How students handle the lockdown
‘I question whether staying in Groningen was the right idea’
Several minutes after we’ve rung the doorbell, the fifth door in the row of student houses on the Schuitendiep is still closed. We start to lose hope. We’ve been trying to for hours to get a student to talk to us in person, but to no avail. After suspiciously opening the door just wide enough to be able to see who disturbs their slumber, most students retreat back into their homes.
Finally, someone answers the intercom. The student asks for five minutes to change from pajamas into something less comfortable, but more presentable, and then opens the door. ‘Let’s skip the handshake’, says pharmacy student Isabella van der Linden.
‘My biggest worry? Probably my studies’, she says. ‘I’m currently working on my master thesis and I need to get the credits before the summer. But the end of the year might be postponed, so that’s making me anxious.’ She’s not worried about her personal health, and thinks she’ll be just fine.
Her housemate, Hanze business administration student Luuk Koens, joins us at the table. He is not particularly worried, but dreads the prospect of being isolated for a longer period of time. He has been playing video games to kill time, but fears that games won’t do the trick much longer. ‘I’m just bored’, he says. ‘We need to survive three weeks with absolutely nothing to do. The first couple of days were bearable, but it’s only going to be downhill from here.’
The first couple of days were bearable, but it’s only going to be downhill from here
We wish Isabella and Luuk patience and good health and leave their house. The Schuitendiep at the start of the first week of the nation-wide lockdown looks odd. It’s sunny and spring is in the air, but this usually so busy street is completely empty today.
After the suspension of all higher education last week, and the newly-announced closure of schools, pubs, and restaurants, students have started preparing for their most unusual month in Groningen to date. The question on most students’ minds seems to be how this will affect their studies.
Reports of hysterical stockpiling of food and sanitary products have recently surfaced, but none of the students Ukrant spoke to admitted to buying food in bulk. ‘I bought a week’s worth of food, just as usual, nothing over the top’, says law student Trish Vargova. ‘But I bought a lot of vegetables; it’s important to stay healthy.’
Chemistry student Fionn Ferreira opted for hoarding the bare essentials. ‘I’ve only stacked up on coffee. I just can’t risk living without it’, he says.
Biology student Samuel Walter has been trying to get a hold of bleach amidst a frenzy of disinfection. ‘I tried every major supermarket chain in town’, he says. ‘Even Kruidvat, which has a selection of five different types of bleach, is all out of it. Do people think bleach is going to save them from corona?’
Empty student flats
Many international students have returned to their home countries. According to residents of the Upsilon flat on the Antaresstraat, only a quarter of the flat’s regular population has stayed behind.
If I were to return, I would have to spend two weeks at home in isolation
Spots around the building which would usually be jam-packed with students are now eerily empty. The laundry room, in front of which you can usually see students queuing, is completely empty. The only sounds are of birds chirping outside.
‘The panic that ensued when the lockdown was announced was real and contagious’, says resident Aitana Lopez, who studies international relations and international organisation. ‘Everyone started packing and leaving, or making plans to leave. It made me question whether staying in Groningen was really the right idea.’
Still, she’s not the only one that has chosen to stay put. ‘If I were to return to Spain, I would have to spend two weeks at home in isolation, not being able to move anywhere’, says Laura De Arma, a student at the Prins Claus Conservatorium.
But the main reason she hasn’t left Groningen? ‘It would be irresponsible. I’m young, so I probably won’t be incapacitated by the virus. But I could still carry it and transmit it to other people, even with slight symptoms. That could put my parents in danger.’