My current location: Houston, Texas.

As I mentioned in my first blog, I received my acceptance to IEDP in December of 2019! I was really relieved that I had a lot of time to prepare for the big move to Philadelphia. I was going to have eight months to look for a nice, affordable apartment, cool roommates, and a llama bedding set. Those were my priorities. And then…the world shut down due to a pandemic and everyone’s plans were put on hold. When Penn GSE made the decision to have all online classes in the fall, I was super sad. I knew it was the right decision, but it still wasn’t what I had envisioned for so long. In the summer, I decided that I would stay in Texas with my parents for the fall semester and move to Philly in the spring.

I wasn’t really sure what graduate school at University of Pennsylvania would look or feel like behind a computer, many miles away from campus. I had read a lot of negative things regarding remote learning (I mean who hasn’t?), and it obviously wasn’t the ideal scenario. Now that I am reflecting on the first week and a half of classes, I want to say that learning and meeting people over Zoom has been a positive experience. Of course, this has also led to a few chaotic but funny stories for the cohort. Today, I want to share how IEDP (online) has been for me so far.

I am lucky that Texas is just one hour behind Philly. However, in the morning it makes a big difference! I am a night owl, so I have had to push myself to go to bed “early.” My goal so far has been to wake up one hour before classes start so I have enough time to have a cafecito, something to eat, and check the cohort’s WhatsApp group. We have people from many different time zones and conversations often start while I am sleeping. The group has been very active, allowing us to explore common interests, such as learning new languages and practicing with each other, and also giving us a space to share questions or concerns about different things.

My first day of classes was actually straight forward with no issues, but a few people shared some interesting stories. A classmate was twenty minutes late to class because he couldn’t find the right Zoom link, which he said felt like not being able to locate a building on campus. Another student shared that a few minutes into the Zoom meeting, she realized that it was a doctoral class and didn’t know how to leave because there were only six people. At the end, she decided to give the students the best wishes through the chat and exit the class. During my last class of the first week, before I could declare victory over any technology related issues, I experienced my first remote learning mishap. The professor divided the class into smaller groups for an activity, but my group did not see the message telling us to go back to the main discussion. We were connected to the right class, through the right link, no internet issues, but we were in the wrong “room”, causing us to miss eighteen minutes of information!

I will try to sit in the front of the class next time to not miss important information!

So far, the courses have been engaging. We have modules with pre-class readings, videos, and discussions boards. During the actual class, which we all attend synchronously, the professors go over some of the material and then we get to discuss our understanding of the topics in small groups.

I stay organized through a weekly calendar. I make plans in Philly time but write them down in Houston time

It has been really busy so far, because we have a lot of material to cover, but I appreciate that the classes explore contrasting views and experiences, including the debate of what development actually is. The fact that the people in the cohort have diverse personal and professional backgrounds also brings a lot of perspectives I had not thought about. I am really happy that I get learn from all regions of the world through articles and essays, but also from my own classmates.

In the next few weeks, we will share more details about the core classes and electives. You will also get to meet other people in the cohort and read about their experience learning remotely from all around the world (including Philly). We are all living challenging times, but also trying to make the most of the situation, virtually, together.