Something reeks, and it’s not the sugarbeet factory. It’s been nearly four months, and the smog of fear and anxiety that’s descended on Groningen is yet to clear.
At the supermarkets, perfectly healthy people are stifling coughs while breathlessly navigating mazes of shopping carts. Looks of horror ensue at accidental physical contact, or an inopportune sneeze.
On the street, stepping onto the bike lane is the only way to avoid bumping into your fellow biohazards. That becomes a serious risk past nine o’clock, when cyclists are blitzing by at dizzying speeds.
Being home provides little respite. There’s something about working in your bedroom that disturbs the peace of the place. The lack of personal contact, and operatic neighbours don’t exactly help settle the nerves either.
Exams only compound the frustration. You’re left frantically getting things in order, trying not to spill the coffee while complete strangers evaluate your taste in furniture. That considered, the proposed ‘second camera’ during tests seems ludicrous. Am I to get it to balance on the sofa?
Understandably, some of us have gone off the rails as a result. Reports of raucous parties have found themselves in city newspapers off late. Though I wonder whether we ought to be more worried for those drudging along quietly in isolation.
Reaching out to people I barely know has proven a great alternative to solitary meals behind a flickering screen
‘Overpressure’ has been a problem since Victorian times. Their treatments, however, included mild self-electrocution. Positively though, the authors of Anxious Times (2019) note that there was a deep cultural sympathy for sufferers, giving them the space needed to recover.
On that last flank, the city has made headway. There is help to be found at the UG, designated city helplines, and from organisations like All Ears Groningen and Stichting Present. Even student associations often have special confidants, in addition to stimulating social contact.
Personally, speaking to my study advisor has helped bring some semblance of control over my study goals. Reaching out to people I barely know has proven a great alternative to solitary meals behind a flickering screen. It can feel like a trust-fall at times, but you’re all the richer for it.
Strong winds have brought with them more uncertainty from The Hague. Nonetheless, a fountain of optimism has finally sprung up in many a student house. Exam week is behind us, and we can rest easy- for now.