Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 7 August 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: joy is 'bittersweet' as Dubai teenagers win places at top universities

The global effects of Covid-19 have left bright pupils facing uncertain academic futures

High-achieving Dubai pupils have told of how widespread disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has made their success “bittersweet” after they secured places at some of the world’s top universities.

Thousands of teenagers across the Emirates should be ready to fulfil their academic dreams by jetting off overseas to continue their studies this September.

Yet the effects of Covid-19 have left some unsure where their futures lie and to even ponder taking a gap year in order to enjoy the “full university experience” once the devastating virus has been contained.

One pupil received acceptance letters from 12 leading American and UK universities, including London School of Economics, Stanford and Wharton, but is unsure whether campuses will reopen in time for the new academic year in September.

Aadit Palicha, 18, an Indian pupil from Gems Modern Academy, is leaning towards Stanford in California as his choice of university out of the dozen that have accepted him.

Aadit Palicha is concerned about potentially having to take classes online when the new academic year starts. Aadit Palicha
Aadit Palicha is concerned about potentially having to take classes online when the new academic year starts. Aadit Palicha

“There’s definitely talks about potentially starting online. I’d have to stay here and operate on US time zones for the first semester,” said Mr Palicha, who is aspiring to major in computer science.

“It’s still in the early stages of consideration but, I think, universities will let us know by June or July what our status is.”

As an International Baccalaureate curriculum pupil, Mr Palicha said his final grade for school will be calculated based on his performance in the past two academic years, since IB exams were cancelled. He’s expecting to receive his final report card in July.

Universities do issue acceptance letters prior to a pupil’s high school graduation based on the information submitted at time of the application.

Distance learning is ongoing across the US and UK as campuses have been closed until further notice to contain the spread of Covid-19. With more than 350,000 people infected, the US has the largest number of coronavirus cases globally.

Many pupils who left Dubai to study abroad have returned home and are taking online classes.

Mr Palicha said his university classes are expected to commence on September 25.

Ananya Singhal, 17, an Indian pupil at the International School of Choueifat in Abu Dhabi, has received acceptance letters from 10 prestigious US universities.

Ananya Singhal said she would rather take a gap year than study online. Ananya Singhal
Ananya Singhal said she would rather take a gap year than study online. Ananya Singhal

She will take her last exams online in May before officially graduating from high school.

“I believe August 26 is our move-in day at the university and classes begin on September 1,” Ananya said.

“They haven’t informed us yet of any changes on the move-in day, but obviously there are concerns and we’re hoping it’ll be over by the summer. It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen.”

She said she will take time out instead of online classes if campuses remain closed in the new academic year.

“I prefer the gap year because a major part of the university experience is getting to live on campus,” she said.

“The acceptance letters were definitely a bittersweet feeling. There’s nothing we can do about the situation, except hope for the best.”

Gabriel Kotovsky, 18, a French pupil at the Lycee Francais International de Dubai, has been accepted at four US universities.

Gabriel Kotovsky said he is hoping for the best. Courtesy: Gabriel Kotovsky
Gabriel Kotovsky said he is hoping for the best. Courtesy: Gabriel Kotovsky

“Even if I can’t go to campus in September, I’ll start online classes. We have no information at all right now, but I’m pretty sure they’ll send us a mail soon on what’s happening,” said Mr Kotovsky, who wants to major in either biomedical engineering or public health.

His final exams for schools were cancelled last week and all of the pupils’ grades will be calculated based on their overall academic-year performance.

Hale Education Group, a UAE education consultancy, has been assisting these three pupils with their US university application process.

Peter Davos, its chief executive, said there were three potential outcomes to the current situation: universities could start as normal; students might have to slowly make a transition from online to in-class learning because of delayed campus openings; or universities could enrol all students in January 2021.

“No universities in the States have made any announcements in regards to doing anything other than business as usual,” Mr Davos said.

“I’m sure they’re planning and looking at these three scenarios but none has been openly declared.”

With distance learning in the US continues, thousands of students have signed online petitions urging universities to reduce fees.

The annual fees for Stanford are $81,000 (Dh297,472) for international students, including housing and meals. There is an ongoing petition asking the university to cut costs for the spring quarter.

Updated: April 7, 2020 09:59 PM

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