First-years during corona #5

‘My mood changes with the weather’

Sure, the first-year students that UKrant regularly talks to are suffering from corona fatigue, but the pandemic has also presented them with new opportunities for the future. Plus, they get to cuddle their vaccinated grandparents again.
By Fay van Odijk / Photos by Anouk Brekhof
7 April om 11:34 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 7 April 2021
om 22:15 uur.
April 7 at 11:34 AM.
Last modified on April 7, 2021
at 22:15 PM.

Lotte Benedictus (20)Arts, culture and media

One moment, there’s no wind and the sun is shining. The next, it’s snowing and hail is coming down in the storm. That’s kind of how Lotte feels. ‘My mood changes with the weather, and on a day like today it’s all over the place. But I feel better when the sun is out, when the whole country is outside, pretending the coronavirus doesn’t exist.’

She’s been studying in Groningen for seven months, and that stupid virus still hangs over everything the first-year student of arts, culture, and media does. ‘I try to keep seeing people so I don’t get depressed, but I do flip out sometimes. It sucks that this is what my first year of studying is like. I miss going out; it’s not what I expected. Fortunately, I can call my parents who act as my therapists.’ 

I hope I’ll have a proper student experience next year

She only meets up with her year club a few people at a time, and occasionally sees her brother and uncle, who also live in Groningen. They’ll cook a meal together, take a walk, or get some coffee, which is about all there is to do nowadays. She’s also allowed to visit her grandparents again; they’ve been vaccinated. ‘But whenever I’ve seen a lot of people that week, I make sure to take a test before I visit my parents or grandparents.’

She’s booked a vacation to Nice with her year club, and she’s looking forward to it. ‘Fingers crossed!’ 

Lotte has been enjoying her studies, but the subject matter is a bit more theoretical than she’d like. She considered switching to art school Minerva, but their programmes were a little too practical. ‘I was looking for a middle ground, so I’m going to keep studying this and keep working on my own art as well.’ 

She also briefly considered going to the Utrecht School of the Arts, but that plan didn’t work out, either. ‘It may not have been the most successful first year, but I like it here and I’ve got my people. I do hope I’ll get a proper student experience next year. There’s a reason they call Groningen a perfect city for students.’

Machteld Stegenga (19)Biology

Machteld has been busy: she had a course culminating in an exam every three weeks, and she just finished her first resit. Finally, she also has to take her driving test in two weeks. ‘I’m not worried about the resit, but I’ll be glad once I’ve got my driving licence. I don’t want to spend whole afternoons taking lessons anymore’, she says. 

On the weekends, she occasionally works at a campsite near her parents’ house. ‘It’s a nice job if the weather’s good.’ She tries to combine her work with visits to her parents and grandparents. ‘My grandma just received her second shot, which I’m really happy about. I’ve already had covid, so I feel extra safe when I visit her.’ 

My grandma just got her second shot

In Groningen, she spends a lot of time with her boyfriend. Not just because it’s nice, but because she’s been having trouble sleeping in her own room. ‘The neighbours have this peacock and it makes a lot of noise, sometimes at 6 or 7 in the morning. It’s like a really annoying siren.’ 

Machteld tries to see as many people as possible: roommates, her friends also living in Groningen, and she occasionally meets with the Bernlef activities committee. She’s sad that she has so few on-campus classes, though. ‘There’s almost no opportunity to meet people from my programme. In the second year, we’ll be split up according to the different directions we’re taking and it’ll be a shame to only know the people in my own group.’ 

She’s considering basing her choice of direction on the number of on-campus classes they’ll have. ‘I’m still not sure, so I’ll take that into consideration.’ 

She’s also looking forward to the summer: together with some friends from high school, she’s booked a holiday home in the province of Gelderland. ‘I hope that by then the restrictions will be relaxed enough that the twelve of us can go to a restaurant together or go canoeing.’

Kara Schotanus (18)Religious sciences

The pandemic has given Kara a whole new outlook on the future. She was working as a tutor at her old high school in Leeuwarden, but has now become an assistant teacher there for two days a week because of the corona restrictions. ‘The children have to split across two classrooms’, she says. ‘The teacher is in one room, and I’m in the other.’ 

She enjoys it so much that she’s considering switching to a teacher training programme. ‘My current programme would only make me a religions teacher, and I don’t think that’ll be much fun.’ 

She’d already been torn between doing religious sciences and archaeology, and the pandemic partially influenced her choice for the former. ‘My programme is really theoretical. Archaeology involves a lot of fieldwork in the latter half of the programme, but the pandemic has mostly put a stop to that.’ 

But she’s considering doing archaeology as a second study next year, or maybe taking some extra history courses. ‘I’d be able to become a history teacher, which sounds like fun.’

Other things have changed in Kara’s life, too: last week, she moved. ‘I’ve left that small room where I didn’t really talk to anyone in the rest of the house. I now have a room closer to the centre that’s almost twice as big’, she says. ‘It’s been a lot of fun so far. We have a small courtyard where we can barbecue, so I think we’ll have plenty of interaction.’

I’m so over just trying to make the best of it

She needs the interaction, because she doesn’t have the energy to organise any social activities. ‘I’m so over just trying to make the best of it’, she sighs. ‘In the beginning, I would organise sleepovers with my friends, but I’ve noticed that I don’t really feel the need to schedule things around the curfew.’ 

This corona fatigue is also affecting her studies. ‘When it comes to online classes, I hate that it takes up a whole part of my day, when I could just re-watch the class at twice the speed while reading the PowerPoint presentation.’ 

Kara understands why students aren’t feeling good and suffering from fatigue. ‘It’s weird that we’re so tired, considering we’ve basically been taking it easy for a whole year. But I think perhaps our tolerance for doing things has lowered precisely because we’re doing so little.’

Fortunately, her grandparents have recently been vaccinated, so she’s been able to visit them. ‘I don’t think we’re completely safe until everyone’s been vaccinated, so I don’t think hugging everyone is wise, but I’m really happy that I can see them again!’