“Using this crisis productively”

“In 2017, I quit my full-time job and started studying Education at the University of Vienna.
Until recently, my everyday life on weekdays consisted of commuting from my place of
residence to Vienna to enjoy my courses. I spent the weekends trying to make a living from
writing reports for a regional newspaper. A few weeks ago, all of that changed. After the press
conference held by the Federal Government on 11 March, I received an e-mail from the
Rectorate of the University of Vienna: Teaching was now going to take place in the form of
remote learning. Initially, not much changed for me, since independent studies are already a
big part of studying at the University. The situation even benefited me: I no longer had to
commute three hours to Vienna and back home again.

Only a few days later, all of my courses were changed to remote learning. Lectures now
consist of reading books or watching videos that teachers provide on the University’s learning
platform. For seminars, we now have to complete more written assignments, have discussions
in forums and use podcasts or video conferences. I also got to make the interesting experience
of giving a presentation in the form of a PowerPoint video for the first time. On the university
side, things are running smoothly, but I am a bit worried about my financial situation.

Since I only started studying after eight years of working full time, I am eligible to receive
federal aid for students. This is barely enough to survive, so from the beginning of my studies,
I was also working as a freelance editor, but the number of assignments has dropped due to
the current pandemic. Nevertheless, I still consider myself lucky. After all, this scholarship
allows me to at least pay my fixed expenses. Many people have lost all of their income
overnight and are now faced with a dire situation. What makes me angry and puts me in a
fighting spirit is that, once again, the people working in precarious forms of employment
receive hardly any support during this crisis. It is again the people already living in a
precarious situation, who now have to struggle even more to make ends meet.

I am participating in the research project Distancing and Solidarity that was launched by my
degree programme and that investigates the social dimensions of the corona pandemic. My
degree programme has also made me aware of social inequality over the last few years. For
that reason, I now focus my work in the research project on people living in a precarious
situation. This proves to me once again how wonderful my degree programme is: This crisis
is not just a matter that we all have to deal with individually, but it can also be used
productively to study its effects on people.” – Melanie Grubner

Melanie is studying Education at the University of Vienna.


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