Wits hosts information session for students wanting to pursue their studies in Europe.

An information session aimed at students wanting to study in Europe drew a large crowd despite concerns that the continent is now considered to be one of the hotspots for the coronavirus pandemic worldwide. The Wits International Student’s Office hosted the session at the John Moffat building on Wits main campus on Thursday, March 12.

French government scholarship holder Gail Vermaak, one of the speakers at the event, told Wits Vuvuzela that risk of contracting the virus depends on the destination. “Tuberculosis is more contagious [than COVID-19] and students should just avoid areas where the virus is commonly found.” Vermaak said.

Wits student Dikgang Morele, who is currently on lockdown in Medina, Italy, spoke to Wits Vuvuzela via telephone. Morele is currently studying towards her master of arts in demography and population studies at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. “You get to learn so much from their [Italian] teaching style and their student culture.” However, Morele said she hasn’t attended many classes due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in Italy earlier this year. “Many countries are scared and they are not allowing people into their countries. I suggest students wait until the situation has subsided before travelling,” she said.

Alison Simons,the co-ordinator of the Wits Collaborations Projects at Wits which hosted the information session, encouraged students to broaden their horizons.

“Students who go on exchange tend to have greater employability… this opportunity allows you to learn best practice from other universities and to use those skills to make a difference in South Africa,” Simons said.

Simons told students that to be eligible to study abroad, students need to submit an application to the International Student’s Office, must be registered at Wits, must have completed their first year of studies and should have an average of 60% or higher.

Vermaak told Wits Vuvuzela that, “students grow so much in a different culture. You may be out of your comfort zone, but you will grow academically and become so independent. And the best part is, the whole of Europe is open to you.”

Masters student in nephrology at Wits, Samuel Lesemola, who attended the information session, admits that he is slightly concerned about the coronavirus, but doesn’t lose any sleep over it. “If I take precautions and educate myself about the virus and where it is most commonly found, then I’ll be just fine when I travel.”

Simons encouraged students to return to Wits once they have earned credits in their respective courses overseas.

“Wits is the leading university on this continent, we would love to retain all its top students. Your brain matters; don’t underestimate the value of South Africa and a Wits education,” she said.

FEATURED IMAGE: Despite COVID-19 panic worldwide, Wits students fill the John Moffat A1 lecture hall to attend the “Study in Europe” information session at Wits University. Photo: Niall Higgins