“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’’ - Winston Churchill
When I first started university, participating in an exchange program was something I imperatively wanted to experience. Writing this short work overlooking the Frankfurt skyline feels surreal to me; especially given the current global context.
The coronavirus global pandemic is an event I will remember for years to come. The international collaboration and the important measures most authorities have taken will have a lasting impact. I am convinced things we believe are temporary will outlive this event concerning time and space management; the online tools we knew of but weren't familiar with have managed to become indispensable within a few months.
My personal opinion has not yet fully materialized. While the digital experience of learning and working is beneficial to respect social distancing and accommodate more flexibility in one’s schedule, I also believe it hasn't been able to mimic the comprehensive reality of being in a classroom or office. As a business student, I can only see this an opportunity and I'm sure many others are working tirelessly in order to innovate and enhance these tools.
I am quite lucky this semester, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management (the host institution for my exchange) has adopted a hybrid formula for their students. This gives us the choice to attend class physically or remotely via Zoom. I feel so lucky to attend class in person as the campus is brand new and stunning; this inspiring environment gives me the feeling that the world is about to be mine and it is possible to make it beautiful. The school has a rigorous hygiene protocol and requires students to wear trackers while on campus to be able to contain any outbreaks. This may sound extreme but I am impressed and grateful that the school understands the needs of their entire student body.
Beyond the campus, Germany’s also done a good job at containing the epidemic. Therefore in my case, the social experience is also very positive. Masks are required in groceries, public transit and the majority of closed commercial and public area. That being said, I find the city is operating ‘normally’ and lively. Frankfurt is a salad bowl of people; you have individuals from everywhere brought together to participate in the work of the financial capital of Europe. It’s a salad bowl more than a melting pot because people remain themselves - the tomatoes are tomatoes and the lettuce is obviously lettuce… the diversity Frankfurt offers is exceptional. I’ve already encountered natives of five continents! Together throughout our common experience of discovering Frankfurt, everyone tries to add their flavour to the salad. With my friends, I've learnt to roll cigarettes, order food in German, open beers with lighters, listen to Portuguese pop songs, … what really brings people together is how it feels that there's a place for everyone to feel somewhat at home. The easygoingness of Frankfurt truly makes the city extremely comfortable; I think this also helps make the global crisis manageable which is very positive considering the important decisions that happen here.
All images by author Cédric Alston