Time for old hobbies and new challenges

The silver linings of the lockdown

It’s not all bad news for students during the corona pandemic. Some have been picking up new activities, rediscovering old hobbies and taking time to reflect. ‘Trying new things has helped me stay positive.’
By Emily Zaal and Sofia Strodt

If someone had told you a few months ago that one country after another was going to impose a lockdown, would you have believed them? Would you have believed that all physical classes would be cancelled until the end of the academic year and that many non-essential stores would be closed until further notice? 

It’s an extraordinary situation we’re currently living in. Being confronted with bad news daily and experiencing a high level of uncertainty can cause feelings of hopelessness and anxiety. But although the past weeks have been challenging, these five UG students have found ways to distract themselves and stay optimistic.

Sole Persico

media studies

‘Luckily, I had a last proper night out before everything was cancelled’, says Sole Persico, who’s originally from Rome. At that party, Sole got to know Natalia, who she has been spending the quarantine with. ‘You know when you’re drunk, and you bond with people? I first expected that it would just be a fling. Before, I wasn’t even completely sure that I’m queer. I guess partly thanks to corona I discovered that part of myself.’ 

Normally, she would mostly hang out with other Italians, but thanks to Natalia, who is half French and half Lebanese, Sole now has the opportunity to practice her English. ‘I’m just so glad to not be alone in this; at least we’ve still got each other.’ 

Sole is far from feeling bored just yet. Other than studying languages in her free time, she spends a lot of time working. ‘The delivery service for food is still open, otherwise I would be out of a job. I’m working double shifts, because my parents can’t afford to support me like they did before the corona crisis.’ 

Despite having a smaller monthly budget, Sole feels very privileged to be in the Netherlands right now. ‘I’m lucky to actually be able to go outside. If I was back home in Italy, the circumstances would be much worse. Also, I’m young and healthy and that’s the most important thing!’ 

Eline Stam

International business

After classes were called off in Nice, where Eline Stam spent her long-awaited semester abroad, practically all exchange students went back to their home countries. ‘I was really devastated’, Eline sighs. ‘I was so happy over there, being surrounded by all these lovely people I had just met. Now, I’m just spending most of the time at home, alone, which can be hard sometimes.’ 

To distract herself and get out of the house once in a while, she started running again. Usually, Eline would have to navigate through crowds of people, but now that the streets are empty there is plenty of space for a smooth jog. She’s picked up some other hobbies, too. ‘I’ve been painting a lot lately and rediscovered an old video game that I love.’ 

Despite the boredom, Eline tries to stay positive. ‘I’m lucky enough that my biggest problem is missing my friends. Instead of counting the days we’ve already spent in quarantine, I’m trying to see each day as being closer to freedom. Also, I learned not to be as hard on myself. It’s okay to not always be extremely productive; sometimes taking care of yourself is enough.’

Alexandra Rietveld


Alexandra Rietveld has been spending quarantine time in her student house. The flat is normally packed with twelve girls, but only half of them are home now. ‘We seem to be getting more hobbies in common’, says Alexandra. As a group, they have recently tried things like yoga and going on walks and they have been collectively cleaning up the house. 

In addition, Alexandra enjoys bike racing and has been following classes that the ACLO offers online. She’s also reading the book De meeste mensen deugen (Most people are good) by Rutger Bregman. ‘That is especially interesting in light of the current situation. At one point, he discusses how people react to stressful situations, war or other events that have a big impact. Many predict that there will be panic, which can happen, but at the same time you also see that people are worried about each other’, says Alexandra.

She, too, tries to make the best of the situation. ‘I think I learned to enjoy the little things and to focus on the good. And trying new things has helped me stay out of that negative mindset.’

Merijnen Sonneveldt

law and philosophy

She was just getting settled in Budapest when Merijnen Sonneveldt was told she had to return to the Netherlands. Her Erasmus time was cut short and now she spends her days in Maastricht with her mom and brother. ‘Living at home is something I never thought I would be doing again’, says Merijnen. ‘It’s nice, though, to be out of the student life for a little bit and actually live in a clean home that has working appliances.’

At the beginning of her time in quarantine she was spending most of her time in the kitchen. ‘I just grabbed a cookbook and tried different recipes that were other than the normal pasta or couscous salad that we eat in Groningen’, she says. Merijnen has also set a goal to work out at least thirty minutes per day. ‘In Groningen I would walk everywhere, and now I can’t. So it’s nice to have that goal to be active.’ 

Merijnen has also rediscovered an old hobby. ‘I used to write a lot and wanted to pick it up again. Currently I am doing a challenge where I have to write a short story every week’, she explains. 

Only now Merijnen has realised how busy student life has actually been. ‘You have to stay home and you don’t have the pressure that you need to do something. It feels very free. Next year I want to try to not be constantly busy.’ 

George Taylor

arts, culture and media

‘It’s been an interesting and new experience’, says George Taylor. He’s quarantining in his apartment in Paddepoel. ‘Well, not exactly that new. Most of my uni classes made us do a lot of work at home. Personally, I work a lot better when I’m in my own space.’ 

In addition to doing schoolwor,k he has been cooking to keep his immune system strong. ‘Eating healthy is pretty essential right now’, he notes. ‘I did have a phase where I was trying to make pizza. It didn’t go very well, but it was a fun challenge.’ 

He’s also focusing on music production. ‘I’ve been spending more time mixing and mastering for people. During my minor I didn’t have a lot of time to do it. Now I’ve rediscovered all my music stuff again’, says George.  

In between activities, he’s ‘been taking a lot of naps and in a way meditating and reflecting’, he says. ‘You know when you’re a kid and everything seems more relaxed? In some ways I’m returning to that state of mind. I think it’s a collective slowing down. Everyone is forced to take a break and there isn’t much distraction. The focus has to go inwards, which is a really positive thing.’ 


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