We are 15 housemates from Aruba, Belgium, China, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Vietnam – living together in Bagijnhof 5. As a house, we are self-isolating, self-distancing, self-quarantining (call it what you want) in Middelburg. We are far from our families and our friends. Yet, we are trying to make the best of the current situation.
When the news about the Coronavirus was just breaking, and still something that seemed far away from Zeeland, we were still going about our days like we normally would: we partied in Elliott until the end of the night. Little did we know that it would probably be the last party in the basement, the last Jägerbomb, the last opportunity to see our friends before they unexpectedly started flying back home. Little did we know that this would be our last night of being totally carefree for at least the foreseeable future.
We woke up with a hangover that Friday morning. This was to be expected after the night we just had. However, this time our habitual brunch had a different taste. Our normal light-heart discussions were no longer about the crazy stories from the night before – rather – we found ourselves talking about the Coronavirus. News had broken. The situation was more serious. It was no longer some distant threat. It was here, in the Netherlands, in Zeeland, in Middelburg too. It finally dawned on the 15 of us… The cancellation of classes meant no lunch at Elliott, no parties next Tuesday, no meeting with friends, no committees, and a greatly reduced student life. Life suddenly equated to self-quarantine, social distancing… and the risk of running out of toilet paper.
Our initial thoughts were that we had to go home right way – to be with our families. As day after day, more and more countries started to close their borders, airlines were cancelling flights, populations were being put on lock down, the situation become more dire. Some of our friends did travel home and managed to get there on time. Others had to accept the fact that they would not be able to see their relatives again for the foreseeable future. As the number of cases worldwide skyrocketed, we resigned to having 2-hour calls with our parents to reassure them, and reassure ourselves, that we were fine – that things will be fine.
So far, this has been a heartbreaking story. We have been trying to stay positive, upbeat and hopeful. Individually, we’ve been enjoying the beautiful nature surrounding us here in Zeeland. A quick trip to the beach, a daily walk, sunbathing in the Bagijnhof field – we have been blessed with sunshine lately. Some of us fell in love with yoga. Some even started gardening!
Even indoors we seemed to have found some escape. We’ve been gaining weight from all the home-baked cookies and pancakes. Some stomached a horror movie marathon (definitely not for the faint-hearted). We did a Spring-clean, this time in the true sense of the word. We joined the UCR Minecraft server. And thanks to the innovative app, House Party, we’ve even been able to have virtual drinks with our friends. Obviously, we also – eventually – studied (a bit) too.
Who would have thought, just a few short weeks ago, that this would be our new reality? The new normal.
It’s of course still tough on us. We want to enjoy our free time in any way we want, and used to. Sometimes we struggle with this new reality. We long for the UCR spirit and community that we love. But we also accept that a lot of what is happening is completely out of our hands. And for that part, we are staying positive and making some lemonade from the lemons!
I there are any fellow students out there who are feeling lonely or isolated, text us. Have a drink with us, virtually. Join a Netflix Party. You’re not alone, we are all in this together.