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#VUathome: Firsthand Stories from Students and Staff: Sharon

Welcome to our new series of interviews with students and staff, both here in Amsterdam and around the world. Let's find out how they are doing during these challenging times. Our student blogger Enrique came up with some questions for Sharon, our communication and marketing officer in the International Office.

  • What apps are you using to stay connected with your friends and family and which ones do you enjoy the most?

WhatsApp made it possible to have a video call with 8 people, and now I use it even more than before. I also downloaded Houseparty, but that just wasn’t for me haha. I scroll through Instagram A LOT now, just to see how my friends are doing. My sister and I downloaded the same yoga app and in a way, that is also a way to stay connected to each other. We talk daily about how we struggle with certain poses, since we are both kind of new to this.

  • Despite being connected online, we still have to spend a lot of time alone. If you were to recommend one book, one series, and one movie, what would they be?

Book: My favorite book since I was a child is ‘Misschien wisten zij alles’ (in English: ‘The Squirrel’s Birthday and Other Parties’) by Dutch author Toon Tellegen. It is a children's book filled with short stories about all kinds of animals. However, I find it to be quite a fun (and sometimes sad) read for adults as well. I often pick it up, open it at a random page and just read one or two stories.

Series: I am a bit late to the party, but last week I binge-watched Broadchurch on Netflix. This is a crime series set in a small town in the south of England, and the overall vibe is just great. It is not a show where you can guess ‘who did it’ right at the beginning, and therefore keeps you interested until the end. And it is quite funny to see Queen Elisabeth from ‘The Crown’ in such a different role.

Movie: I used to go to the cinema about once a week: it is one of my favorite things to do. The last movie I saw before the cinemas closed was Just Mercy. Michael B. Jordan plays an attorney who tries to save wrongly accused inmates on dead row. After the movie, my boyfriend and I could not stop talking about it. A very intense movie, with great acting.

  • Do you see this situation as an opportunity or as a challenge for educational institutions around the world?

Of course, the switch to online education started out as a challenge, but it was great to see how fast VU Amsterdam set everything up. I feel that this situation could really be an opportunity: it will be easier to take classes all around the world and lead to exciting and new educational possibilities. This crisis in a way forced us to be more innovative. However, I still hope to meet all new students on the campus soon.

  • How can we improve our space to work or study from home?

Make sure you have a good chair. I was so lucky that I could borrow a chair from VU Amsterdam, and this is way more comfortable. If you do not have a separate screen, put your laptop on a pile of books so it is a bit higher. With a separate keyboard and mouse, you can then work way more ergonomically. It is also a good idea to sometimes pick up your laptop and work standing up. Or just walk away from that laptop and take some time to move around :).

  • Do you have a suggestion for planning your everyday life during this crisis?

I try to work the same hours as I normally do, so between 8.30 am and 5 pm. On Monday, I always plan what I want to do that week. However, you need to keep some space reserved in your agenda for unexpected to do’s. It is also important to take enough breaks: get some water, have a great homemade lunch, do some exercise.

However, these are unprecedented times and you should not be too hard on yourself: if you are struggling, it is okay to take some time for yourself and to try again tomorrow. Talk to someone, have a nice long walk, and the next day divide your tasks into smaller sub-tasks to make it more manageable. You’ve got this :).


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