Students

First-years during corona #4

‘We’re not allowed to go anywhere’

The everlasting corona restrictions are taking their toll on the first-year students that UKrant regularly catches up with. They hardly ever get to see people anymore and increasingly have trouble focusing.
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Door Fay van Odijk

10 February om 9:38 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 12 February 2021
om 16:09 uur.
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By Fay van Odijk

February 10 at 9:38 AM.
Last modified on February 12, 2021
at 16:09 PM.
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Fay van Odijk

Lotte Benedictus (19)

Arts, culture and media

The last time UKrant spoke to Lotte, she was looking for a new place to live, and she has since found it. She found a bigger room and three new roommates on Kamernet. The corona restrictions meant applying for the room went a little bit differently than she was used to. ‘Normally, you and the other candidates spend an evening at the house, but now we had to visit one by one.’

She’s now a full-fledged member of Dizkartes and she and her fellow year club members have been working hard to defeat the other year clubs. They have to write a song, come up with an outfit for everyone in the club, make a shield, and lots of other things. 

Studying has been coming easier to her, as well. ‘The exams went well’, she says. ‘I might stick with this programme after all.’

I might stick with this programme after all

In December, she was still planning on only passing the first year and then switching to a different programme. But now that things are getting a bit more intense, arts, culture, and media is becoming more interesting to her.  ‘I decided to go in the direction of film and music, things I myself love. A lot of people say you just have to get through the first year, that things get more fun after that.’ 

Nevertheless, she understands why 80 percent of students are on the verge of a burnout. Even though she’s not necessarily all that lonely.  ‘Fortunately, I met a bunch of really great people during the introduction week, when we could still see each other in real life. I’m happy that I’m still able to talk to them and that I’m not alone.’ 

But every once in a while, she realises how serious the situation is. ‘I went to Amsterdam a while ago and it was so empty. It felt almost apocalyptic. It was weird.’

The curfew hasn’t made things worse, fortunately. In fact, says Lotte, it’s kind of nice to go to bed early. ‘It’s not like I can do anything.’ She absolutely refuses to break the rules. ‘The other day I got a 95 euro fine for using my phone while I was cycling, and I don’t want to pay that again.’

She’s looking forward to summer and hopes everyone will get vaccinated soon. ‘It’s all quite strange and not what I thought my first year would be like, but I’m trying to make the best of it.

Machteld Stegenga (18)

Biology

At Christmas, Machteld was at home with her parents, quarantined in her childhood room: she had covid. ‘Shitty timing’, she says. She got it from a friend, who’d probably picked it up at the supermarket. For Christmas dinner, Machteld had to make do with the plate her parents left at her door. Not that she could taste it. ‘I had no sense of smell or taste.’

Physically speaking, it wasn’t so bad, she says. ‘I’ve genuinely had worse hangovers than this. But it was hard mentally, because I was all alone in my room during the best time of the year.’ 

Machteld doesn’t really see anyone, just her roommates and a few year club members. She does have a boyfriend now. She’d already met him at the student association and started talking to him through Tinder.  ‘We started getting together, just sitting outside and talking. If you can really talk to someone, you don’t need much to have a nice date.’ He’s part of student association Bernlef and lives in one of their houses, so she spends a lot of evenings with him on the couch. ‘That way we still have some fun in the evening.’

She also finished her first real exam period, and she won’t have any more exams spread throughout the block. ‘That was a lot of stress’, she says. ‘I spent most of my time in my room in Groningen. 

How much of our mental health are we supposed to sacrifice to these restrictions?

She thinks she did pretty well, but had noticeable issues focusing. She keeps procrastinating.  ‘The line between relaxation and work becomes really blurred, because everything takes place in one room. It’s so much easier to just watch Netflix and postpone studying.’ She’d prefer to study with others, or at the UB. ‘I’d be much more motivated. But we’re not allowed to go anywhere.’ 

Students are staying relatively quiet, she thinks, even though the restrictions are taking their toll. ‘We’re paying a fair amount of money when the quality of education has gone down. How much of our mental health are we supposed to sacrifice to these restrictions?’

Nevertheless, Machteld is optimistic that things will return to normal by the summer. ‘I hope they relax the restrictions quite a bit by the summer and that my next year will be more normal.’

Kara Schotanus (18)

Religious sciences

When UKrant talks to Kara, she and a friend are on the train on the way to Kara’s parents. They have nothing to do, so they’re visiting for a few days. ‘My room is very small, so it’s nice to have a change of scenery every once in a while.’

She only sees a handful of people, all of whom she knows through her student association. ‘Not too many, but just enough to stay sane. It’s nice to see people that run in the same social circle.’  She celebrated New Year’s Eve with her friends, and they tried to make the best of it. She’s glad she joined Unitas. ‘If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t know anyone right now, so I’m grateful for that.’

She just finished the ‘year club of the year’ project, which she and her club won. ‘We painted barstools and organised other activities for our year club. We also earned points by collecting beer crates from senior members and taking them back to the Albert Heijn. It was also a nice way to meet the seniors. Usually, you’d meet them at the association building.’ 

We make sure to get there before nine and then we all stay over

While she said earlier that her mental health was fine, the past two weeks have been harder on her than she thought. ‘We need to socialise in order to feel good. I’m pretty extroverted, but even the introverted people around me have said that they don’t see or talk to enough people.’ 

Therefore, she and her friends have been organising sleepovers. ‘Sometimes at their houses, sometimes at mine. We make sure to get there before nine o’clock and then we all stay over. It helps a lot.’

Kara’s exams went pretty well, although she had to work quite hard towards the end; she’s noticed a lack of motivation as well. ‘Everyone’s getting sick of online classes’, she says. She doesn’t like that she can’t go anywhere to study. ‘It’s a shame that they shut that down so quickly. I got the impression that was one of the few things they’d actually taken care of.’ 

Her first six months as a student are not what she expected. She hopes next year will feel more normal. ‘I think everyone could use a little normality.’

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