The new academic year is starting this week. Normally, only first-year students would get lost on campus, but this year, the more advanced students are having to reacquaint themselves with the campus, as well, after having been absent from it for half a year. “I’m very glad to be able to leave the house again,” says Milano, 25, who is doing a Master’s in business analytics management. “I share a house with a lot of others, so it’s great to be able to separate work and personal lives again.”

Here and there students can be found sitting in lecture theatres and rooms, physically distancing where possible. However, you can’t say the campus is a busy place. Nevertheless, a guard in the hall of the Theil Building has to point out to a few students that they’re in an area that has been cordoned off with red-and-white security tape. In other words, they are not allowed to sit there. “Sorry, I’ll find myself another spot,” says a female student, trying not to smile.

Near the cafeteria on the ground floor of the Tinbergen Building, Rumeng Luo, 23, is studying the sign giving directions to the various buildings. Rumeng is from Shanghai and wears a face mask. She is glad to see the reporter. “Where do I find this place?” she asks, pointing at her phone. In between Chinese characters, it says ‘CSA-EUR’ – the name of the Chinese student society. She has joined the society in order to get to meet more people. “It’s kind of tricky, because I do want to keep one and a half metres’ distance and I’m kind of scared, but at the same time, I want to meet people. So I’m going to have to find a middle ground.”

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A bit awkward

Prior to coming to Rotterdam, Rumeng attended Delft University of Technology, so she is familiar with the Netherlands. “I love the open-minded and kind people here. Here on campus, too, everyone is willing to help if you get a little lost.” She has come to Rotterdam to do a Master’s in business analytics.

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Image credit: Marko de Haan

Outside the building, the reporter finds Larissa de Jong and Luuk Blankenburgh, both aged 18. They are ready to go home, having just spent their first day on campus. The two freshers attended the same secondary school: Vreewijk Lyceum Calvijn. “This place is a lot bigger,” says Larissa, smiling. So what is her first impression of the campus architecture? “They’re not that pretty, these buildings.” The weather – overcast, rainy – isn’t helping. The two former school mates agreed to meet on campus today, even though they are enrolled in different degree programmes. Luuk has just embarked on a Bachelor’s in fiscal economics, while Larissa is a law student. “Now that we have to do so many things online, making new friends is a bit awkward.”

Esmeralda, who runs the coffee stand in the hall of the Theil Building, is ‘finally’ having an afternoon on which she ‘gets to pour a lot of cups’. She is not at all happy that the guards are sending people on their way. “And now those poor freshers, who have no idea how things are done here on their first day here, are getting told off by the guards! Come on, let these kids sit where they want to sit. We have plenty of room here. And it improves the vibe around here. We’re already back to a situation where there’s hardly enough room for all students to find a study spot on campus.” So are things back to normal, then? “No, they’re not. And I don’t think they will be any time soon.”

OAY 2020 Alexander Lima 4

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