Students have enough on their plate
Why Fay does go to parties
Friday night, I felt a tickle in my throat. By Saturday, I had a full-blown cold. On Sunday, I spiked a fever. Oops. Could it be…?
To be fair, I had been drinking all week. Perhaps my immune system had simply taken a hit. That would explain why I was ill. But then I heard that one of my roommates had spent a lot of time in the company of a friend who’d tested positively. So they got tested. And I got tested.
My roommate tested positively, even though she barely showed any symptoms. Suddenly, I worried about my colleagues at the UKrant offices. What if I’d infected them? Did I stay far enough away from everyone?
I tested negatively.
That’s a relief, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I potentially put people in danger. Let’s be honest, I haven’t taken the corona rules particularly seriously the past few weeks. During the KEI week, I went to a different party every day. I regularly went out in the Poelestraat and would join a group of friends at their house at the end of the night. We’d only hang out in small groups of people, but still. Others go to pubs like the Warhol, or Sunny Beach, where they can dance to their hearts’ content.
I also went to a big party in a house on the Westerhaven with approximately sixty other students, including my roommates. It was great to see everyone again and to pretend, just for a little bit, that nothing was wrong. But then the doorbell rang.
Apparently, we’d been partying a little too loudly; around two in the morning, the police arrived. All of us were gathered in the common room.
I hid behind a ping pong table outside
‘Everyone downstairs!’ someone yelled. People got up, but no one made a move towards the front door. Instead, people tried to escape through the backyard. While others were climbing the fence, I hid behind a ping pong table outside. In the meantime, one of the residents of the house was talking to the police.
An officer comes into the backyard, shining a flashlight. We were busted. The next thing I knew, my roommate and I were in a line next to the front door as the officers checked our names and IDs. We shared a look and sneaked into a room with a raised bed. We joined three other people hiding in the highest bed and didn’t move a muscle. We were squeezing each other’s hands hard; neither of us wanted to pay the fine or have a police record.
In the meantime, the police were busy confiscating the stereo and collecting people’s information. Thirty minutes passed before we dared to come back out again. Later, outside, I ran into most people who were at the party; some of them had muddy stains on their clothes or torn jeans. Surely there’s a better way for students to enjoy their lives, if only a little bit?
For six months, we obeyed the rules as much as we could. I spent two and a half months in my parents’ house in Rotterdam because my brother had Covid-19. Once I got back to Groningen, I made sure to always be careful. I only met up with my roommates, and we went to the supermarket in pairs. We were always cautious. Obviously, I didn’t want to put my parents, grandparents, or other at-risk people in danger.
Most students only have mild symptoms
But it’s been six months, and I want my life back. The virus doesn’t pose a big risk to my and other students. Most students suffer mild symptoms. After a day in bed, they usually feel fine. We don’t occupy beds in the ICU or another hospital department, and when I felt ill, I stayed home, confined to my room.
I don’t visit my grandmother, or if I do, it’s outside and at an appropriate distance. I know the harm the virus can cause. How and when we decide to meet, however, is mine and my grandmother’s responsibility.
Prime minister Rutte and minister Hugo de Jonge keep saying that students and young people are responsible for the rise in infections. They say we should do what we can to curb the spread of the virus. We have, for so long. Please don’t assume that we think the rules don’t apply to us.
And yet. I am bothered. When I go to the Albert Heijn or the market for groceries and make sure to stay at least five feet away from people, it’s often the elderly, aka the people who are most at risk, who resolutely refuse to obey the distancing rules and bump into without so much as a mumbled ‘sorry’. If a pub requires its guests to register, students have no problem scanning the code and writing down their information, while older people say they’re not required to do so. Aren’t we doing all this for them? Why are we being the once labelled as rude and uncooperative?
And another thing: it’s us, young people and students, who will have to solve the country’s crisis. We’re the ones who will have to look for jobs in a broken economy. Not only will we have to fix that, we’re also stuck trying to solve the climate crisis. And we’ll have to do it all while paying off huge student debts and without a pension to look forward to.
We’re being hampered in so many ways
We’re trying to brace ourselves for the future, but we also want to live a little. But we’re being hampered in so many ways: the pressure to perform is enormous, and our debts just keep growing. Now we’re also being saddled with online education. The university means well, but the quality pales in comparison to old-fashioned classes. Our internships have been cancelled or we have to do them online. Practical education is impossible, and getting our degree is delayed by months.
In the meantime, we still have to pay tuition. Many of us haven’t been able to work for months. As we’re trying to deal with all that, we’ve been forced to put our social lives on hold for a virus that doesn’t really concern us as people call us rude.
I’m writing this on the train. Behind me, a girl is talking to her friend. She says her throat hurts a little. ‘My mum told the school that I have a stomachache, because she wants to wait and see what happens. Plus, if I get tested, I won’t be able to go to school for ten days. Anyway, it’s probably just a cold.’
Who’s the one being irresponsible here?
In an earlier version of this article we mentioned pub het Vaatje as a place where you are allowed to dance. This turned out to be incorrect.
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