The Collegian
Friday, August 12, 2022

Students reflect on international learning after a semester of eased COVID-19 restrictions

<p>The Office of International Education.</p>

The Office of International Education.

The University of Richmond has many study-abroad partnerships with universities around the world. With the COVID-19 pandemic partially easing this fall, many exchange students were able to study at UR, and many UR students were able to study abroad. 

The Collegian interviewed two exchange students, senior Beatriz Pollo and junior Martin Iuvaro, about their time at UR and one UR student, senior Dylan Tezak, about his time abroad in Milan. 

Pollo is from Brazil and is majoring in film studies at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Iuvaro is from Argentina and is studying business economics at Torcuato Di Tella University.

Pollo chose UR for several reasons, including a scholarship that was offered to her. 

“I didn’t know UR before, since it’s not as famous as Harvard,” Pollo said. “But I was really interested in the courses I can take here."

Iuvaro, on the other hand, came to UR because he wanted the aspect of campus life in which students live together. 

The COVID-19 pandemic added unprecedented challenges to the process of coming to UR. Pollo was concerned about her health, and Iuvaro worried about his visa because he needed to schedule an emergency appointment.

“I may get COVID during my trip, and it’s my first time traveling alone," Pollo said. "I was so worried about everything." 

Iuvaro described UR as friendly and welcoming, and Pollo said the campus was beautiful and full of opportunities to try new things.

Pollo and Iuvaro did not find it hard to adapt to UR, even though they did experience some culture shock. 

“I had to throw the toilet paper directly into the toilet, which was different from home,” Pollo said. 

For Iuvaro, the American meal time is quite different from home. Iuvaro used to have dinner at 9:30 p.m, while the Heilman Dining Center closes at 8 p.m. at UR. 

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The academic challenges at UR are not all that different from their home colleges for Pollo and Iuvaro.

“In Brazil, we have two big exams,” Pollo said. “Here, you split [work] into small assignments. The academic difficulty level is the same.” 

Pollo and Iuvaro both said they have had a great social life at UR. Pollo is an extrovert who enjoys talking and meeting people. 

“I mainly hang out with international students, since we had the same international orientation,” Pollo said. 

Iuvaro has not seen his parents, who are in Argentina, for months. It has been hard for him to keep in touch with his family, he said.

“I only Facetimed my parents three times since I came here," Iuvaro said. "My parents are way more scared of me studying abroad, but I’m too busy to call them, so I just uploaded some pictures to Google Drive for them to know what is going on in my life.”

Pollo and Iuvaro shared some great memories from their time at UR, including Spider Drop. The most unforgettable memory at UR Iuvaro had so far was the night he jumped into Westhampton Lake. 

“We came back from a party at 2:30 a.m. and saw the lake," Iuvaro said. "My friend was like, ‘Hey! If you jump, I’ll give you $50,’ so I gave her my phone and went for it. The water was disgusting. It was shallow, warm, and smelled terrible.”

Both Pollo and Iuvaro said they would love to come to Richmond if they were given the chance in the future. 

“I really like UR,” Pollo said. “I was not expecting that much when I visited the website, but everything is a surprise.” 

She said that if she had known how much she would like UR, she would have spent all four years here. 

Tezak traveled to Milan, Italy this semester to study business at Bocconi University.

“I heard about the great academics that were offered at Bocconi," Tezak said. "The city of Milan was attractive because I knew it was cheap to travel from the country. It is also a global hub for fashion and hosts many cultural events throughout the year like Milan Fashion Week."

Tezak was worried about potential travel restrictions since each country has its own restrictions and the level to which they are enforced, he said. Tezak was also concerned about his lack of knowledge of the Italian language. Luckily, the language course he took in Milan gave him baseline knowledge, and many people there know some English, he said. 

“Both of these factors -- combined with daily exposure to the language -- have made communication much less [of] a problem than I anticipated,” Tezak said.

For Tezak, the best part about studying abroad is the ability to travel. The flights and trains are very accessible, and it is quick to travel to not only cities in Italy but also cities in other countries, like Budapest and Vienna. 

“I was able to take a camel ride and camp in the Sahara desert during a trip to Marrakech, Morocco," Tezak said. "The scenery was beautiful, and it was an experience unlike any other.” 

Another memorable moment for Tezak was meeting with his friends from UR in Barcelona for Halloween. 

“We were able to enjoy amazing meals, the beautiful views of the city and the festivities for the holiday together after not seeing each other since our departure,” he said.

The academics at Bocconi are much less rigid, Tezak noted, as there are no attendance requirements and the school offers an option for any student to watch courses online. 

“The exam policy is that you can take two partial exams, similar to a midterm and final, that are shorter in length or a general final that is the equivalent length of both partial exams taken at once,” Tezak said. 

Social life at Bocconi has also been very different from life at UR for Tezak. It is common to find students at various cafes around the campus enjoying a beer or cocktail after classes end every day of the week, he said. 

“They also tend to study in a very individual manner, as I’ve found things like study groups to be very uncommon,” Tezak said. 

Social gatherings also take place among those who study the same major because students at Bocconi take all of their courses with the same group of people for all four years at college, he said.

Tezak has a challenging commute to and from class every day, he said. He lives in a dorm that is around a 25-minute tram ride to the campus, depending on the arrival of the tram.

“I have adapted by spending an increasing amount of time on campus and planning out my meals before arrival," Tezak said. "While academic buildings tend to be incredibly crowded, I spend a lot of my time studying at the on-campus cafe, Gud.” 

In addition to his academic experiences, Tezak has had a taste of many new cultures in Europe. For example, he said the best food he has had while abroad was the bolognese in Bologna.

Tezak has made new friends with people from all over the world with different backgrounds, and he would consider taking a job in Europe if given the opportunity, he said.

Pollo, Iuvaro and Tezak expressed that they had great experiences studying abroad during the semester of eased COVID-19 restrictions by partaking in different cultures and academic systems.

Contact international writer Ginny Zhang at 

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