Meet the ski-loving UCL law student waiting out lockdown in the Swiss Alps

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By Aishah Hussain on

Future magic circle trainee Benedict Wilson juggles skiing with remote studies having flown out before the latest travel rules came into force

Benedict Wilson in Verbier, Switzerland — image via @warrensmithskiacademy (Instagram)

With university campuses largely remaining shut amidst the coronavirus pandemic and remote learning continuing in homes, it was only a matter of time until Legal Cheek would come across stories of students completing their studies from unusual locations abroad.

Now one ski-loving UCL law student tells us he’s taken his final-year studies all the way to the Swiss Alps.

Benedict Wilson, 22, left London for Switzerland on 4 December, and before countries closed off their borders to the UK following the discovery of a new strain of the coronavirus, The Telegraph (£) reports. His early arrival in the Alpine village of Verbier meant he didn’t have to quarantine, retrospectively, for ten days, as was introduced by the country for arrivals after 14 December.

“I chose to go to Switzerland because I knew quite early on that the first term of my final year would be online,” Wilson, who has a training contract lined up with a magic circle law firm, told Legal Cheek. “So I thought, since I have a bit more flexibility in terms of where I could be, why not do something else as well?”

He’s stayed in Switzerland ever since and has been juggling Zoom seminars with skiing on the slopes.

“UCL has done well to move teaching online and has gone for a balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning,” explained Wilson, who added that in a typical week where the teaching is less “on-demand”, he’s able to train between 9am until 3pm on weekdays, leaving his evenings and weekends to catch up with uni work. It peaks and troughs, however, and last week, for example, it was all hands on deck as a “big deadline” loomed. Once that passed, Wilson said he was able to enjoy a “chilled out weekend on the mountains”.

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Perhaps just as tricky as navigating pistes is navigating the Wi-Fi at the hostel at which he’s currently staying. It generally holds up for online classes, Wilson said, but a recent snowstorm meant it was tricky to get signal. “Thankfully that week was more skiing than study”, he said, adding that he was still able to dial-in to seminars using his mobile phone.

As for law textbooks, those are mostly available online, he said. Otherwise, it’d mean he’d have to “sacrifice skis for books!”

The reaction from his classmates has been quite mixed: some cast envious glances while sat at their kitchen tables turned study stations while others are surprised. But most check-in with him regularly for updates on his European exploits. “We look out for each other as a cohort which is nice,” he tells Legal Cheek.

With new rules in place, Wilson is one of only a handful of tourists on the ski resort, and, for the first week of January, had an entire ski school with instructors to himself. “It was honestly awesome”, the future solicitor reflected, “it can be so hard to get that sort of thing, especially as a student, and we had incredible conditions for it too.”

Wilson plans to return to London next week, depending on the situation then. The majority of his exams have moved to coursework, with the rest set as ‘take home’ exams for later this year. “I’ll be coming back to a national lockdown and ten days of quarantine but it’ll be good to get back to my routine,” he said.

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