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#VUathome: Firsthand Stories from Students and Staff: Rachel

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 meet Rachel, an international officer for Semester in Amsterdam!

  • How has the coronavirus outbreak changed your daily life and what are you doing to stay grounded?

I never realized how busy and active my life actually was until everything slowed down. In the beginning, the change felt quite drastic, but over the past few months I have gotten used to the quiet and the comforts of working from home. I have found that exercise and new hobbies have made the greatest difference in helping me to stay grounded. I started running as an excuse to get outside and discovered, much to my own surprise, that I actually kind of like it. I've also started playing the guitar more and will soon buy a keyboard. The satisfaction of making progress on a personal goal - of learning a new song, running the fastest 5k, or writing a good essay - really helps to remind me that life is still moving and there is still a lot to look forward to.

  • How is it to work and study from home? Any tips for planning your day?

As I am currently following the NT2 Professioneel Nederlands course, I am both working and studying from home! I quickly discovered that this could easily mean I end up sitting in front of the computer from sunrise to sunset, literally the entire day. So I have made a point of limiting screen time and breaking it into chunks. I also made a few rules for myself: Don't eat in front of the computer, go outside for a walk or run at least once a day, when the workday is over, do something which does not involve a screen for at least an hour, don't watch Netflix on your computer. Just moving around a bit and breaking the day into pieces seems to really help.

  • Can you recommend a good book or series for everyone at home?

I have recently become completely absorbed in the series Orphan Black, a dystopian science fiction series that explores where the world might go with science like genome editing, clones, and designer babies. The acting by the main actress (who plays more roles in the series than I can count) is also impressive. Sometimes I forget it is just one person playing all of these different characters.

For a good book, I would recommend the Oryx and Crake series by Margaret Atwood. This is another dystopian science fiction series, though Margaret Atwood insists it is also "speculative fiction and adventure romance." The series is full of dark humor and postmodernist criticism and offers some interesting opportunities for reflection on the ways we use science, technology, and medicine.

  • Where will you go first when we can travel again?

Thailand and Bali! Before the outbreak, I had planned to take a six-week holiday to Thailand and Bali for a yoga retreat and to go diving for the first time. I once spent six months living in Thailand teaching English but have not been back in almost 10 years, so I also want to visit my old fellow teachers in Fang. I am greatly looking forward to the trip when we can travel again!

  • What is one thing you look forward to when things are back to normal?

Music and dancing! One of the things that has struck me the most is how much I miss music and dancing - listening to a live performance from one of my favorite artists in a packed music hall, dancing with twenty different people at a salsa party, visiting every stage at a festival with thousands of people - I know these things won't be able to return for quite some time, but it brings me joy to remember what it feels like to listen to incredible music with amazing people on a beautiful day, and I greatly look forward to being able to do it again someday.



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