepare. When I go grocery shopping, I try to buy products that are as natural as possible so that I can take time and cut all the veggies in my soup instead of buying instant soup for example. It’s not my normal “choice”. The next anti-idleness cooking challenge will be for me to make my own pasta! We’ll see how it goes !

Another aspect of our daily life that has been re-organized is how we spend free time and choose activities. As group sports, cultural events, movie theaters and simply “going out with friends” are no longer options, I’ve started reading and re-reading books that I normally would never look at. I also take great care of my plants and pets. Sports activities are hard for me to adapt to the inside because I’ve always seen sports as an outside activity. But step-by-step I’ve started finding online yoga classes or new stretches that I can do at home to stay in shape!

While there are many disadvantages to digital tech, the lockdown has made new technology our best friend. I spend a lot of time surfing the net in order to stay up-to-date on the Covid-19 situation in France and around the world. Thanks to this, I’ve learned a lot about many places in northern Italy or new Chinese cities that have more than 10 million inhabitants. To be honest, during this lockdown, I really don’t feel bad about sitting for hours in front of TV shows and films.


How are they organizing and dealing with online, distance learning ?

I believe that universities around Europe are doing great work to provide quality online classes in such a short time span. Here in Warsaw, where I’m doing my exchange, online class platforms have been up and running as of this week and I have a lot of work to do at home. This homework is not bad but it does remind me of my hard prep school years… The university here prefers homework as it requires less organization and students can easily understand what’s expected of them. In addition to this, we have online videoconferences.
It’s definitely difficult to get used to doing homework and having video conferences because there are many distractions at home. But once you get the hang of it, you start wondering if it won’t be hard to go back to in-class learning!


Do you consider this new format to be a possibility for the future or do you prefer in-class learning?

I’m definitely looking forward to starting up in-class learning again. The fact there’s no physical separation between living space and learning space makes it more difficult to dissociate the “work/class spirit” from the “I’m at home” spirit. Thankfully, we have time to get used to it and our professors are very understanding…
Who could have imagined that we’d miss our 8:15am class? The lockdown is helping us discover unimagined advantages to our way of life before the lockdown...


Additional information as of March 30th, 2020 :

Following an institutional email encouraging all of our students abroad to come home before travel was banned:
"In response to this email, I’m not ‘French’ and therefore not a ‘French student’ abroad… Even if I were to come back to France, I wouldn’t know where to go! Grenoble si no longer an option because I moved away more than a year ago* and I was the only person in my family to live in the city. My sister lives in Paris, but it’s not realistic for me to stay in her Parisian apartment for more than a week or two.

If I were to go home somewhere, it would be to my parents in Morocco. But the borders are completely sealed even for citizens. As a result, it’s better for me to stay in Warsaw until this is over (the situation here seems to be under control)... And afterwards I can go to Paris and do my end-of-degree internship in September. Or go back to Morocco if I have time to see my parents before going to Paris

* Omar spent one semester doing an internship in Japan before going for a Erasmus exchange in Warsaw, Poland.