Stay in China and Study in Europe, how did I overcome the cross time zone studying challenge during COVID time?

Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree Copernicus Master in Digital Earth, a two year full-time integrated programme aims at qualifying individuals to lead initiatives, projects and institutions translating Copernicus data (remote sensing and in-situ) into information for management decisions within a broader Digital Earth vision. The Consortium is composed by University of Salzburg, University of South Brittany, and Palacky University Olomouc.

Author: Nianhua Liu, EMJMD Copernicus student. See contributors page


As an EMJMD student from China, I began my study in October 2020. My first station started at the University of Salzburg, Austria. However, during the COVID time, I couldn’t enter Austria because of travel restrictions. And this situation lasted for one semester until I got my visa and arrived in Austria in February 2021. Therefore, a quarter of my EMJMD study happened in another country – China, which is 7 hours earlier than Europe.

Looking back on that time, there are 3-P keywords for me to overcome the cross time zone challenge: Peaceful mind, Presenting right, and Principle time.

Peaceful mind: We have 16 students in our class. When the orientation started, 12 of us are already in Salzburg. They started gathering, city-touring, and having fun in the city. Unfortunately, I could do nothing initially. Although the coordinator prepares the hybrid mode for online students, we have to confirm the Q&A again and again because of bad internet connection and weak speaker sound. The upset mind occupies my brain for the first three weeks. I can’t enjoy it with my classmates to celebrate the new class. I realize that I must adjust my mind and find some balance myself. Luckily, delicious food and good friendship comfort my mind. I learn how to cook delicious food myself and try to do the same thing with my classmates simultaneously. My classmates play online table games with me and help me a lot to overcome my obstacles. Besides, our coordinators and academic committee members also manage some online meetup with us to know our feelings. Finally, I find back my peaceful mind.

Presenting right: It is the first time for everyone to face this pandemic challenge, including our teachers and coordinators. Therefore, it’s crucial for every student to present their rights. At first, I might feel shy sometimes because all physical study students look familiar with what the teachers are talking about. I started to think that I lost some important message in class? But my classmates said they don’t know either and my teachers also emphasize that I should ask the questions every time I feel confused. Therefore, I get the courage to ask the questions and present my rights. I know that the class is not only about teaching, but also a two-side interaction. I must explain what I need during this remote studying time. Then, the teachers could better prepare for us.

Principle time: The biggest challenge during the cross time zone studying is the time difference. Because of the 7 hours difference, my class began in the afternoon and ended at late night every weekday. Sometimes the course excited me, and I couldn’t fall asleep at night. To better suit myself, I make a principle timetable and obey them strictly. I push myself to stop working after mid-night to have a better sleeping quality and I finish my homework every morning before class. With the principle timetable, I could better manage my work and life balance.

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