By Amber Roos
Photo: Emma Kappeyne
— On Friday, March 10, AUC announced that there “will be no teaching, exams, or events at the AUC Academic Building for the rest of this semester period” due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in The Netherlands. As a result classes at AUC will be cancelled until May 29.
For this year’s graduating students, this means that their final semester at AUC will be an online experience, except for perhaps the final intensive period in June. Many are saddened by how their final semester is playing out. As a Social Science major in my final semester, I find myself in the same boat.
In these difficult and uncertain times, a large number of students have left the dorms unexpectedly and are now staying with family. I am currently still at the dorms. Considering how things are looking, I wonder if I should have said a proper goodbye to some of my friends before they left.
I am not the only one who feels this way. Marijn Geist, a third-year Humanities major, says: “I left the dorms and went to my parents already before it was decided that universities would switch to online classes. I didn’t say goodbye to my friends, because when I left, I thought I’d be back the next Monday.”
Grace John, a third-year Science major, is an international student who had to decide overnight whether she was going back to her family in Egypt. “I saw the news about classes being cancelled until the end of May around one o’clock at night. I had to start planning the next three months, knowing that tomorrow would be the last flight to Egypt,” she says.
In addition to the unexpected departures, graduating students are missing out on moments of closure for their time at AUC as all events are cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Personally, I struggled with this a lot. There will be a day where I will be sitting in my dorm room, knowing that day was supposed to be my last USCRN tournament. The UCSRN tournament is a big competition between all the different UCs in the Netherlands, and one of my favourite events of my time at AUC.
“I am really sad because I can’t have any final moments because they all unknowingly already happened,” says Seska Trip, a third-year Social Science major.
On a similar note, John says: “We missed the last moment of normalcy. We’ll never have that again. That’s just the saddest part, is that none of us saw it coming.”
Although most students are aware of the importance of social distancing and the measures introduced by the Dutch government, many can’t help but feel disappointed by this sudden change of pace.
“I was really looking forward to this last semester, especially since I was abroad last semester. Even though I completely understand the measures being taken, the current situation takes all priority and I stand behind it, I’m still really upset that I don’t get to have a fun last semester,” says Geist.
Graduating students are also worried about their academic futures, especially because many students are not confident about the continuation of the June intensive. “I need my CPI requirement. It entails working at a nursing home which is supposed to be happening now and also in June. I have every right to be worried about graduating.” says Romy Coers, a third-year Social Science major. The CPI is a mandatory community project or internship required to be completed before graduation.
Trip also wonders what will happen if the June intensive shifts to an online learning environment: “I am doing a very practical June Intensive, Geo Design Lab, which I am assuming will be online, although I do not really know how. But I really need it for my minor requirements.”
In the Netherlands, the Coronavirus peak is only estimated to be at the end of May by the Dutch Association of Intensive Care (NVIC). Therefore, many students fear on-campus June intensive classes are likely to be cancelled, third-years feel like they have already had their last class at AUC. The idea that I might have had my last class at AUC without realising it, is such a weird experience. I never expected it to happen this way; I thought it would be such a big moment.
Sharing a similar experience, John says, “I don’t remember what my last class was like…I was only thinking about the Coronavirus. We were all watching the broadcast on our laptops and weren’t even paying attention to the class. I think that’s what’s crazy, the moment has passed and we have just missed it.”
In addition to the concerns of third year students about graduation requirements, students are skeptical about the graduation itself taking place considering. I myself also fear we might miss out on the opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments with all our loved ones.
“I’m really sad my friends are leaving, and I may not see them until graduation. Not that I believe there is going to be a graduation,” says Coers.
“I’m more or less expecting graduation to be postponed or cancelled at this point but I hope I’m wrong,” says Geist. “I’ve just been working very hard for the past years – that of course doesn’t change – but I was really looking forward to celebrating it on July 6th.” Geist does emphasise the importance of safety, and hopes it will get rescheduled rather than cancelled.
On a more positive note, John says “I do think that it could be so much worse. I am really grateful that I can graduate.”
Graduating students understand the measures taken are necessary in the face of the Coronavirus. In realising it could have been worse, I think most of us are grateful to still be graduating. There are a lot of lost memories for the Class of 2020, but luckily we can still see some positives in these difficult times.
Editor’s note: This opinion piece was written before AUC announced that the 2020 June intensive will take place online.