The photo book students surprised teacher Francesca Sangiorgi with.

Marine Sciences students surprise teacher with photo book

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Who says you can’t get to know your classmates when studying mostly online? The students of the Marine Sciences Master’s programme had a great idea to learn more about each other and surprise a teacher who missed seeing her students in person: a fun photo book in which they revealed some things about themselves.

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Saddened that she couldn’t see students face-to-face or chat with them after class, Associate Professor Francesca Sangiorgi, coordinator of the Marine Sciences Master's programme, asked them to at least send her a picture of themselves. That way, she could have all of them around her while teaching online classes. “The lack of social contact is the worst part of this Covid situation. I love teaching and forming a bond with my students. I always try to get to know them personally from day one”, Sangiorgi explains.

Inspired by the friendship books she had as a child, student Marjolein van Vulpen then had the idea to surprise Sangiorgi with a physical book in which each student would share not just a picture of themselves, but also answer a number of personal questions, such as where they’re from, their favourite dish, favourite TV series, what superpower they would like to have, and with whom they would like to switch places for a day. “You know, just some fun things, so the next time we’d see each other, we would have a conversation starter, like ‘oh, I know what this person’s favourite food is!’”

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“At first, I thought it was kind of silly. But lots of initiatives are kind of silly because, with Covid, you miss these little things. We’re all just trying to get some of that back, so once I thought about it, I realised it was actually a really good idea”, says American student Caitlin Holzhauser. "It’s not just a good way for Francesca to get to know us, but for us to get to know everybody else that we may not have really spoken to yet. We got to be people instead of just students”.

Azret Kamaldinov, from Kazakhstan, agrees. Not only did he have fun answering the questions, but he thinks it was a great way to give back to a good teacher. “Francesca is a really nice person, she deserves this surprise 100 percent”.

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She loved it. “I just had a meeting with the other Master’s coordinators of the Earth Sciences department and I proudly showed how my students warmed up my heart”. For the students, the end result has brought them closer. They now have a WhatsApp group and organise regular game nights online. Sangiorgi is proud: “The Master’s coordinators were flabbergasted that my students know each other and do things together. I was like: YES!’”, she says with a big smile.

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