The past couple of years have posed some unique challenges. However, it is useful to look at all that we have achieved. Here, some students share their experience studying on an online platform.
Olof, BA student, Sweden
Looking back a lot has changed, for better or worse. An entire academic year has passed, and I have not even been in the same physical classroom as most of my professors. I think shared physical space is something quite special about Rangjung Yeshe Institute. Upon arrival those of us who have our roots outside of the Himalayas are immediately struck by the tightly knit community that has formed in and around the school. This phenomenon is not limited to social life, however. Living in the space surrounding the school we get a kind of hyperlocal mental state that also pertains to the spiritual. From morning to evening we live in an environment saturated to the brim with Buddhist impressions, whether it be the sound of cheap mantra CDs, the smell of incense, or the countless monasteries with their rich iconography and clamoring ceremonies.
Now, since going online these local aspects of community are inaccessible to many students, myself included. The social web can no longer reach me, and I am far removed from the physical representations of Buddhism. The Boudha stupa used to be right outside my window when I woke up in the morning. But when the extremely local is no longer viable, I have found that another kind of community can partly take its place. This is the hyper-global and immaterial world of social media and online education. The feeling of connection created through a computer screen may be limited, but nonetheless I have found it comforting and in a strange way it has made me feel less lonely spiritually.
Normally my country has very little spiritual presence. However with the constant Buddhism-related content emanating from private and official social media channel this does not seem so important anymore. A hyper global community is, after all, portable. This year I can safely say that I have missed Nepal and Boudha a lot, but I can also take some comfort in that shared connection that endures in another form, though not in a physical or tangible way. Scandinavia doesn’t seem so spiritually sterile anymore, when one has this kind of virtual support.
Dawa Yanzi Sherpa, BA student, Nepal
My personal experience studying online at RYI was great even though it was hard in the beginning. We had pre-recorded lectures (to watch before class) and every class was recorded with powerpoint documents and extra notes, as well as audio were attached by the teacher. The good thing about moving online for me was that we could pause the video when needed, in order to make notes or to take a minute to absorb what had been said (by the khenpo/translator). In review class we have the opportunity to discuss and ask questions and share how we are doing. However, for shy or students who weren’t feeling particularly talkative, we were always able to call or email our teacher privately to clear our doubt. So, I definitely did not feel disadvantaged in any way by the online format. RYI did not let Covid-19 harm our education and we did not lose these years by doing nothing rather I had time to study, reflect and meditate on what we studied in class.
Alexi, BA student, India
An online course isn’t usually one’s preferred way of going about studying. However, now most of us have been left with no choice. But, it is not all as bad as it seems. Actually there are parts that has really benefitted me. In addition to living at home with no rent and free food, I have had extra time to focus on my school work. The time it usually takes to walk to class, lunch break, social events, etc., I have spent finishing up assignments or homework in advance. In fact, it is the first time in my years that I’ve completed final assignments well in advance and not on the day it is due. This was especially noticeable at the end of the semester, a time of great stress and worry, when I was quite relaxed and surprisingly had enough free time to watch some (short) Netflix movies.