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Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, began its fall semester in September by welcoming 122 students from 30 countries. In order to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 and create a safe environment for students to progress in their academic goals, Berklee established a list of measures, including a hybrid model combining remote and on-campus learning. We recently checked in with five students representing each of Berklee Valencia’s graduate programs and asked them to reflect on their experiences so far.
Benefits of Remote Learning
Kris Ramakrishna, who studied abroad in Valencia as an undergraduate at Berklee and returned to enroll in the Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) program, is taking seven classes this semester—of those, three, mostly music production courses, are online.
“I attend the ensembles, labs, and the performance forum in person. I can definitely tell that it is still super productive, and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Everything is super safe, people are respecting social distancing, and staying healthy and precautious of what’s going on around us,” he said.
Sanskruti Rewatkar adds that visiting artists have also adapted to the online format: “We have a weekly session where you perform in front of them, and they actually tell you how to improve your performance through the Zoom platform, while we are on campus.”
Angel Rose, a student in the Master of Music in Music Production, Technology, and Innovation program, says that the hybrid model has an advantage in terms of accessing resources any time, while Djavan Warner, from the Global Entertainment and Music Business program believes that the hybrid experience prepares students to adapt to a changing environment.
A common opinion is that the online component allows the campus to broaden its pool of guests who might not have otherwise been able to visit. “It’s actually much easier to get hold of different artists from around the world that were not necessarily free to come to Valencia in previous years. We had incredible master classes from musicians all around the world, and have a great lineup of people to come,” Ramakrishna said.
A Tight-Knit Community
Students say that the hybrid model has not affected the environment on campus, and that it’s even helped to strengthen ties. “Berklee has been really helpful throughout the whole process, especially coming all the way from Jamaica,” Warner said. “They have always kept in contact with me, ensured that I was going through the online visa application process, and doing anything they could to make sure that I got here safely.”
Schroeder is encouraged by the sense of safety on campus and a commitment in the community to protect one another. “My peers have been incredibly helpful as far as making sure I’m safe, making sure I have access to all of our online resources, and instructing and collaborating with each other. That’s been very helpful for me,” they said.
Students also appreciate the constant communication about the measures taken to meet the recommendations of health authorities. Rewatkar highlights the signage on campus promoting social distancing, and the constant sanitizing and cleaning. Ryn Jorgensen, a student in the Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games program, says that the Student Affairs staff are always available to answer any general or COVID-related questions. “I found that support really helpful, and, of course, having a bunch of peers who are going through the same thing creates the feeling that we are all in this together,” they said.
Looking beyond, students agree that the hybrid model is a good testing ground for a “new normality,” one in which digitization and remote collaboration has sped up due to COVID, changing the way people work. “We really just had to learn to adapt to the online way of doing things and still find ways to make the music reach to the people in the best way possible,” said Warner. “I think that will be beneficial in any career path that you take.”