The measures to combat COVID-19 have turned our daily lives upside down. But besides their practical impact, there are also emotional ones. One person may be crippled with anxiety, while another maintains a carefree ostrich policy. How are WUR folk coping mentally in the coronavirus situation?
texst Marieke Enter and Rijk Dersjant illustration Henk van Ruitenbeek
Food Sciences internship coordinator
‘This coronavirus crisis has serious consequences for internships. The students who were soon going abroad for their internships have been the most worried. After a week of uncertainty and chaos, we now know that they can no longer go for now. So they have to find an alternative. And there is time pressure on them, because there may be financial consequences if they haven’t completed their internship by September. That is stressful. The students who are still abroad on their internships* are less worried. Depending on the local coronavirus situation, they carry on working if they can, and take a break if they have to. Of course it’s still a fact that nearly everyone is stressed about how the situation will develop. Personally I can put it to one side at the end of the day. But I can imagine how fear and worrying take over, especially if you belong to a vulnerable group or have loved ones who do.’ *These students have since been advised to return to the Netherlands as soon as possible.
‘Everyone reacts in their own way to this crisis. Our concern at present is mainly focused on the international students, because their social network is not as big and they are often worried about their friends and family back home. And the other way round, of course: there is quite a lot of pressure on some international students to come home. The decision whether to stay or not brings all sorts of dilemmas with it – about things that Dutch students face too: how will this affect internships and research, will it mean delaying graduation, and what are the implications for the financing? Everyone feels insecure and a bit scared at the moment, although I think the students I have spoken to up to now are adapting to the situation well. Of course we student psychologists are available to provide support over Skype, for instance. Send us an email and we’ll contact you the same day.’ Studentpsychologists@wur.nl
MSc student of Climate Studies and Forest & Nature Conservation
‘I watched Rutte’s first press conference on the ski slope in Austria, where I was on holiday with my family. We hadn’t really been in any doubt as to whether we should go there. Not out of naivety; we kept a firm eye on the news. But we had the impression it was OK to go. We went to a small resort and we intended to avoid the big après-ski parties and other crowds. Of course, in the ski resort the talk was all of the coronavirus crisis, but apart from that there wasn’t much sign of it. Until Friday, our last day there, when the whole area went into lockdown. Five coronavirus infections had been diagnosed in Lech, not far from where we were. But there were cases in Brabant by then too. So no, I don’t regret going skiing. And I’m not afraid of spreading the infection, although I do take the risk seriously. Because I’ve been to Austria, I cancelled all my appointments and I’m doing everything online. Purely as a precaution, because I’m feeling fine.’
Eugene van Meteren
‘I’m not losing any sleep over it, but I am very aware of the seriousness of the situation. Where I live in the middle of Tiel, you can’t miss the coronavirus crisis: it is weirdly quiet on the streets. And at work there is a big contrast with the hustle and bustle I usually experience as a caretaker. I do miss that liveliness and all the spontaneous chats with residents. Luckily the Netherlands doesn’t have a total lockdown and we are still allowed out of doors, even though you have to be a bit sensible about that of course. I don’t fool around with precautions such as social distancing and frequent hand-washing. Perish the thought that my daughter or my 82-year-old mother should get the virus from me. I follow the coronavirus news closely, but it doesn’t make me anxious. At the most, it keeps me alert to limit the risk of spreading the infection.’
MSc student of Animal Sciences
‘Actually, I was planning to stay in Wageningen, but the universities in Canada advised overseas students to come back. I haven’t been in the Netherlands very long, I don’t have much of a network here, I’m not registered with a GP, and I wouldn’t have a clue what to do if I fell ill. So I thought it would be better to go home. I booked a flight, emailed my professors and packed my bags. I can quite easily carry on with my courses from Canada, now that all the lectures are on Brightspace and there is an interactive learning environment. The only hitch is the time difference with the Netherlands. But I’m pleased that I can carry on studying. And that we live in countries where we can sit out the situation like this. I feel that both Canada and the Netherlands are dealing with the situation well.’
Alumnus, MSc International Development Studies
‘I have offered international students and their families help through Wageningen Student Plaza on Facebook. With my background – as a WUR alumnus, a Psychology graduate and now working in the municipal health services (GGD) – I hope I can help relieve their fears. I know from experience that because of their culture, international students do not always express their emotions. But I think international students must have at least as many worries and questions, even if they don’t always express them. Just imagine what it’s like to be in a foreign country, where you don’t know what information to rely on if such a major crisis erupts – of course you’d be worried! That’s why I made that offer, and my Facebook page for finding reliable information easily about the current situation in the Netherlands. It’s called “Corona updates for Wageningen students/expats”. Am I afraid myself? Well, I have a severe form of asthma so I am staying at home as much as possible, in line with the advice of RIVM. That’s just sensible.’