Goodbye, student life
‘This isn’t the conclusion I was hoping for’
‘I loved the Groningen city centre’, says Panni Ajtony (21). ‘I really miss being there when it’s busy but fun. I miss exploring it.’ Budapest in lockdown is an entirely different world, says the Hungarian student who’s in her final year of her arts, culture, and media studies. She’s holed up in her parents’ house, working on her final project.
The outbreak of the coronavirus and the subsequent shutdown of all university buildings means Panni wasn’t able to say goodbye to Groningen in the way she’d hoped. And she’s not the only one. The corona crisis has abruptly ended many students’ time here, whether they were finishing up a full degree programme or just doing a one-year master.
I’ll miss the small things, like getting a cup of soup at the Harmonie cafeteria
Panni’s graduation project is the play Happy Days? ‘Each major has a different project, and we’ve been working on it for a long time. Especially since other courses are much more theoretical.’ But Happy Days? will not be performed the way it was originally intended. Panni: ‘It’s a bummer, but we’ll be doing it on Instagram instead.’
She hopes to return to Groningen in June to say a proper goodbye. ‘I’d go and enjoy the city as much as I can. But I’m afraid some things will be impossible. I’ll miss the small things, like getting a cup of soup at the Harmonie cafeteria.’
From a distance
Dener Cardoso Melo (25) would also like to return to Groningen. ‘When they announced all the rules, I left within the week. But this doesn’t feel like the end of my student days’, he says. He is staying with his parents in Arapiraca, a small city in north-east Brazil.
In Groningen, Dener was close to his fellow students. ‘We were like family’, he says. ‘We hung out all the time outside of class. We had dinner together at least twice a week. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to most of them. I was only able to tell three friends in person that I was leaving. But I had to do it from a distance.’
Dener doesn’t know when he’ll see his friends again. ‘We’re all working on our final thesis. Normally, we’d all help each other get through the stress of it, but now we can’t. I also don’t know if there will even be a graduation ceremony, so I might never see some of them again.’
I’m going to miss that Groningen brand of friendliness
Michelle Lennon-Masling (52), from Ireland, moved to Groningen with her family two years ago. She doesn’t mind that she has to take online classes for her master in clinical neuropsychology. ‘Obviously, my experience studying at the UG is different from that of other students. Most of them are much younger, and lecturers assume that when talking to everyone. That made things uncomfortable sometimes.’
When they moved to a rental home near Amsterdam for her husband’s work, she realised just how fond of Groningen she’d become. ‘Around here, people hardly ever greet each other out on the street. I’m going to miss that Groningen brand of friendliness.’
Iris van der Kolk (25) is finishing up her master in psychology. She’ll mainly miss the Groningen nightlife. ‘Especially the nights at Dizkartes.’ Initially, she didn’t mind that the university shut down. ‘I thought it meant we wouldn’t have any exams. But then my internship was interrupted and all the pubs closed down. That put a quick end to the fun.’
She’s a member of Dizkartes, which means her social life is normally quite busy. ‘I especially spent a lot of time with my debating society; we’d go to the pub every Thursday and sit out in the sun. But the corona measures have changed all that. After the summer is over, I’m moving to Enschede to find work there. This is not the conclusion of my time as a student that I’d hoped for.’
Emma van der Stel (23) is also suddenly being confronted with having to grow up. She’s nearly finished her master in sustainable entrepreneurship.’ ‘I won’t be able to just have a night out in the middle of the week when I have a job’, she says. ‘I was already going out less, but at least I had the freedom to do so.’ The corona measures mean she didn’t realise her last night of carefree partying was, in fact, her last.
The same happened to her last day of classes. ‘Suddenly, that day had already passed’, says Emma. ‘A lot of internationals take this master, which means I’ll probably never see some of them again. That makes me pretty sad.’