Joining online classes from a city in Siberia: some 7,000 kilometres away

Remote learning has taken on a whole new meaning for Milena. She joins her online classes from Siberia and has to deal with a seven-hour time difference. Indeed, one quarter of the globe lies between her and Bratislava.

08. 06. 2020 12.41 hod.
By: CU Public Relations Office

The hometown of Milena Arzhakova, a student of biochemistry at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Comenius University, is Yakutsk, certainly one of the coldest places on Earth. The temperature in winter can get down to -50°C. This port city on the Lena River is located in eastern Siberia and is the capital of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), which is the largest of Russia's twenty-one republics.

She was looking forward to the summer

"Fate certainly brought me to Comenius University," says the first-year student, adding: "When I was deciding what university to go to, I knew that I wanted to get to know the world, myself, and people from different cultures." Comenius University was an ideal choice for her, and she chose an interesting programme in English in a small and cosy country in the heart of Europe.

At first, she did not take the coronavirus pandemic seriously. The semester was just beginning, and everyone, including Milena, was preparing for their studies. She was looking forward to enjoying Slovakia in the spring and was making plans for the summer. "But everything changed in an instant. It was something unbelievable, as if it was from an apocalyptic film," she says when describing her feelings in March. As national borders, airports, universities, and all public places began to close, she began to feel anxious and she felt some panic. She initially decided to stay at the university dormitory, because the first information spoke of restrictions for two weeks. But the situation continued to worsen, and cases of infection were increasing. A feeling of loneliness gradually added to her anxiety, so she made the decision to return to her parents, where she felt supported and safe.

When the morning is the evening

She adjusted to online classes without any problems. The only challenge has been the seven-hour difference between Bratislava and Yakutia. On the other hand, she does not have to get up early in the morning, and she starts her 9 a.m. lecture at four in the afternoon. In the Siberian morning, she can calmly prepare for the classes. "This is a situation that shows that online learning is possible and beneficial," Milena says. "Since I'm an introvert, I really enjoy studying in front of a computer with a cup of tea," she adds.

However, organizing time and study commitments is more difficult than it was before. Time management is the key. "I'm a little worried about the exams. Will they be harder than under normal circumstances? After all, it is a new experience for everyone that will show what is the better format. It will either bring us a development in education, or it will show us that the classical way of education, which has been proven over time, is better,” says Milena, who is studying biochemistry.

The coronavirus situation in Milena's hometown has not stabilized yet. Restrictions on free movement in Russia are still in use because the number of infected cases is still rising. Russia has the third highest number of registered COVID-19 cases in the world. "I miss Slovakia very much, and I'm already making plans for when I come back," Milena says with optimism.