It’s been a while. I’ve been off from this blog for a while because of my heavy school workload and little bit of burnout. In this post, I would like to talk about what I learned while studying abroad in Germany since the beginning of pandemic that completely changed all our lives. I wish I could talk more about Germany… but I can’t really explore much these days… So here we are. I know it’s kind of a long post, so I broke this blog into few portions. So feel free to skip around if you feel like it. Thanks in advance for reading!
2020 and possibly 2021 would be the year(s) that I will never forget. Although 2020 was one of my most depressing years in my life, I must say it was an enlightening time for me as well. Concerning the former, I had planned so much before coming to Germany. Other than academics, I wanted to interact actively with locals, join a sports team/club, and travel neighboring cities in my own time (using my semester ticket), in order to fully immerse into the German culture. Moreover, I planned on taking a variety of courses that involves sampling microorganisms abroad, summer school on infectious biology, and getting certificates that will promote me as a global citizen/prospective scientist and improve my teaching skill for my downstream career.
I came to Germany in the late 2019. I was slowly executing my plans while acclimating to German culture. A few months later (even before my first semester ended in Germany), the country went into a strict lockdown and social distancing with skyrocketing number of Covid-19 cases. Every single one of my plans got cancelled. The lockdown made everything impossible. Like everybody else, it even interfered with my academic calendar. In the beginning of pandemic, it started getting me down because I had always been a huge fan of cultural and academic immersion simultaneously, just like I had done in the US, Japan, and the UK before I came to Germany.
I think my passion about learning German was a bit compromised as well. One of my biggest strategies in learning languages is to actually speak the language with people in daily lives. Not just a language exchange, but actually hanging out with people in Germany. Also, I felt the online German class wasn’t as engaging as the offline one. I guess I was struggling with biology lectures too. Having to study all day where I sleep is another challenge for me (but I got used to it now!).
These might be one of the reasons why I got some burnouts in 2020. But the year of pandemic also had many positive impacts on my life.
I came to Germany in the late 2019. I was slowly executing my plans while acclimating to German culture. A few months later (even before my first semester ended in Germany), the country went into a strict lockdown and social distancing with skyrocketing number of Covid-19 cases.
The reason why I pointed out 2020 has been a year of enlightenment is that I also learned so much through this pandemic about the world and virus as well as myself. Climate crisis is one thing. This Covid-19 pandemic is obvious result of the continuous invasion in nature by human-beings. After reading articles and some books, I couldn’t help thinking that “if we had not disrupted wild life as much, we wouldn’t have had to suffer from this pandemic as well as to see our planet suffer.” I read an interesting report by WWF (conservation organization), which starts with a shocking fact that “an average of 68% decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016.” I doubted my eyes after seeing the following: This HAPPENED in 46 years! I love nature and study biodiversity in some capacity in my major (microbiology). I began to tell myself to take this REALLY seriously, ranging from actively educating myself this issue to incorporating eco-friendly habits in my daily life. On the “education” front, I started reading scientific literatures on biodiversity and conservation associated with microorganisms. Apparently, microorganisms are probably one of the first organisms that respond to the climate change. I thought it might be cool to participate in a research project on this topic in the future.
Because lockdown and social distancing granted me some more free time, I started cultivating myself in other capacities including content creation, evidence-based method of effective studying, more German, reading more poems, and finding out all the volunteer opportunities I can do regarding Covid-19 as a microbiology student (like doing PCR Covid tests). Moreover, I started actively putting myself out there by taking the plunge into writing here and making videos on youtube. I had been fairly consistent at the beginning on those along with my other blogs to help people out with my own experiences abroad. Despite my small number of contents out there, I have been getting hundreds of messages that my contents were helpful and inspired them. I was really happy to add values in other people’s lives in this way.
The reason why I pointed out 2020 has been a year of enlightenment is that I also learned so much through this pandemic about the world and virus as well as myself.
I also found the opportunity to work on Covid-19 diagnostics at a research institute (as a student research assistant), which was a greatly honorable experience as a microbiology student. I was able to work with fabulous colleagues in multi-disciplinary fields. Not only the diagnostics, I learned so much from this experience. My time here totally gravitated strongly towards the world of virology, which turns out to be a very interdisciplinary subject, as everybody might have realized at this point. So I started taking a (low-stake) virology course online taught by professor Vincent Racaniello who is Earth’s virology professor, author, and podcaster (This Week in Virology). I know I talked about him in my previous , but I just love his stuffs. He puts out his lectures and other sources for free on his website and youtube channel. His lecture is amazing and extremely interesting. If you have a basic understanding in virology, you would probably be able to take this course. So if you are interested, join me!
Although I had different “study abroad experiences” to some extent in 2020 and 2021 so far, I learned a lot about myself. I believe the past year is one of the years I did the most vigorous self-reflection in my life. I guess “vigorous self-reflection” totally became my thing now. I realized I am a type of guy who doesn’t really learn much until I write stuff up. Writing journals and (definitely) blogs were helpful to organize my thoughts and to identify my goals. People have been asking me how to ace a motivation essay and interview in scholarships and admissions to universities. I guess incorporating vigorous and frequent self-reflection in one’s life might be pretty powerful. In this way, all we have left to do for the motivation essay is to build a good narrative based on existing ideas that we have been pondering about through journaling and blogging etc. I guess we are also creating a strong positive feedback loop where reflection leads to better outcome in whatever we do in the future or opens more doors if that’s what you care about.
One of my life motto is to build a strong discipline in my daily life. This could include self-reflection as well as having a consistent daily routine. I suppose this is also a good rule of thumb especially while studying abroad. From my own experience, whenever I had a strong daily routine, it gave me great default activities to do so that I will be fully engaged with my own life without getting distracted. This is really helping me while I have lectures and labs from 8 in the morning to 6 or 7 in the evening. This truly gives me vitality and a sense of progress that allows me keep going in this era of pandemic.
I thought that online recourses are limited and that proper learning always requires some sort of physical attendance and direct interaction with professionals. But in 2020, I realized that we can learn anything online. I mean, I knew nothing about editing a video. I just watched youtube videos while I ate dinner to pick up tips and tricks. I just applied them when I actually made a video (but I still have a long way to go… ).
Even before the pandemic, people were turning into online including business, classes, and even degrees. I also took some online classes to expand my horizon prior to the pandemic and they were very helpful. But I just thought they were not enough.
These days, people seem to be learning anything online like coding, music, web design, drawing, and so forth. I also started cultivating myself by learning stuffs online. For example, I am learning to code on a website called Skillshare for fun these days (Of course I prioritize my study). I also thought coding skill will be useful for my career down the line. It’s totally doable online and the classes are really engaging. I am looking forward to my weekends for this.
Internet is really powerful on the academic front as well. While I prepare study questions for my final exam, I often google because lecture slides aren’t often enough to address them. I can find all sorts of scientific papers and even textbooks. Wikipedia’s helpful too. In conclusion, we can totally use online to expand our horizon, at least until this pandemic ends.
Things are still pretty bad in Germany. We are getting around 20,000 cases per day. I still got little more than half a year till I finish my master program. One thing I am grateful for is that I can still make a progress in my academics. I am enjoying my school life and experiments. I guess it’s just a matter of how I will spend my free time to get myself together in this time of pandemic with social distancing and travel restriction. Even though I won’t still be able to take the elective courses and do extracurricular activities, I could still cultivate myself like above (Of course, prioritizing my school).
My life has been pretty hectic, so I couldn’t upload many blog posts and videos. But here are a few of my recent videos if you are interested!
Lots of people wanted to know how to get started and organize the list of schools. So in this video, I show how I use an app called “Notion” to organize the list of my future school list. I think it’s much more convenient to shove everything in an app so that we don’t have to carry a physical book all the time.
If you want to connect, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I wish you the best and stay healthy. Thanks for reading/watching!