‘The station looked like an army base’

Several RUG students were in Paris on Friday when the bloody attacks took place. Some were there to study for six months or longer, others had booked a city trip. Sense Hofstede, Maaike Dijkema, and Josef Snerd recount their experiences and talk about the current situation in Paris.

‘Right now I’ve got German friends visiting me, so during the day we did the classic sightseeing tour’, says Josef Snerd. The student is taking classes at the Université Paris-Dauphine for six months. ‘I had originally planned that night to take them to the river where one of the shootings took place, but in the end we decided to stay in and watch the soccer match between France and Germany.’

‘A bit scared’

‘I live in the tenth district, but I didn’t really see or hear anything. I only heard the bombs go off on television. Once we heard the news, we decided to stay home rather than go to a club’, Snerd continues. ‘It was slightly less busy than usual in the streets, but other than that nothing had changed much. There was a slight tension in the air, though. Everybody is a little more on guard, and perhaps a bit scared.’

‘You could hear sirens all through the night’
Philosophy student Maaike Dijkema embarked on a city trip to Paris last Tuesday. She was staying at a hostel within walking distance of the district where the attacks took place. Right next to the hostel is the subway station Les Halles, where another attack was reported but later turned out to be a false alarm. ‘I was sleeping and didn’t see or hear anything. I woke up around 11 p.m. because my phone was ringing off the hook. After that, I stayed awake in the hostel until 3 a.m.’

‘Nobody was allowed to go outside, and the people who wanted to come in were thoroughly checked. You could hear sirens all through the night. There were so many armed officers in the street and at the train station Gare du Nord. It looked like an army base. I had originally planned to stay until Monday, but on Saturday I got on the first Thalys I could find. It was not very nice out on the streets, I felt tense. Everyone was looking around sort of shiftily. Fortunately there was no trouble with my ticket in the Thalys. I ended up spending the entire journey in a luggage rack; there were more people who wanted to get home quickly.’

‘Emotional atmosphere’

Sense Hofstede finished his bachelor in International Relations in Groningen and is now taking the International Public Management master at the Sciences Po in Paris. ‘I was just sitting at home when I saw something on Twitter about explosions at the Stade de France. My friends quickly turned out to be in no danger and I’d already warned my family before the news really came out, so there fortunately wasn’t a lot of tension for me.’

Hofstede did notice the change in atmosphere on Saturday, however. ‘The subway station was extraordinarily quiet, like a church. The streets were practically deserted by Paris standards. There was a very emotional atmosphere at the Place de République. Because of the state of emergency, security forces didn’t want people congregating there, so they were trying to disperse all the people coming up. I went to the Canal St. Martin to at least see something beautiful in Paris. But it’s very strange to see the information boards that usually show concert dates telling you to come donate blood next week as well.’