First-years during corona #3

‘I want to experience things for myself’

With the regulations becoming increasingly strict, it’s difficult to study and have a social life at the same time. The first-year students that UKrant is keeping track of this year, are trying to make the best of it. At least they’ve made it through the first exam period
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Door Fay van Odijk

9 December om 17:00 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 9 December 2020
om 17:24 uur.
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By Fay van Odijk

December 9 at 17:00 PM.
Last modified on December 9, 2020
at 17:24 PM.
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Fay van Odijk

Lotte Benedictus (19)

Arts, culture and media

The last time UKrant spoke to Lotte, she was struggling with her studies, wondering if she’d made the right decision. Now, she’s doing much better, and she’s determined to at least finish her propaedeutic year. Good news: she has on-campus class twice a week now, which has helped to motivate her. She’s also switched to a more active seminar group. ‘No one in my previous group ever turned on their cameras, and in this one, everyone does. That makes me want to be more active, too’, she says.

Her first exams were a bit daunting, since she had no idea what to expect. The only comparison she had were her high school tests. In that sense, it’s a good thing the exams were online. ‘I’d have much more time to get nervous if I had to go all the way over there’, she says.

She only had open-book exams this period. ‘I really liked it that way! I’m pretty lazy to be honest, so it was really chill to just be able to look things up. I also enjoyed the fact that I could just wear my comfy clothes.’

She passed two exams and only just failed one other, but her grade is still being adjusted. With a little luck, she’ll pass that one, too. She hasn’t noticed any of the hubbub about cheating. ‘I was too busy with my exams to think about it, so I didn’t have time for it.’

My small room wouldn’t have been as bad if everything was okay

Fortunately for her, she doesn’t have to go to the UB to fight for a study spot. Her uncle and her brother both live in Groningen, so she has a place to go to study and do her exams.

She’s also started looking for a different room: the ten square metres she’s been living in are beginning to feel a little small. ‘It wouldn’t have been as bad if everything was okay, but I’m beginning to get a little bored’, she says.

She’s ‘pleasantly busy’ and has dinner with others almost every single day: ‘With my parents, my brother and my uncle, student friends, or people from my year club.’

It’s fun, but not exactly what she’d expected from her first year. ‘This isn’t what I’d hoped for my time as a student.’

Machteld Stegenga (18)


Before Macheteld started studying, she thought the exam period would be very stressful. But she actually didn’t have a lot of exams, so it wasn’t that bad. ‘They gave us some time to get used to how the classes and the exams work. We’ll have more classes next block.’

Her exams consisted of multiple-choice and open questions. She was not allowed to have her book open with her. To prevent people looking up the answer anyway, each question had a strict time limit. 

It probably would have been easy to cheat, says Machteld, but in the end you’re only hurting yourself. ‘When I couldn’t quite remember the answer to a question but I knew exactly where it was in the book I allowed myself to take a peek. Things like that weren’t going to decide my grade. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to cheat on everything in your first year and then have absolutely no basic knowledge once you’re in the lab years later. You have to have those skills.’

Macheteld mainly studied at home, although she occasionally managed to get a spot at the UB. She enjoyed that environment more. ‘Seeing everyone around you work hard makes feel like working too. It prevented me from looking at my phone the whole time.’

We’re missing out on nights on the town and everything we’d normally be doing with our student association 

She goes home to her parents once every two weeks. She has on-campus classes three times every two weeks, and she meets up with her study group. ‘It’s nice to have that little bit of social interaction.’ 

She’s celebrating Sinterklaas with the seniors of her Bernlef family. They’ll make sure it’s corona-proof. They drew lots, and everyone has to write a poem and make a surprise. The presents will be picked up and distributed, and the festivities themselves will take place over Zoom.  ‘I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be a nice change from studying all the time. It’s a way to be a little more social and creative.’

She does miss regular student life, though. ‘We’re missing out on nights on the town and everything we’d normally be doing with our student association. The stories from older students are nice, but I want to experience it for myself.’ She has noticed that people are becoming increasingly creative in organising activities, and she wants to contribute. The Bernlef activity committee had an opening, and Machteld immediately applied. ‘I’m really looking forward to meeting more people and to come up with fun new activities!’

Kara Schotanus (18)

Religious sciences

Kara has moved since the last time UKrant talked to her. She now lives with two other students near the Hoendiep. She meets up with a select number of people from her year club and a few other friends. She thinks it’s probably the safest way to still have a social life. She doesn’t have much contact with her roommate. ‘At my friends’ house, they call me their extra roommate. That’s a lot of fun.’

Her year club has just been inaugurated. Kara was happy that this took place at the Unitas pub. It didn’t take long and it was all at a distance, but it was still nice. ‘The other members could watch a live stream’, she says. ‘We had to present our year club to everyone at Unitas. Someone would bang a gavel, officially making us a year club.’

Kara’s exam period was less hectic than she’d thought. Instead of exams, she had to write several reports. She had plenty of time to do all of them. She passed all her courses. ‘When I start something, I want it to be perfect. I don’t just bang it out in under an hour.’ 

She studied mainly at home, but in the future she’ll probably go to her faculty building. She’s not into the UB at all. ‘I wouldn’t even know how to register to get a spot.’

Hearing stories from other students made me realise what we could be having

She hasn’t heard anything about cheating and doesn’t understand why anyone would do that. ‘You could hand in something you got off the internet, but I don’t know if it’s smart to take that kind of risk. We had so much time to finish our assignments. Just do the work.’

Kara is enjoying her first year so far: she’s had new experiences, and met new people. Nevertheless, she can’t help but feel that something is missing. ‘Hearing stories from other students made me realise what we could be having.’

But she’s still happy she decided to go to university and didn’t spend a year being bored at home. She hopes to one day make up for the things she missed, but she doesn’t think it’s going to happen. ‘I’m not necessarily pessimistic about the whole corona situation, but some people seem to think we could be rid of it at any moment. I think it’ll be around for a while. That’s a shame, but it can’t be helped. We should just make the best of it.’


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