Prospective students make plans for September
‘Only closed borders can prevent me from coming’
It was the happiest moment in his academic life when he got accepted to the information science master programme, says Kaushik (23) from India. Strange, to be so happy amid a pandemic, but he’s worked hard for it. ‘It’s not easy for someone like me, from a small village, to do this.’
He knew what he was working for: in 2019 he spent nine months in Eindhoven fornhis internship at the Dutch electronics conglomerate Philips. ‘The Netherlands is a special country; it’s very clean and beautifully green.’
He appreciates the Dutch directness, and it’s the small things in daily life, like the cycling lanes everywhere, that make him love this country. ‘In India I had to travel for three hours on a crowded train to get to class, but not even the most crowded Dutch train is the same.’
His parents are worried, though, and he’s worried about his parents. He does the groceries for his family and their cat, and he doesn’t let his parents go out: he won’t risk them getting sick. But it’s all still four months away, he says, and he’s an adult now. ‘I will come to Groningen, and even if I can’t join in person, I will take online classes. I won’t sit idle.’
Worst-case scenario would be to defer to February, but he will start his programme at the UG. ‘I want to plan big things or try big things in my life.’
Sarianne (34) from Finland is looking at a more precarious situation for her exchange semester in electrical engineering at the UG. She has asthma and won’t risk her health by being in another country if things haven’t sufficiently died down. She’s terrified of the virus, and life is confusing and stressful right now.
‘I try not to think too much about it and live a normal life in this situation.’ When she’s at her job at a grocery store, she tries to focus on the people madly stock-buying pasta and toilet paper, instead of all of them sneezing and coughing around her. ‘If I didn’t, I’d lock myself in my room and never come out.’
So far she hasn’t cancelled her programme in Groningen, though. She sublet her room in Finland, so if she doesn’t go to Groningen, ‘I don’t know where I’ll sleep.’ And if she does go, she might be stuck in her room. It’s all really unsure.
But she wants to go, to get out of her comfort zone, become fluent in English and make new friends. ‘If the university is open, if everything goes as planned, I will be there at the end of August.’
Getting accepted into the English language and culture BA brought Nadia (21), who grew up in Portugal and Luxembourg, one step closer to her dream of becoming an English teacher. She already speaks four languages, and mastering English would complete her goal.
‘I’m looking forward to living in a city full of international students.’ It’s a little daunting that she’ll be moving here on her own, but if she succeeds, she’ll have made it all by herself. If not, her aunt who lives in the Netherlands can always help.
But Nadia hasn’t yet confirmed her place at the university. She’s afraid she won’t have a place to live, and doesn’t want to risk it. In Luxembourg she now lives on her own, and her school helps with the money for her housing, but if school ends and she can’t start in Groningen because of the coronavirus, she doesn’t know what to do. ‘It’s a stressful situation.’
The prospect of online classes adds to her anxiety. ‘It will be very different from real life classes. How do you communicate correctly? And if I ask questions over email, will they understand me?’ She’ll miss the personal connection, getting to know other students. ‘I’ll basically be attending alone.’ But she will try her best.
Anna (21) was looking forward to the real student experience: joining ESN, going to parties, travelling, she had it all planned out. Even though she knows nobody can control this situation, she’s frustrated and overwhelmed by the insecurity. ‘I was just really excited.’
She’s spent two and a half years working at a hostel in Berlin, but Groningen would be a nice change of pace. ‘Berlin is cute, but during the open day the people in Groningen had all the answers.’ Finally, she decided international and European law at the UG was the right programme for her. ‘I want to work in human rights, and the first step is a law degree.’
How the Polish government is handling the current crisis only made her more adamant. The country had originally scheduled elections on May 10, and Anna was worried about how democratic they would be. They had to sign their personal number to the voting ballot, which was delivered to their door by a private company.
‘Instead of putting the citizens’ health first, the majority party wanted to do it now. They control public TV and say they’re handling the corona situation great, guaranteeing a win.’
So she’ll definitely start her law degree in Groningen in September. ‘I want to live in a country that’s normal and where politicians are responsible people.’ She’s a little bit scared the programme will be hard, but also extremely excited. ‘The only thing that can stop me from coming to Groningen is if the European borders are closed.’