Starting something new is never easy especially when you make a life-changing decision to start studying at a University far away from home. It takes courage, ambition and a positive mindset. But hey, so many people did that before us and had a great experience. However, did anybody before us actually have to do this during a global pandemic?! I asked around among the first year students at THUAS to hear about their experiences firsthand during this exciting but very unusual time.
A big part of going to University, is of course actually physically going to university. However, this year most classes are online.
Students listen to the lecture, while their own camera and microphone is turned off and although the lecturers try to make it as engaging as possible your mind drifts off and you get distracted by your phone or thoughts. Until all of the sudden your name is being called and you focus on class again.
It is definitely more challenging to stay focused and to pay attention throughout the whole lecture while you are in the comfort of your home and not in a classroom. For some students it feels overwhelming to have everything happening online and technical difficulties occur frequently. It is almost on a daily basis that students and teachers struggle with problems like these: the Internet stops working, you cannot share your screen, the slides won’t show up, the list goes on. However, the good thing is that teachers are understanding, trying to help and improve the overall situation. I think the introduction week in which we got acquainted with all the platforms we use was a big help for the students as well. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the assignments due, finding the presentations you had to review, the videos you had to watch, which email accounts to check, but with time comes practice. The workload for most students is manageable but some definitely underestimated it, myself included.
Another big aspect of going to University is meeting new people and building a social life. During a pandemic where classes are online it’s not the easiest task. A lot of students who moved to The Hague feared to be the only ones there and were relieved to meet many new friendly faces in the introduction week. The WhatsApp chats are definitely making a lot of things easier, for example: group work, to connect with students and to ask questions to fellow students. Especially in the beginning they made it possible for everyone to get acquainted. The majority of students really enjoy meeting so many cool new people, from different countries and backgrounds. However, due to the circumstances it is not easy to build a friend group, some students felt, especially before the start of University, very isolated and lonely. It is important that first-year students watch out for each other and that they are open and outgoing, trying to include everyone.
Just as necessary as friend groups are study groups. Being in a study group can help in many different ways. It improves the students communication skills, as well as time management because you have a responsibility towards your team members and a common goal.
Overall it will make studying easier and more effective, in comparing notes, explaining concepts to each other, asking questions and having more fun. A great opportunity for study groups is using the Universities facilities where you have access to Internet, outlets and fresh coffee while keeping a safe distance at all time. This gives us the chance to get out of our rooms and to get to know fellow students. Another issue that was also pointed out by students, was the lack of contact between international and Dutch students. To improve that situation an open-mind and the students initiatives are needed, as well as the Universities support.
The location of the University also plays an important part, but for many less than usual. Within the International Communication Management programme the majority of students study from home, which is very understandable during a pandemic. Staying within your known environment and close to your friends and family definitely makes some things easier. Nonetheless, many of the students that moved to The Hague are happy and enjoy the things the city has to offer. Besides a beautiful city center with lots of cute cafes and great stores, Scheveningen and the beach aren’t far. At the beach you can go surfing, swimming or relax with a nice cocktail at a beach club. If surfing isn’t for you the University offers a wide range of sport classes and a gym which many students enjoy and use frequently. Sports can be, especially now, a great balance to always sitting at home during classes. It can become frustrating after a while. All these great opportunities led to some students feeling like they were in a "Corona Bubble". In addition, a lot of "Corona measures" in the Netherlands are different from the ones in their home country. For some students it is quite shocking to realize the difficulties that come with travelling. Students from Europe are at least still able to go home, others do not have that luxury and are, for better or worse, stuck in The Hague for now. Therefore, it is important to stay connected and to check up on each other.
It is definitely not easy dealing with this situation. It can be frustrating and tiring and some things are even more challenging than they were before. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that we are all in the same situation and everyone will get the support they need from their fellow students, the University, and teachers. “When things don’t go your way, remember that every challenge – every adversity – contains the seed of opportunity and growth.“ – Roy T. Bennett.
By: Elisa Klaffus
Elisa is a 19 years old, first-year ICM student. She was born in Paris; however, she is mostly German. She has lived in Germany, France, Belgium, U.S. and The Netherlands. She has always liked writing, but mostly wrote for herself. By joining Collective she wants to develop this skill. Besides writing she also enjoys reading, cooking, painting, trying new things, and hanging out with friends.