Stay connected to your community, avoid boredom, go out regularly and stick to a routine. Sounds logical, but how do you do it in practice? We asked Andrej Zwitter, who already set a good example by starting a Whatsapp-group for expats (and whoever else may be interested) in Leeuwarden, and aims to keep up to date with all Campus Fryslân students and staff at least weekly.
‘For expats or anyone else without a big social network, the current crisis can be an isolating experience. In the Whatsapp-group we share day-to-day things to stay social. It was the Iranian new year this week, so we’re learning new things as well!’ Andrej Zwitter, the Campus Fryslân dean, is doing the best he can to keep everyone connected. In addition to the Leeuwarden group, he maintains the weekly coffee chat with staff via Google Hangouts, and will be talking to all CF students in a weekly Q&A session through Blackboard.
Personally he is doing well. Although, after joining video calls from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., he has to admit he is a bit tired. ‘Especially after that Q&A session I feel even more appreciation for all staff teaching online! There’s a lot going on, answering the students through the mic while keeping up with incoming questions via chat,’ Andrej says. Still, he will continue to do this every week. Making sure everyone is safe and well, and knowing everyone’s whereabouts is vital to keeping the community together. ‘It’s difficult to predict how long the situation will be like this, so I encourage the students to do what feels good to them. If that means going home to their families, they definitely should.’
There’s positive sides to the crisis too. ‘I picked up my camera again, it’s a great opportunity to get creative.’ Trying out new things and going outside for at least one hour every day will help keep you sane. And when you do feel bored, there’s plenty of podcasts to listen to and books to read. Andrej recommends the podcast Freakonomics Radio, and the programme Voice Dream (‘It can read anything to you, even academic stuff!’). All in all, it’s a new experience for all of us. ‘But at least the whole world is in this together, so if anything, I hope the situation increases compassion.’
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