These students would rather stay home

Physical classes are unsafe or just plain boring

These students would rather stay home

While many students will take all the in-person education they can get at the moment, others choose to skip physical classes entirely – for now, at least. ‘I know a lot of people who aren’t being as cautious as I am.’
23 November om 14:08 uur.
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Emily Zaal

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23 November om 14:08 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 23 November 2020
om 15:46 uur.
Emily Zaal

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November 23 at 14:08 PM.
Last modified on November 23, 2020
at 15:46 PM.
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The few physical classes they’re still allowed to attend are like a lifeline to a lot of students and they hold on to them with all their might. They miss interacting with other people during lectures and being able to ask teachers questions face to face rather than through a screen. But not Suzanne Oud, a pre-master neurolinguistics student. ‘I’m not at school to make friends, I’m here to learn’, she says.

The social aspect of physical classes sometimes makes her uncomfortable. ‘I have autism’, she explains. She prefers following classes online, at home with her boyfriend and their two cats. 

Suzanne is in her seventh year of studying and she’s tired of having to go to school. ‘Normally, I’m so bored during lectures,’ she says, ‘but now I’m able to do assignments for other classes, cook, or even go grocery shopping while listening.’

Not in a rush

While other students may not be happy about the current situation, exactly, there are quite a few who aren’t in a rush to go to in-person classes, either. 

I can do assignments for other classes or cook while I’m listening

Stephanie Ouellette, who’s doing a master in environmental psychology, changed her mind about online-only when she went home to the United States over the summer break. ‘I was seeing my grandma a lot, and although she’s in great condition, she’s also old. That was a very personal reason for me to think about how I was responding to the guidelines’, she says. 

It’s important to stay at home as much as possible, she feels, because despite taking every precaution when she did go out, she still got covid. ‘The only way I think I could have gotten it is on the train to Groningen’, she says. ‘It’s frustrating, because I know a lot of people who aren’t being as cautious as I am who aren’t suffering any consequences.’  

Unsafe

Azadeh Rahimichatri, who’s doing a PhD in optoelectronics and teaches a nature of scientific disciplines course, decided to switch to online classes when she realised her students weren’t feeling safe. She created a poll to ask them what they preferred. ‘Four students still wanted on-site classes and eleven people preferred online’, she says. ‘I think it is important to adapt to new situations and to take the students’ needs into account. If they indicate they feel unsafe, then I really want to listen to them.’ 

She did make sure, though, that the four students who wanted physical classes could still meet up and follow the class together. 

‘When we first started the class in-person, keeping our distance was working’, says Hedwig Fossen, one of Rahimichatri’s students. ‘But at one point we had to choose from a few objects that were kept at the front of the room. Everyone wanted their favourite thing, so naturally, everyone ran to the front. All of a sudden no one was keeping their distance anymore.’ 

Right intentions

Hedwig was one of the students who voted for online classes. ‘Things can go wrong very quickly’, she explains. ‘We had class in a giant room, but even if the intentions are right, it doesn’t always work.’ 

I’d have this looming anxiety in a room full of people

Her decision was, in a way, influenced by other students, she says. ‘If other people in a group say they feel safer at home, then I will take that into account. If I had been the only one to want online classes, then maybe I would have decided to go to physical classes anyway.’ 

Because of her recent covid diagnosis, Stephanie still doesn’t feel comfortable going to class. ‘If I were to be in a room with a whole bunch of people, even if I know distance can be kept, I would still have this looming anxiety’, she says.  

Pressure to come in

Deciding to stay home can be difficult when the government and the university do allow on-campus classes. ‘But you can’t tell someone that they have to be there when they’re just not comfortable with that’, says Stephanie. She herself hasn’t felt pressured to come in, though. ‘At the end of the day we’re all university students, so you would hope that we can make the choice that’s right for each of us.’ 

‘I think considering the current situation it is wise to offer classes online’, says Rahimichatri. ‘I’m responsible for the students and health is more important than on-site education.’

Still, that doesn’t mean they don’t miss the human aspect of in-person education. Stephanie has seen and talked to the other students in her master programme but hasn’t actually met any of them. ‘It would have been nice to have that community and go through this adventure together’, she says. ‘I do have a really good friend group, a comfortable home with good Wi-Fi, and enough space to be able to study, which makes it easier to stay at home. But I know that there are a lot of people who are not in such fortunate situations.’ 

‘We are human, and we enjoy seeing people in person’, Rahimichatri says. ‘But the situation calls for making decisions that might be against what we enjoy at the moment.’ 

Academy building’s flag at half-mast for murdered French teacher

Academy building’s flag at half-mast for French teacher

This Monday, the Dutch flag is being flown at half-mast in front of the Academy building. It’s the UG’s way of supporting France, where schools are doing the same in commemoration of the murder of teacher Samuel Paty.
2 November om 17:21 uur.
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om 16:22 uur.
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2 November om 17:21 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:22 uur.
Emily Zaal

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November 2 at 17:21 PM.
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Paty was beheaded in the street on October 16 for showing caricatures of the prophet Muhammad from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo when he was teaching his class about censorship. In 2015, terrorists attacked the magazine’s offices because they had published the caricatures. The day of Paty’s murder, the suspects in this attack appeared in court.

On Friday, education ministers Arie Slob (Christian Union) and Ingrid van Engelshoven (D66) asked schools for a minute of silence regarding the murder. In this, they emphasised the importance of freedom of speech in schools, among other things.

Essential

‘The minister has appealed to us, but here at the university we think it’s really important anyway’, says UG spokesperson Jorien Bakker. France may seem far away, but freedom of speech is an essential issue at the university, too, she says. ‘It’s important to show our solidarity, since we’re all part of the education system. We wholeheartedly support that at the UG.’

The university isn’t just showing support by flying the flag. ‘As soon as it gets dark, we’ll shine the colours of the French flag on the front of the Academy building’, says Bakker. That’s because when the sun goes down, the flag must be lowered, too. 

Medical students monitor corona patients at home

Medical students monitor corona patients at home

Their internships at the hospital were cancelled, but medical students Agens Grutters and Kalle Majoor didn’t just want to sit at home. They started a project monitoring corona patients at home, enabling hospitals to release them earlier.
6 May om 12:00 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:20 uur.
May 6 at 12:00 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
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Emily Zaal

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6 May om 12:00 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:20 uur.
Emily Zaal

By Emily Zaal

May 6 at 12:00 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:20 PM.
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Emily Zaal

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Thanks to the home monitoring project, twenty-one COVID-19 patients in the St. Antonius hospital in Nieuwegein were released early. ‘We saw how overwhelmed hospitals were’, Agnes explains their motivation.

The students are collaborating on the COVID-19 issue with the hospital’s lung specialists and an E-health team. They’re using an app that was originally designed for COPD patients, which means it’s already approved for medical uses. On top of that, the hospital was already familiar with the system.

Aftercare

Through the app, patients can keep their medical team apprised of their oxygen saturation and pass on any complaints. Two other UG interns are on the team as well: Olga Pijpers and Lotte Wolfs. 

Initially, the project focused shortening hospital stays to free up beds for new patients, but now that the number of patients being taken in is decreasing, the focus has shifted to aftercare. ‘Our patients say they prefer to get better at home’, says Agnes. 

Major event

‘We want to utilise home monitoring to answer patients’ questions’, says Agnes. They often experience their hospital stay as a major event. ‘They were surrounded by people in weird clothing and have been inundated with stories about how horrible the disease they have is, so I can understand their fears.’ 

The students want to offer the app to other hospitals as well. ‘If they’re interested, we’re willing to share our protocols and experience using the app’, says Agnes. ‘We really believe this can help. It’s a way to get back to regular healthcare.’