Riti Agarwal has just completed her first year of the Management of International Social Challenges (MISoC) bachelor. She is 18 years old and has been back with her family in Qatar since the start of lockdown.

Riti in the Polak Building, before her departure to Qatar

Why did you decide to leave Rotterdam?

“Partly because I felt safer: when lockdown was introduced in the Netherlands, the situation in Qatar was better. But the main reason for leaving was loneliness. My housemate in Rotterdam had already left and after spending a day alone in the house, I knew I couldn’t do it. I called my parents and returned to Qatar as soon I could. I thought: maybe a lockdown will be introduced there too, but at least I’ll have people around me.”

What is the situation like now in Qatar?

“We spent a long time in a total lockdown but since 1 July, parks have reopened for example. You still don’t see many people on the street though: the temperature is over fifty degrees at the moment, so everyone prefers to stay home in their air conditioning.”

Is there anything you miss about Rotterdam?

“First and foremost, the weather. Because it’s so hot here in Qatar, I don’t go outside for fresh air. In Rotterdam I could do that and I’d also suddenly be surrounded by green plants. I also miss the friends I made in the few months I was in Rotterdam. We often got together before an exam or we went to get a pizza. Now we can’t do any of that.”

Is there anything that you really don’t miss?

“The food I cooked for myself! Here my mother cooks and it’s much better. Oh, and cycling through a storm? I don’t miss that either.”

How did you find the online education?

“I felt the content was good, but the communication between the university and the students could have been better. Some days I’d receive five e-mails from the university, which caused some chaos. I think more attention could be devoted to that.”

Do you plan to return to Rotterdam?

“Not in the near future. I’ll stay here till Christmas anyway because all my lectures and tutorials are online until then. It then depends whether we are allowed back on campus for classes. If lectures are given on campus as well as online, I’ll stay in Qatar. But as soon as we can attend tutorials offline, I’ll be back.”

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