Erasmus during Covid 19

Erasmus during Covid 19

By Nahid Sultana Ria

Nahid was a visiting Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility Postgraduate Student from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology from 1st November 2019 to 30th June 2020 shares her highlights of her time at the University of Limerick and how she coped during the pandemic.

Introducing myself

I’m Nahid Sultana Ria, a visiting Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility postgraduate student at the University of Limerick. I’ve graduated a with a BSc in Materials and Metallurgical Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and started my MSc right after that. If I’m honest, when I first heard about coming to Ireland as a visiting student for 5 months through Erasmus, I wasn’t confident enough for the decision. Mostly because I was scared of the new environment, new people, new culture. I was scared if I would adjust to it or not. But after 8 months (stranded for 3 months due to Covid-19) I can say that things couldn’t have been any better.

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My Studies at the Bernal Institute, University of Limerick

I joined the Bernal institute on the 1st of November. The first thing I noticed and liked about Bernal is how helpful, cooperative, and welcoming everyone was. The environment itself boosted up my energy and helped me be confident enough to do my studies. Every lab is well equipped with cutting edge technologies. Training on equipment was held prior to the actual experiment, which I found very exciting and helpful. Every Friday either a talk on career development/ future opportunities or a seminar on the current topic was held. I attended some and found the seminars on biomaterials very helpful. As I mentioned I was a student of metallurgical engineering, switching field to biomaterials was challenging. At that moment, those seminars helped me a lot in understanding what is going on in the field of biomaterials, it also gave me an insight to some basics of biological experiments and how they differ from experimenting with other materials. Another thing that helped me to go through the struggle of field switching was continuous encouragement and the enormous support of my supervisor Dr. John Mulvihill and my trainer Darragh Walsh. I also found the career talks very convenient.

The Campus

On another note, UL has a very beautiful campus with field, trees, and a part of river Shannon is flowing through it. Whenever I needed a break or to think, I took a detour to the campus to refresh my mind. Students who are having doubts about coming to UL, I can assure you that you will not regret it. UL has all the facilities with innovative technologies, it has a friendly work environment with amazing people and as I mentioned earlier the campus itself diminishes any stresses. Therefore, without any second thoughts, you can go for it.

My Favourite Highlights

Selecting a few highlights from my time in Ireland will be difficult. Still, if I have to, first comes in the mind “the Christmas Time” which approached around a month after my arrival. It was the first time for me to see the Christmas celebration. A month-long city lighting, preparing dinner on Christmas Eve, and enjoying that with family on the next day, everything contained a subtle touch of happiness. I was invited for Christmas dinner with a catholic family, which was a cherry on top for me.

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If I go chronologically, the second highlight would be the 1st of January. On the New Year day, I went for a long drive along the west coast of Ireland with my friends. I heard a saying from Michael Vatis “They say clouds are lower in Ireland but I say Ireland is closer to heaven”. I could literally feel the line during this long drive. The sight of the ocean, mountains, and city lights of Galway from afar was like twinkling stars over Atlantic. Everything was heavenly along with the freezing ocean breeze. To make this trip more adventurous, our car broke in the middle of nowhere on our way back. It was already night then. There were no streetlights, no bars, nothing, not even any sign of a single living being apart from us. It took around 3 to 4 hours for the insurance people to come. Within these 4 hours, we were in the dark highway, freezing yet singing to our heart and enjoying the constellation. Even when I’m writing this, I can feel the chill.

Lastly, the leap day. “Leap Year” is one of my favourite movies. I was excited about being in Ireland on the leap day! To fuel my excitement, the international society of the University of Limerick arranged a trip to the Ring of Kerry. UL international society is a great opportunity to explore Ireland, make friends with people of different cultures and races. Besides the Ring of Kerry, we visited two cities: Killarney and Kenmare, also went to Torc Waterfall. Things were going pretty well but just when we were about to go to our main spot, “Ring of Kerry”, a storm started. And it was a terrible one. Maybe the worst one during my time in Ireland. (Can check with the details in this: I was a little sad as the storm spoiled the trip but I took that as another type of adventurous experience. Maybe this storm has made my trip special, made me remember this trip for a long long time.

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The People

However, regardless of the trips, what moved me more was the warmth of the Irish people. Once one of my colleagues quoted an Irish saying “there are two kinds of people in the world, The Irish one and those who wish they were”. And after my time there, I felt it’s really true. I found everyone helpful. Whenever I was in a problem, whether it was in the bus, in the shop, in the street, in the lab or anywhere, I found people ready to help me with a big smile. It was comforting and made me feel secured and relaxed when I was at loss.

Another funny thing I should mention that the apartment where I lived was right across the house of late Richard Harris (the person who played the role of Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies). I’m a hard-core fan of Harry Potter’s and my heart fluttered when I learned about this. I kept telling my Bangladeshi friends especially those who are Harry Potter fans, “Do you know where I live?” and then this story with layers and layers of sugar-coating to make them jealous.

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Although, I have one regret of not visiting the Cliffs of Moher. I planned but Covid-19 happened and the world stopped. At first, I was like ‘What’s the big deal? Why things have to be closed when there are a few numbers of infected people?’ But soon I realized the significance of the decision and how I failed to understand the bigger picture. However, initially, it felt like ‘things will be fine with time’ but later on, the ‘time’ seemed to be never-ending. Away from families, their worries, banning over international travels everything went bitter day by day. These worries were also a big disruption for concentrating or adjusting over online studies. Keeping myself sane during these days was the main struggle. For that, a little stroll, doing exercise, crafting (I personally love that) helped a lot to keep my sanity as well as adjusting with the learning. I know these things vary from person to person but of course, everyone has some sort of hobbies of their own. I’ll suggest doing those things, keep yourself fit both mentally and physically, then it’ll be easy for you to concentrate on your studies.

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