Studying during the pandemic: ‘I didn’t feel like a student’

| Mira Pohle

Traces of the pandemic are slowly vanishing, and the ‘corona generation’ of students is starting their bachelor’s thesis. How do they feel about their degree? With the finish line in sight, four students look back at their time at the UT.

‘Being in a lockdown prevented us from forming any connections’

Alexandre Pravin (20), a BSc Mechanical Engineering student from France, spent five months in a lockdown in Thailand before coming to the Netherlands. ‘I knew the Netherlands were less strict and I was really looking forward to being on campus, even if I had to wear a mask. But everything happened so fast and instead, I was stuck with online classes for a whole year. I really struggled with the online learning environment. I started procrastinating, waking up late, and suddenly the whole day had passed. As a first-year student, it’s difficult if you don’t have organisational and time management skills.’

Pravin recalls the pandemic not only affecting his academic, but also his social life. ‘I quickly realised that being in my room alone made me sad, since my social interactions were extremely limited. In Mechanical Engineering, people are already less social, but being in a lockdown prevented some of us from forming any connections in the first year.’ After most regulations were lifted, Pravin’s happiness increased instantly. ‘I’m involved in my study now and actually like the city. I learned how much I value people’s company, even brief daily interactions like small talk. Before, it was common to take things like going out on the weekends for granted. So overall, I would say studying during the pandemic was still worth it.’

Alexandre Pravin, 20, BSc Mechanical Engineering, France

‘Sometimes I doubted what I was paying for’

Alina Jagosz (21), a BSc Psychology from Germany, struggled with the transition from offline to online classes. ‘Suddenly everything switched online, and it felt very different. At the time, I didn’t feel comfortable where I was living. Not being able to escape to university and being stuck at home made things very difficult for me. The uncertainty of not knowing when things would feel normal again took a toll on me.’ After most regulations were lifted, her life changed drastically. ‘I immediately felt better. I moved, found people in my study, gained social support, and felt less lonely. It felt good being on campus, I actually started feeling like a student that belonged there. My social life really expanded, and my motivation grew.’

When looking back at her time as a UT student and whether it was worth it, Jagosz is conflicted. ‘Investing in your education is always a good idea, but sometimes I doubted what I was paying for. I was in my room, doing tasks on my laptop. The only time I went on campus was to take exams, which did not create the most positive association. The pandemic stole a lot of time from me and many others, and it’s time we won’t get back. Still, the pandemic made me much more appreciative of the small things because there were no big things. A good coffee, walks, flowers, smiling at strangers – it really made a difference.’


Alina Jagosz, 21, BSc Psychology, Germany

‘It still feels like I skipped a year’

Mark Larooi (21), a BSc Technical Medicine student from The Netherlands, was excited to start his life as a student at the UT. When the pandemic happened, it felt like a step back for him. ‘I was planning on moving to campus to get the full student life experience, but once I found out that classes were all online, there wasn’t really a point in moving. I stayed with my family like many other students. It really affected me because there was no clear transition from high school to university.’

Like many other students, Larooi missed the social aspect of life before the pandemic. ‘I’ve always preferred studying with likeminded people, their presence motivates me. Having to start my study what felt like on my own was different from what I expected and definitely made it more difficult. When the restrictions were lifted, I moved and quickly started feeling like an actual student. I always study and work with people now and look forward to going to class together. I do feel like people found comfort in being online though. There are many online meetings because it’s more convenient and I still have to work with pre-recorded lectures sometimes. The experience was worth it to me, but it still feels like I just skipped a year.’

Mark Larooi, 21, BSc Technical Medicine, The Netherlands

‘I liked my independence’

Daphne Giuzio (21), a BSc Communication Science student from Brazil, noticed some personal benefits during the pandemic. ‘Of course, I missed connecting with people more, but I actually liked the independence I had during the pandemic. I could work in my own pace, watch lectures when I was free instead of having to be on time and finding buildings and rooms, and overall manage my study load independently. There were moments when I wished I could work with people in person, but even project meetings seemed more productive online. I did miss the campus experience though and I’m happy to be back.’

Daphne Giuzio, 21, BSc Communication Science, Brazil

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