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#VUathome: Firsthand Stories from Students and Staff: Hannah

Welcome to our 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. Today we read the experience of Hannah, our student blogger.

Hey, my name is Hannah and I’m a second-year History and International Studies student at the Vrije Universiteit. Some of you might know me from some of the other posts I’ve posted on here about my time in Amsterdam. When distance learning was first introduced at the VU, I decided against moving back to Germany to live with my parents, which is why I’m cabin fevering my way through this pandemic alone in Amsterdam.

Riding the struggle bus

When classes were first cancelled towards the end of March, I was ecstatic, because it meant I would not have to give a presentation I was dreading and, at least in the beginning, it meant more free time (I clearly had very altruistic motives). After more than three months of remote learning, I can confidently say that I spoke too soon, way way too soon. It’s all fun and games for a little while, but staring at your computer screen for hours on end, being bombarded with a gazillion emails a day, and not being able to see your friends gets old pretty fast. It took quite a while to figure out what works best for me, but I can only recommend having a set routine, with alterations on the weekend. While time has been a somewhat ambiguous concept lately, adding some level of structure to my day has helped me enormously, especially in regard to my productivity levels. There are also great apps you can use to avoid getting distracted by your phone, which have been a godsend for my easily distracted self. Additionally, I’ve started channelling my inner grandma by going on walks every day to get away from my screen for a little bit, since corona has shown me the beautiful world of eyestrain. Despite all of the different coping strategies I perfected over the past 12 weeks, I still miss the 9th floor library a lot.

Light at the end of the tunnel

If there is one thing that remote learning has taught me so far, it’s that taking time off is incredibly important. In pre-corona times, I would have gone to my favourite café on Gelderlandplein with my best friends, would have ordered a lemon tart and an iced coffee, and would have talked about everything and anything for 4 hours straight to relax. Sadly, I’m basically the last man standing, since all of my closest friends returned back home until on-campus learning is back in place. However, as soon as everything returns to (semi) normality, that will be the first thing I will do. Until then, however, I try to find comfort in skyping with my friends and family a lot, which also helps to combat loneliness. Especially now that it’s getting warmer, sitting by a lake or river and reading for a little bit has been a great way to recharge for me. If you live in Amsterdam Zuidoost, I can only recommend checking out the Gaasperplas. And lastly, because of peer pressure, I fell into the baking banana bread rabbit hole. While, despite my foolish thinking back in March, online learning has not given me more free time (quite the opposite, actually), making time for new hobbies has brought me a great deal of comfort, whether that is baking or painting by numbers.

Living in a pandemic has definitely been a learning curve and I’m sure there is a silver lining hidden in here somewhere, but right now I reached a point where, if I have to attend one more zoom meeting, I might seriously go insane. While this summer will not be what I envisioned it to look like, I can’t wait to take a little break from studying for two months.

I hope all of you are staying safe, and to my fellow students: hang in there – we’re almost done.

Tot ziens,




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