By Amber Roos
Photo: Emma Kappeyne
— As the Coronavirus pandemic unfolds in the Netherlands, many students are not only affected by changes in their academic life, but also have to worry about employment.
Tim Castellon Arjona, a third-year Social Science major, is a waiter but cannot continue his job because all food services are closed in the Netherlands until at least April 28. “Recently I received approximately 80/90% salary actually. Normally I would get paid at the beginning of April, but to be honest I am glad I am getting anything at all,” he says. Castellon Arjona explains that it took longer to get his salary because Dutch companies were only able to get help from the government on April 6.
Similarly, Marie van der Velden, a third-year Social Science major, worked as a waitress and barista before the COVID-19 measurements were put in place. Although she cannot do her normal job, she is still able to continue working at the company in a different way: “To make the best use of the situation, the store is now under renovation and me and my coworkers are getting paid to help in the cleaning of the store on a safe 1.5 metre distance,” she explains.
Nellie Reynolds, a third-year Social Science major, is in the same boat as her fellow students when it comes to her waitress job. However, the place she works at has now started doing takeaway. This means she might get a shift every now then. Reynolds says she is also lucky enough to still get a regular salary. “I really recommend everyone who lost their jobs to check out what their rights are because employers can get 90% of your paycheck subsidised!” she emphasised.
At the same time, Reynolds also has her own event management company which is going through more difficult times. “My own business is one big mess right now,” she says, “With all the events and social gatherings getting cancelled, we made a huge loss and we had to pay expenses out of our own pockets.”
Marja Stensinski, a third year Social Science major, is also in a difficult situation as she is a babysitter. “It is currently very difficult for me to continue this job.” Most parents and caretakers are now at home themselves with their children, making her unable to work.. Although sometimes a rare babysitting opportunity arises, for example, from parents who have children that need help for homework. “There is a lot of competition and I usually don’t get any jobs,” she continues.
This (partial) loss of income has affected many students, although most students included here have managed reasonably well. “The past month has been rough to be honest. Mentally, of course, because of the lockdown. But also financially, as I could not pay for my rent nor my health insurance. Now that I got my salary I feel some of the stress fade away,” Castellon Arjona says.
Stensinski has also been affected by the loss of income. “I am coping okay I would say. I did not have to reach out for any help so far, because I have got some money saved. However, I have decided to terminate my dorm room contract early and move back in with my mom at the end of May, partially because of the loss of income,” she says.
Jasmijn Bleijlevens, a third-year Science major, has been a bit more lucky. Bleijlevens works as a trainer for Dutch high school students and provides help with study techniques. “About 90% of the work we normally do as trainers is cancelled. I am lucky enough to be one of the people who gets to work for the entire upcoming week,” she states.
Bleijlevens is grateful to still be doing her job, yet the switch to an online platform is not easy for her: “I will be teaching classes online, which is super different and difficult. I already struggle paying attention during my classes, which is also the case for high schoolers,” she jokes.
In addition to the change in their financial situation, students also miss the lack of social interaction with their colleagues. “I made friends for life at my work. I do miss hanging out with my colleagues and the banter we used to have, but we keep in touch through group chats and video call occasionally.” says Reynolds.
Bleijlevens misses her colleagues too, although they do keep in touch online as well. “All the trainers usually see each other very often. That all has to happen online now too,” she says, “this is very different, just a lot less fun and social.”
Van der Velden is also still in contact with the people she usually works with. “Even though we are not able to work, my boss and my co-workers are all still active in our group chat and we continue to exchange ideas to improve on the store now that it is in renovation,” she says. “It is very nice to see how, even when we cannot see each other, we can still work together to make the best of the situation.”
Just like everyone else, students have had to deal with many adjustments due to COVID-19. Besides having to manage their academic situation, changes in their employment have affected their daily lives drastically. Luckily, the students who are interviewed here are still financially stable, either because of help from the government or general savings. This has eased many of their worries and only led to slight adjustments to their living situation.