Student: Mayra Nassef (18, first-year IBCoM student)
Lockdown activity: Playing the guitar

Mayra is Egyptian by birth but has lived in Dubai her whole life. “And since August, I’ve been living in Rotterdam,” she says. “It all started off quite strange though. At the very first, everything was still open, so fortunately I was able to explore Rotterdam a bit – however slightly. But then in October, all the bars and restaurants closed. That really changed the whole vibe. Particularly when you’ve just moved somewhere, bars are an ideal place to meet up with people and get to know them. Talking over a quick cup of coffee is out of the question right now. And generally, you don’t invite people over who you don’t know that well yet.”

Messed-up rhythm

“So that was quite a setback. And of course, I can’t go to any lectures either, so I don’t really meet people that way. Our lectures are all at home and online. That took some getting used to in the beginning. Suddenly your whole life is turned upside down. I’ve heard that many students are sleeping in a lot more. They only get out of bed when they have an online lecture, and after that they go straight back to bed or spend the rest of the day on their phone. While that’s a very tempting prospect, it completely messes up your circadian rhythm. I really want to avoid that.”

Schedule on the wall

Mayra4-aangepaste tweede foto

“It’s very important to me to have structure. That also helps me to stay healthy, mentally speaking. Everyone has been hit pretty hard by the curfew. It didn’t take long before I decided to draw up a schedule for the whole day. It outlines what I can do from one hour to the next. I make sure to take enough breaks and find time to relax, but I’m also taking my study programme very seriously. I put this schedule up on the wall over my desk, and I check it quite often. It really gives you something to hold on to. And I keep setting my alarm too. Not super early, but still: 9 a.m. A good time to start on the day, and I wake up nice and rested.”

Writes own songs

In her ‘spare time’ – when she can take a break from her study programme and doesn’t have any online lectures to attend – Mayra plays music. “I bought a guitar online and I’ve been teaching myself to play, using videos on YouTube. A few simple chords at first, but it’s steadily getting more complicated. It keeps me going. I also sing along when I’m playing, and I’m writing my own songs. I’m basically playing every day – in the afternoon, when my schedule gives me ‘time off’. Oh yeah, and I’m learning Dutch – once again online. I originally planned to start on that in the summer, but with so much extra time I might as well go ahead and do it now. It’s going quite well actually. When I go to the Albert Heijn, I can already understand what people are saying to me. So I’m getting there.”

Mayra does meet up with friends occasionally. These are small-scale get-togethers though: “Cooking a nice dinner for someone at home, or drinking tea together. Not in a bar though, unfortunately. Hopefully this will all be possible again soon. And that’s when my life in Rotterdam really starts.”

Read more in this series

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