News - September 23, 2019

That time of the year again

Resource blogger Donatella Gasparro is surrounded by mounds of tissues, ginger teas and honey candies - and she's not the only one. Is it our immune system or do we need longer summer vacations?

© Sven Menschel

It’s that time of the year again. Well…here this time of the year is, pretty much, all year round but anyways. It started very punctually on day 1 of week 1 of period 1, and wait, it’s not the academic year: it’s the illness season. I realised that it was happening when already on day 3 students of the course I assist in started emailing me with apologies for their absences to lectures and excursions, garnished with a touch of cry for help, like: how do I get in touch with a GP?

At the beginning I thought it was just the Dutch effect on the international newcomers, and I had convinced myself that the totally unpredictable weather and my persistence in wearing summer-like clothes would have absolutely no effect on my throat and nasal cavities. But, guess what, I was wrong. The good news is that with me it was kinder, so it kicked in a little later, just on time for one of the most intense weeks of the month. And here I am typing a blog surrounded by mounds of tissues, ginger teas and honey candies.

Maybe most of you are completely fine with your immune system

I still do not know whether the triggering factor, besides the general abundance of pleasant viruses having fun around, was the swim I took at the river last Sunday in a now-or-never rush, or simply stress. Or both. But that’s what we’re at: work and school start again and lots of us are sick. So maybe you were right when you thought that what I’m talking about is the start of the academic year. Maybe the academic year makes us all sick. Or maybe deadlines, tight schedules, half-hour long lunches, the normalized stress culture at the university and the medicalization of burn outs like a repetitive strain injury or the seasonal flu.

And although being sick could also have been a great excuse for actually taking a break and rest, illness is not only a product of, but also a hindrance for the regular proceeding of academic life. This translates into pushing back the cold with palliatives and dragging mild symptoms for weeks, till the eventual explosion in a random week-end. Exciting. But maybe most of you are completely fine with your immune system and all the above applies just to a few of us who needed longer summer vacations.