“Away from that tiny village, away from my own comfort zone. I’d been wanting that for years,” Svenja tells us. Starting from age 15, she received additional tutoring in English so that she’d be fluent enough to study abroad. Initially, she dreamt of going to the USA. “Until I realised what a shitshow that country is. Anyone following the American news can see it. I really liked the idea of living in England, as well, and then came Brexit. One of my teachers knew Leiden and suggested I go there, but their communications degree wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. I was drawn to EUR’s International Bachelor’s in Communication and Media (IBCoM) because of the combination of creativity, business-mindedness and science. I would have done a lot to get out of the village, but getting the right degree is the most important thing.”

Making the decision was a big deal, and then she had to convince the admissions board and her parents. “I said: As far as distance is concerned, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be doing this, because the nearest university in Germany offering this degree is three hours from here, as well. But getting a degree in the Netherlands is more expensive than getting one at home. My father secretly conducted some research of his own on this degree in Rotterdam, and suddenly he told me: ‘I think it’s a very good degree programme.’ So that’s when I enrolled.”

Svenja was convinced that she wouldn’t make it past the admissions lottery, but wanted to give it a shot, anyway. In May she was told that she would be admitted to the degree programme. “I’m still not quite sure why. They told us beforehand that they wanted to recruit the most international students possible, and I’m only from Germany. And unlike other German students, I’ve never lived in Abu Dhabi or Brazil. Thankfully, I now have to work so hard in my studies that I don’t have time to think about that. The required reading alone is so much that I’m wondering what I’ve got myself into,” she says, smiling.

Her parents are proud of her, which means a lot to her. And her boyfriend assured her that she, in her capacity as an ‘authentic’ German, would add a lot of value to the programme. That, too, made her feel better.

So what about the coronavirus? Was she concerned about that at any stage? “No, not really. I’ll be home in no time [if I have to]. I actually went home a few times before Germany designated the Netherlands a red zone. When that happened, my mother rang me and said, ‘Come home!’ But I told her I wanted to attend the second term on campus, if possible obviously. If I have to, I can still go home later.”

However, Svenja is glad that she decided to live with a landlady rather than in a hall of residence or flat shared with other students. She has a small kitchen and bathroom to herself, so for her, social distancing at home is not an issue.