A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
It has been a year since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. I remember the exact moment when I found out that Leiden was going into a lockdown. I was studying at the UB Library, as I normally did, when I received an email from the university. The email announced that all of our physical classes were cancelled effective immediately and that many of the buildings would be closed. The classes were to be offered online. I was quite alarmed at what I had read. I had heard rumors of the virus reaching the Netherlands but at the time, it didn’t seem to be quite so serious. There was talk of people getting sick in other cities, and I still felt removed from it somehow. On top of that, because I am from Thailand, we have dealt with the SARS and H1N1 outbreaks. Thai people were already used to distancing and wearing masks, even if you have allergies or a mild cold. So I thought that even if things got very bad, we would deal with it quickly and then move on with our lives.
I remember looking around me at the other students in the library, wondering if they had also read the email. However, everyone carried on as if nothing had happened. I became very concerned and I instantly packed my bag and left the library in a panic. Why was no one scared? Why is everyone still studying here after the announcement that everything was shutting down? Maybe they just hadn’t read the email yet, I thought to myself. Even so, the reaction to the pandemic in the Netherlands by the government and general public was a bit rocky and I really become disenchanted with the state of the world for a while.
Thus, we went through a year of being inside. I spent the first few months of the pandemic with my boyfriend’s parents in the Hague before moving into a new apartment with him in Leiden. It was actually the first time that we would be living in a place together. Moving in with your partner in a pandemic is definitely a true test of one’s relationship. But thankfully, we were so comfortable with each other already and it was a really good decision on our part.
He and I spent most of the summer inside. We were lucky to live on the ground floor of an apartment and to have our own garden. In order to make things more cozy—and possibly satisfy some quarantine impulse—we also purchased a hammock so we could lay in the sun. Getting to lie in that hammock in the sun and read books was what got me through that uneventful summer.
As the seasons changed and autumn arrived, I was very happy to see that something was changing. The leaves turned orange and fell on the small streets of Leiden. We all had hope that this semester would not be online like the last, but unfortunately that is what we ended up with. I have to admit, it was a very hard semester because I also had many classes. I felt like the students and teachers were both still getting used to doing classes virtually. It still felt very impersonal and I feel like I wasn’t able to make many connections with other people. Even as an introvert, I still missed small talking with new and interesting people in my classes.
A year into the quarantine, I finally feel like I am in a more positive state. Of course, there are struggles here and there and sometimes I still feel a little pessimistic about the state of the world. However, the vaccine is promising and I feel hopeful again. Soon enough, we should be able to return to ‘normal living’ and I hope that in the future, if this ever happens again, we are better prepared as a species to deal with it.