After one year of online learning, we finally get some taste of a normal and physical university life. Once again, we can see lectures and study rooms packed with people, speak with our friends face-to-face, and immerse ourselves in the lively, fast-paced Erasmus culture, just as before Covid.
As university reopens, one of its most crucial aspects, friendship, also celebrates its return to campus, instead of solely existing on Zoom, Whatsapp, or other virtual universes. One year of online university with everyone being in different places all over the world presented several difficulties, but also offered us learning opportunities to connect with people in different ways. However we dealt with this challenging time, it definitely made a defining impact on our social lives, even when we have returned on campus for 3 months already. I hope the stories of three IBCoM students I share below would give you a better picture of how friendships, carrying the marks that one past year imprinted, transition to campus.
First-year Erkaiym: Friendship from anywhere
Moving to Rotterdam without any acquaintances and not joining Eurekaweek, at first she was worried that friend groups were already settled and it would be hard to fit into. But soon, Erkaiym realizes, the semester has just begun and she can catch up. It can simply begin with: “Oh yeah, I’m new, too. Let’s hang out together.” Or she just texts in the IBCoM group to ask if anyone wants to have lunch. Just like that, friendship comes. As she carries on exploring IBCoM and student life in Rotterdam, new friendships arise from anywhere: classmates in the same tutorials, students who also struggle with finding housing, or even someone who sits alone and welcomes conversation.
Second-year Quynh: Right place, with the right people
The pandemic forced Quynh to spend her very first year studying from her home country. Not a good start, indeed. However, highly motivated to make the best out of IBCoM, she reached out and opened her mind to friends from different countries. Online friendships required online solutions: she kept in touch through social media and online games.
But it was not always easy. “I was torn between two different worlds.”, she said. Adapting to university life without physically being in it was mentally draining and lonely to Quynh. Her old friends she struggled to relate to as they were not in the same environments, while university friendships, stuck in online spaces, could only be casual so far.
Making it to campus resolves her mental/physical misalignment. So far, Quynh and her friends have made up for one lost year by doing typical “friend things”: going to the library, partying and cooking. She continues to explore IBCoM and build other solid friendships by joining different student associations. IBCoM, undoubtedly, is where she wants to spend her university life and feels belonged to.
Third-year Yvonne: Tough times prove friendship
The first year of currently third-year students was turned upside down by Covid. Just as Quynh, Yvonne discovered ways that friendship can thrive online through Whatsapp, game nights, or Discord chat rooms.
But by confining us to our homes, Covid also kept us apart mentally, she said. “It seemed to me everyone had their own things going around and it was hard to connect”. During the pandemic, some of her friendships faded away.
The pandemic teaches Yvonne how making close friends online is not impossible. In fact, those who she kept in touch with during this tough time have now become her closest friends. “We check up on each other during this hard time. Those moments of support strengthen our friendship”. Coming back to campus, she also rekindles old friendships and establishes new ones.
As new Covid measures have taken effect since last week, I wonder if the short honeymoon of post-covid life can be prolonged. However, Erkaiym, Quynh and Yvonne keep a positive attitude that their friendships will sustain and not be affected much. I guess Coronavirus has trained our resilience and what the future holds is of little relevance at the moment to be frightened about. After all, the past year has proven that we can still find precious friends, whether online or offline. For the time being, enjoy our campus life, make friends and of course, stay safe!
Author: Tra Mi Nguyen
Editor: Phoebe Elliott
Visuals by: Thanh Nguyen