At that same moment, a colleague’s head and my own turn towards a large table surrounded by three impressive cameras and a small army of bright lights. My eyes wander to the empty chair at the front, the presenter’s. Apparently, that chair was meant for me.
This turned out to be the first episode of Erasmus TV. ‘Doing something with video’ on the Monday after the campus lockdown was an idea that had evolved over the weekend. Fifteen minutes of preparation time, no broadcasting experience and not the best hair day, but armed with questions from concerned students and several staff members. The studio was packed with technicians, communications staff and Education Lab employees.
The studio became emptier with each episode. We often Skyped with our guest speakers. Avoiding the campus became the new rule. Yet while everyone else worked from home, I cycled to the campus several times a week. In record time too. The city was deserted, especially when I set out from Rotterdam North at half past seven in the morning. I no longer needed to take shortcuts to dodge traffic lights. I’d never seen the Oostplein so empty in daylight.
That bike ride was my oasis of calm during the day. The journey through the silent dawn of Rotterdam growing greener by the day, was my time-out. Because, before anyone sat behind their laptop in their sweatpants, or braless, or with their hair unwashed, I had already cycled through the city with blow-dried hair and wearing lipstick. Once on campus, it was about getting everything prepared, checking that my lipstick wasn’t slapped on up to my ears, welcoming guests, presenting, hastily cycling home, holding online meetings about the next broadcast, more prep, contacting guests beforehand, putting the broadcast online and finally getting to bed on time for the next one. Over the past few weeks it is slowly but steadily getting busier in the city again. Once again, ignoring traffic lights is only doable if you’re willing to risk your own life. Guest speakers are keen to visit the studio. An hour’s drive? No problem. “Could I please come to the campus again sometime?”
Don’t get me wrong. It was amazing that I got the chance to learn something new during these corona months. But it was also extremely full-on and heaps of work. Now that cars are once more swerving past cyclists on the roads, that quieter Rotterdam seems far away. Just like those moments of calm I had cycling through the city bathed in morning light. The 41st and final episode before the summer break is now behind us; plenty of time to cycle to an outdoor café again. I can unwind there too.
Tessa is EM editor and presenter of Erasmus TV.