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A new academic year starts online and with smiles!



March marks the beginning of the academic year in Chile, and one year ago we were excited about all the activities we had planned for 2020. Our PhD programme grew, the Social Unrest was eased with the hopes of a referendum for a new Constitution, so we could look forward to having seminars, trips and so many other events. Our first generation of students was looking forward to meeting the second generation, and we were looking forward to a vibrant atmosphere of science and cultural exchanges. But the Pandemic challenged us to cancel everything.

Initially we thought to just stop and hold on. We kept the essential activities, and tried to make everyone have the freedom to look after their mental health above everything. Few months later we learnt however that scientists minds can’t really be healthy with no scientific exchange with peers. Thus, just waiting for the Pandemic to be over, and not having the chance to engage to the rest wasn’t a solution at the long run. We needed the new students to get to know us, to feel they were equal part of UDP as the old students. We were eager to get to know the new students too, they were part of UDP already but we hadn’t really interacted with them.

We had to adapt to the reality that online zoom meetings and online chats via slack or whatsapp were a very good option! For us, faculty, this was particularly difficult to get used to, for we’re kind of old-fashion email-users. We thank our students for challenging us to find alternatives, for sharing with us their struggles and fears in starting a PhD programme in between a Social Unrest and a Pandemic. We feel the strength of our programme grows every year, greatly because of their trust and because of their enthusiasm, regardless of the external circumstances. They give us confidence that this year we will do better and perhaps, soon, we will get to know each other in person and go for lunch, and then cake!

Will we fit in the canteen? We’re so many now!