A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
After spending two whole years studying in the Hague, third year had built up many expectations for students throughout their bachelor’s degree. Third year for many, including myself, was supposed to be our last “hurrah”. It would be the last year in our campus, last year studying with our friends and for many the last year living in the Hague. However, the outbreak of the pandemic altered many of those expectations dramatically. I have many of my own experiences of how COVID has influenced my third year. However, I interviewed a third year student, Jayde Bouckaert from Australia, to gain further insight into how the reality of the Coronavirus impacted her expectations of her final year in the Hague.
Jordan: What had you been planning for your third year before the pandemic hit?
Jayde: By the start of 2020, I had many exciting things planned for both the start and duration of my third year. I had planned to go visit my friend in South Africa as well as do an internship there. I was going to get real life experience in one of my passions: Conflict Resolution. As well as throughout that trip I would’ve gotten to travel and see where my friend grew up. After South Africa, I had planned to move to Amsterdam for a semester of studying in a new city. It was going to be me and three friends all together experiencing a completely different setting. I was really excited for the year ahead. I think these shaped my expectations for 2020 the most, especially seeing that they did not get to happen.
Jordan: What were you expecting your university life to be in third year?
Jayde: I had always viewed my third year to be the last year with my friends and the last chance to meet people in a university setting. Being in university is very conducive to making friends and really establishing relationships. I was hoping to capitalize on the last year in this environment. I thought I’d be able to go out a lot and travel with my friends, make the memories that I could take away from this last year. From the academic perspective, I was expecting more experience based learning such as seminars and plenary sessions that were intimate and specific to what I wanted to study.
Jordan: How did the pandemic change your planning for third year?
Jayde: It mostly stopped it altogether. By the end of February, especially in early March, I had stopped planning anything. This was a large contrast to our previous years of university where we had all been planning everything, all of the time. We almost had to drop everything because we had no idea of what situation we would be in in the next weeks, let alone the next months. I only got around to thinking about my third year in the middle of the year when the future was looking slightly more clear. Even still I started to shift my focus onto my personal plans rather than on university. Thinking about what my academics would look like by September was too stressful and slightly counterproductive. It was more important for me to focus my attention on my living situation, whether I could go home and how my family and friends were doing. At the time, choosing whether I should go back to London to be with my family or not was a priority.
Jordan: You seem to have put great importance on your personal situation during the pandemic, how has it impacted your personal life?
Jayde: The pandemic really slowed everything down, you couldn’t rush into things and keep yourself busy and occupied all the time like we had previously. As a result I really had to deal with personal stuff, rather than just purely on university. I developed a lot during the pandemic, there has been a lot of personal growth. I am very excited and thankful for that. I have also come to realize that you have to be very present and in the moment. You can’t have definite expectations or plans for too far in advance because we’re really not sure how this is all going to go. You really just have to deal with it and we can’t blame anyone; it’s no one’s fault that we are all here in this situation. And we are all in the same situation, so being present has been very key for me.
Jordan: How has learning during the pandemic been for you?
Jayde: Online university has been frustrating. I was supposed to be in Amsterdam, but rather stayed in the Hague which was frustrating at first but it has turned out for the best. As well as coming from two years of in person classes, it has been difficult to motivate myself. Being physically present in a room with other students was something that had really motivated and structured my studying in the past, so that has been something I have had to overcome. I think that I am now however, more organized than I was before. We get the space and time to use it as we want which has necessitated a lot more organization on my part.
Jordan: If you were to describe your third year thus far, how would you describe it?
Jayde: I’d have to say that it is unexpectedly not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I do have to put a lot more effort into seeing people and still being social during the pandemic. I think that it is important to make sure that you see your friends, it adds some normalcy. I have also had to put quite a bit of effort into how I study and organize my time. I think overall, you have to take life week by week rather than view it in terms of the future. It has allowed me to overall be more present. Although, in all honesty, it has been awfully difficult to plan for my masters or my bachelor celebrations.