This week I noticed a new conversation beginning to bubble up on social media. My friends and colleagues here in Groningen are starting to wonder about what they are going to do for Christmas. In the middle of the coronavirus lockdown here in Holland and in (almost) every country in the world, it’s no easy question to answer, particularly for international students like myself.
A lot of people, including me, want to be home for Christmas. As an international student I don’t see family or close friends from Ireland regularly during normal times. Now with covid restrictions in place even the little occasional visits from friends and family are gone. It’s easy to feel homesick and I often do.
For me, and so many internationals trying to pull through, the idea of heading home for Christmas seemed like a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Now, with the Dutch government recently advising that people not travel until at least mid-January, that light has gone dark. I have no doubt some will travel anyway, and I understand why.
Personally, I can’t really go home. Three of my immediate family members are nurses; so they are essential workers. Travelling from Groningen to Ireland would mean I would have to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival. On top of that, my family would be considered my close contacts, so they wouldn’t be able to go to work. I’ve known this since October.
A lot of people, including me, want to be home for Christmas
So, without a change in restrictions allowing no self-isolation period (or a short one), getting home was never really on the cards. Still, the confirmation of new restrictions against international travel here in Holland until after Christmas stung. I had been clinging on to a little bit of hope that things would work out, but it isn’t going to happen.
Most of the friends I know who are planning travel will have family off work for holidays for the two weeks they spend at home. For these people going home makes sense, because they can isolate without it being an issue. But what’s really struck me is how many people are only now realising that travelling home isn’t something they should do.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There will be plenty of my friends in Groningen wishing they could go home and looking for something to do.
I’ll bring the whiskey.