The Coronavirus outbreak has affected humanity all around the world. The virus and the measures taken against it have impacted almost every aspect of daily life. Many have been faced with difficult decisions to make, including AUC students. How have AUC students experienced the Coronavirus outbreak, and how are they coping? Three students opened up to share their stories.
Building a Home Away from Home
“I’m staying here in the dorms. I decided not to go back to Italy. I had the chance to, there was one last flight, but I had a conversation with my mother and I’d rather be here. […] I stayed in the dorms because I felt like the environment enables me to still have social interactions with people, which is very important to me, and I think to everyone, in order to survive and not go crazy. I moved in with my friend in a four person room because all her roommates are gone, and she’s Italian as well, so we’ve been talking together with our families.
My family and my friends in Italy are all in quarantine, which means that they can only go out for groceries or for walking their dogs or going for a run, alone, although that’s highly discouraged. So they’ve been finding apps to talk. It’s really weird because it feels like the difference between me and them has shrunk a lot. Even though we’re miles apart, they’re all communicating together in the same way as they do with me, which is nice, but I also feel really bad for them.
My mom works in the managing part of a hospital, but she’s been sent home because of Coronavirus for two weeks. She told me that from her perspective, the importance of being quarantined is that she knows that hospitals don’t have the capacity to hold all the patients that would be affected. So in that way, the purpose of Italian quarantine isn’t to eliminate the virus but just to take it as slowly as possible so that hospitals can manage the amount of people who can get in.
My sister is studying medicine in Brussels, and they’ve been using a lot of students as workforce in the hospitals right now. She was forced to work in a section of the Hospital that was near Coronavirus, and her friend was actually sent to work with Coronavirus patients. They had been working in this hospital for about a month, they haven’t graduated yet, they are medical students and they’re being put in risky situations and they have no medical experience whatsoever. So that’s actually a big issue there. So, she asked for the Italian university to give her permission to stop working, because Italy has different policies for that. I think that’s pretty important.
From my perspective, I feel like it’s all very surreal. My friends in Italy are all very tired, but what I recognize in each and every one of them is that, yes, they are tired and bored out of their minds, but they also feel like they are doing something very important. They feel like it’s the right thing to do and that there’s something worse than [being quarantined], like working in the hospital.
One thing that I find super interesting, and is happening now, is that I never saw Italy as a united country. It has always been divided, always been a group of people against each other, nobody had trust in the government. And now I feel like there is some kind of sense of cohesion and trust in the government, everyone loves the prime minister and they trust him completely, and I think that has never happened in the last twenty-five, thirty years. It’s very particular in this situation, even being here, I’m proud to be Italian and I feel very close to my country and my people. ”
—Alice, first-year Humanities student from Italy
“I am an expat student from California. Right now I am very very lucky to be staying with a great family with a friend of mine. I feel really welcome and at home here, but it’s not the same as being completely comfortable in your own house with your own family. I really miss them, I wish there was a way to go home, but I can’t right now. Partially because of the situation in general, and how it’s not really safe to travel right now, but also because due to the massive time difference I wouldn’t be able to attend my classes. It’s really hard and scary to be so far away from my loved ones, especially those who are the most vulnerable to this virus.
In regard to how this virus is being dealt with, not everything is perfect, but I really appreciate AUC for a couple of things. Firstly, for waiving the absence policy, because especially for students who are in other places or taking this really hard, it’s difficult to understand how classes will work and have the capacity to attend these classes. I am also really grateful to teachers for being more lenient with deadlines. I think myself, and a lot of other students, especially those of us who struggle with mental health are having a really hard time right now; it’s really difficult to meet deadlines. I am really really grateful to those teachers who are being so understanding and more lenient.
I am also grateful to DUWO for not shutting down the dorms. There are schools in the States and elsewhere that are shutting down their student residences, leaving a good portion of their students with nowhere else to go, and it’s just terrible. I think that’s an issue that needs to be addressed more: how we can help the vulnerable people in our community who will not necessarily be affected by the virus itself, but will be affected by the measures taken against the virus. People who are low income, without a job, homeless, refugees, in an unsafe home situation, et cetera. I am also kind of concerned about a number of people who are not taking this seriously, people doing regular shopping, like clothes shopping, people in the park ignoring government advice. Even though some of us are young and healthy and won’t be badly impacted by this virus, that’s not the point. We should care more about those who will be severely impacted by coming into contact with those who are asymptomatic. So that’s something that’s really concerning.
I also think it’s really important for there to be a way to check up on students who are staying in the dorms because they are unable to return home for any number of reasons. For students, especially those who are in single rooms or whom’s roommates have left, the dorms can be a very isolating place sometimes. I think it’s really important to stay connected. I know that the student life officer is available for that, but I wish there was more to be done than obviously checking up on your friends who are [at the dorms]. I think that that’s something to consider and think about: how we can support people who are alone right now, especially those who really struggle with [being alone], to know that we can help them, and support them.”
— Belle, second-year Humanities student from the United States
Doubt and Difficult Decisions
“Right when the UVA and AUC closed until April 6, that was the original decision, I was talking to my parents and they said, “oh, it would be nice if you came home,” you know, “we can go hiking, we can see the family.” Basically, coronavirus equals no school equals we can have a family holiday. I was kind of sceptical at first, taking into account the fact that going home should not mean seeing more family and more and more people. Especially because I am in a place where there is more coronavirus than in Poland, where my parents are.
I was originally going to go home that Sunday to visit my family for two weeks, but then Poland announced on Friday that the borders were going to close and flights would be cancelled after Saturday. My parents panic-bought a flight from Eindhoven for like twenty euros, which I did not take in the end.
I did not go home although I could’ve that Saturday evening. I would have had to fly back home from Eindhoven and be placed in a fourteen-day long quarantine. That meant that instead of being here in the dorms and having relative freedom, just going outside to the park, going for a run, or going to Albert Heijn or whatever, I would have to be home inside with my family for two weeks. Which would also mean that they could get the virus from me and wouldn’t be able to go places. I think it’s quite important to be able to go outside, I think if people do it mindfully, getting some fresh air is good for people.
At the moment when I talk to my parents, they also say don’t come home. Otherwise, they have to stay inside for two weeks. Right now they can still go outside and leave if they have to. Especially if other family members are in some kind of danger and need help, it’s good to be able to leave the house and not to have to stay in the house always.
I probably would have left if nobody was staying behind in the dorms, but because there were about 100 people who stayed, I felt like it wasn’t the dumbest idea in the world to stay here and survive the crisis. I believe I’m pretty safe here, I think if I don’t do something unsensible I would be as alright as I would be with my family.
I found myself doubting my decision of staying, especially when I heard people say, “if they close my border, I am definitely going back.” I felt like people were spreading a considerable amount of panic around and making it seem as though what they were doing was the right and only thing to do. I think that there are many ways a person can go about a situation like this.
A week after I decided to stay here and thought maybe I should have gone home, AUC and UVA announced they wouldn’t have classes until the end of May. Now everything around the Netherlands is saying they will be closed till June 1st, which makes me think that my decision wasn’t the dumbest.
In the case in which I would have left in panic, I would have packed a few essential possessions, but at home, I don’t have too many clothes and things. I would have gone there thinking I’m leaving the Netherlands for three weeks, maybe a month, and not have been able to come back for three months. I think if worst comes to worst, it will be possible to come home if the world really does lock down and things get worse. If I have to go home, I will go home knowing that I will have to be there for half a year or something. Anything can happen. “
—Anna, second-year Social Science student from Poland
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The interviews above were taken before stricter measures were taken by the Dutch government against Coronavirus, such as the 3 person and 1.5 meter rules.