Studying Abroad Amidst Pandemic, A Perspective From A Leading School In #France

The global pandemic has not been able to deter Indian students from their pursuit of higher education in international universities as would the quick transition from campus-based learning to e-learning practices suggest. Though student mobility in the emerging situation is likely to change and as European countries and USA try to trace their feet back to normalcy, global universities have learnt to adapt to the dynamic situation, fully aware that sooner than later, students would flock back to the campuses while the current scenario demands that they stay on course with an evolved online learning process as well as coping mechanism.

The Ministry of External Affairs statistics put the number of Indians studying abroad at over 7.5 lakh in 2018 and latest studies show that the global health crisis notwithstanding, majority of those who had planned higher education abroad would want to continue because international universities have been expeditious in enhancing healthy safety frameworks for students while putting in place stronger support systems and incentives at the same time.

According to a study by Leverage Edu, a leading edu-tech platform, at least 76 percent students initially said they planned to continue with their education abroad for the September and January dates. When they were informed of the contingency plans created by global educational institutions, the number jumped to 91 percent.

What is more encouraging is that more than 70 percent students repose their faith in international healthcare systems. The latest Indian Students Mobility Report 2020 by QS-I.GAUAGE says Indian students are very particular about education when they opt to study overseas. For them, factors like employability, reputation as well as university life merit more attention.

In Europe, France remains among the top destinations for Indian students because of the sheer quality of education, infrastructure, safety as well as multi-faceted cultural life the country presents. It is turning the global health crisis into opportunities and is fully geared to usher in the academic year for new students through virtual classrooms. It has also announced augmentation of the proportion of scholarships for the academic year by 50 percent which translates to Rs 10 crore (1.3 million US dollars). The scholarships will be awarded regardless of whether a student starts the semester in India or France, the French embassy has said.

That France has been a leader in extending support to foreign students’ community through visas and scholarships amid the pandemic crisis comes as a confidence booster for Indian students who continue to be greeted by the country and its leading educational institutions such as emlyon business school which tops their wish-list for its well-structured international curriculum, flexible learning practices as well as diversified campus network across Europe and Asia. The B-School’s six campuses are located in Urban Community of Lyon (Écully), Paris, Saint-Etienne, Shanghai, Casablanca and in Bhubaneswar (in India).

A triple accredited B-School, emlyon business school was among the first international institutions in France to respond to the coronavirus pandemic with establishment of a Covid19 Task Force to address three key concerns – Security, Continuity and Quality. Health safety of students, faculties and stakeholders across the campuses was top on the checklist and the school acted rather swiftly by putting in place social distancing protocols. That said, the B-School never lost sight of the emerging scenario which necessitated continuity of academic process for the students. Moving 100 percent of its classes online was the first step towards creating an uninterrupted learning platform. It received a big vote of confidence from 98 percent students who were satisfied with the quality of learning materials and pedagogy.

The global VUCA situation taking a toll on the mental health of the students, the school also released and emergency fund of 200,000 K€ (the biggest amount by any B-School in France) to help students cope with the new financial burden; and the wellness center launched e few years ago geared up as part of the school’s commitment to a holistic growth and development of its stakeholders.

In India, emlyon business school also launched a special “Care, Share and Dare” webinar series, to reach out to students planning for admissions this academic season and address their concerns. “The COVID 19 pandemic has resulted in a complex situation for everyone. The students who are about to begin their courses are looking for answers regarding the protocols to be followed and how things will shape up in the coming weeks and months,” says Ashley Fernandes, India head for emlyon business school.

Through the webinars, the school has shared relevant information with the students and encouraged them to make a move that will put them on a solid footing for their future. It has also been extending additional scholarships to several Indian students, considering the current situation and depending on the need of a particular student.

Ravi Shankar, enrolled for MSc in Digital Marketing and Data Science at emlyon business school, is on cloud nine today since he would soon be starting a new life at his dream school despite the financial constraints in his life. An employee at Cognizant Technology Solutions, Hyderabad, Ravi says, “One of the main reasons why I wanted to be a part of the school was its entrepreneurial spirit. emlyon business school has a start-up incubator and its mission is to support, strengthen the creation and development of businesses by accompanying entrepreneurs towards success with sustainability. The school has a great social community, which assists students to grow with fellow entrepreneurs, share their experiences and hardships.

I understand hardships, having completed my education with the help of an orphanage home called The Home for Orphan students. When I attended one of these webinars, I was already enrolled with a scholarship offer from the school. But when I interacted with the country head directly giving him a clear picture of my situation, I was granted with additional scholarships, which made my path much easier. This shows how the school provides students with greater opportunities.”

Similarly, Priyanka Budkuley from Mumbai, also enrolled for MSc in Digital Marketing and Data Science, had a scholarship offer from the school based on her profile. Though she desperately wanted to enroll, her finances were a cause of concern. “I have seen various phases of life but what stayed of it has been the struggle. I started working at a very early age to become financially independent. From door-to-door sales to giving product pitches in the mall, I’ve worked in various roles to complete my Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media. Post my graduation, with my first job into online marketing came the spur to dive deep into digital marketing. I started saving, so I could learn more and accordingly, completed my post-graduation diploma in graphic designing as well as digital marketing. Finally, armed with a vast experience of over seven years across various domains, when I wanted to get the kind of exposure the Digital Marketing program at emlyon business school offers, I was stuck because despite a scholarship offer, I was not able to make it. For two months, I kept applying for various other scholarships and loans, but because of COVID, there were no outputs. That’s when after attending the webinar and having a one-on-one e-meeting with the country head, I was granted additional scholarships by the school so that I could pursue my dream. They made me feel like, I was one of them and there can be nothing more important than that; especially when you are traveling to an unknown country. I aspire to become an influencer and emlyon business school is a big step towards it,” says Priyanka.

“We are helping our students and reaching out by providing counselling because we care for everyone’s wellness, but we also dare them to change their mindset” adds Ashley, who recently also participated in a webinar arranged by Chandigarh Group of Colleges on mental well-being of students, transitioning from school to college.

Dr Ramandeep Saini, Director Principal of Mohali-based Chandigarh Business School of Administration says Ashley motivated students to develop positivity and learn to care and share. He emphasized on understanding the dynamics of Life with Covid rather than Life after Covid. Ashley’s strong advice to youngsters was to focus and accept the challenges thrown at us by COVID 19 and transform constraints into opportunities; which is the true spirit on an “earlymaker”.

“The question is, should the virus petrify us or electrify us? This is exactly the time to learn and develop skills for a new future. This crisis has turned every business model of the past on its head and has propelled us towards a more digitized future,” elaborates Ashley.

He strongly believes that this is the perfect time for students to invest in higher education with the global economy staring at recession in its face.

“As of now the intake, in September, is very much on the table and we are helping with clarifications about visa and travel. We want to offer the best student experience at any given time. We are closely monitoring the evolution with flexibility is at the core of the process. Depending on the programs, options range from temporary online classes, Glocal phygital pre-intakes, January in-person classes or 2021 deferment. We do not want to add additional stress to an already uncertain situation; we are in this together”, sums up Ashley.

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