“Rotterdam really is the city of opportunities, isn’t it?”, says Nur. After we’ve bought two coffees at the Pavilion, we walk past the Polak Building, then leave the campus. Nur briefly glances towards the Rotterdam city centre. “I get the feeling that this is a place of many possibilities. For instance, when those texts were projected onto the Tinbergen Building a little while ago, and onto buildings all over the city. That was the coolest thing ever!” She has said she is ‘super happy’ to be here ever since she arrived in Rotterdam. She still has a good feeling about the city. Maybe she could stay here after getting her degree, she says, thinking out loud.

Nur Younis
Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

A special birthday gift

But don’t think for one moment that the 19-year-old student doesn’t miss Spain. Tell her that you’d like to visit Madrid some day and Nur will get a sparkle in the eye and immediately start giving you a host of tips, ranging from nice restaurants to great museums she wholeheartedly recommends. Nur misses her family and friends, but she also misses Spanish delicacies. Thankfully, her mother recently sent her half a kilo of Spanish cheese, as well as a large leg of Spanish ham. The same parcel also contained her birthday present, which she isn’t allowed to open until 27 April.

She is momentarily distracted when a dog passes by. “Ooh, look how cute!” Her own dog in Spain died a little while ago. It was sixteen years old, but even so, its death came as a surprise to her.

EM – Nur _DEF

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Dealing with loss

Speaking of loss, Nur says she is not quite sure how to comfort her friends. “What can you say to friends who have lost loved ones to the virus? It’s so hard.” It’s a subject that has come up a few times during the pandemic. She has friends – fellow international students – who have lost loved ones in their home countries. “I remember having a rough time of it when I lost my grandma. We were very close, and I still miss her. But I was with my family at the time, which helped.” She is here for her friends, she says. “If they want to talk about it, I’m always willing to listen.”

The Management of International Social Challenges (MISOC) student is still enjoying her degree programme. However, she can clearly tell that online teaching is having an impact. “Take our statistics course, for instance. Normally, some 60 percent of students pass the exam. This time only 30 percent did. Students are definitely having a harder time of it.” This being the case, Nur can’t wait to have ‘regular’ lectures and seminars.

Paul Hartwig

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