The University in the time of coronavirus: from working at the kitchen table to a livestream PhD defence
The outbreak of coronavirus has radically changed our life and work. We have had to work, teach and conduct research from home. How has coronavirus changed your work? What do you miss most? And what is keeping you going? We asked a few colleagues.
Rosalinde Spitters, skills lecturer at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.
‘The past year has been quite a corona-coaster for me. The first weeks were very intense. We lived with the three of us in 57 square metres, so we decided to move. Incidentally, we not only decided that because of coronavirus, but also because we had rather... vibrant neighbours. In August, we found our current home, which is a lot more spacious than the first one. We’ve accepted that working from home is a long-term thing, we’ve created a nice office space and we’ve found a rhythm with a good balance between working life and family.
‘My toddler son Kiyan is helping us through the crisis. He brings so much joy and adventure to my life. Practically speaking, he’s a good reason to get up on time. He has to eat healthy meals, and so do we. And he can run very fast and is really good at climbing, so we spend plenty of time outdoors.’
Erick van Zuylen, University beadle
‘The academic ceremonies have mainly been cancelled, but the PhD defences have had to carry on, of course: people can’t wait months to complete their PhD research. So we’ve carried on with the defences, but in a very slimmed down style. At first there was only the Rector and me, as beadle, in the Telders auditorium, and everyone else followed the ceremony via a livestream - including the PhD candidate! As the summer approached, we were able to broaden that slightly but now (at the end of December, Ed.), the lockdown means that we’ve had to go back to how it was in the early days. It’s good to see that the PhD candidates and supervisors are happy that the defences can carry on, even though they’re different from the norm. I feel the same, although I do miss the processions.’
Hilde Pracht-Altorf, editor at the Faculty of Science
‘Our son Luca was born in March. The country went into lockdown two weeks later. My close family was just able to visit, but the weeks that followed were unreal and lonely. I introduced Luca to my colleagues through Microsoft Teams. And when I went back to work, I had to find out how everything worked, whereas my colleagues had already got used to working from home. And what I desperately wanted was a change of scene. What do I miss most is being able to bounce ideas off my colleagues, just calling out to them across the office, if you’re not sure about something.’
Share your COVID story
How how this COVID year been for you? How has your work or life changed? What do you miss? What keeps you going? The communications team is looking for students and staff who want to share their experience for this series of coronavirus portraits. Contact us for more information.
Maaike Smit, secretary at the Institute of Public Law
‘I’ve felt down at times, like everyone else I assume. But it’s also been a very special time that’s made me better at enjoying the “small” things in life, like having lunch with my daughter, spotting a bird of prey while out walking or enjoying the sunset on the beach. It’s been a valuable lesson.
‘I hope that the University won’t squander the progress we’ve made with online teaching, meetings and assessment. Not that things should stay as they are now, but it would benefit workplace stress, the climate and efficiency if we carry on working at home at least some of the time. In-person teaching is very important though.’
Meike de Boer, PhD candidate at Leiden University Centre for Linguistics
‘Many people have become more aware of the climate crisis in this period. In academia people are wondering whether it is acceptable for us to travel to conferences all round the world. Although I definitely miss the personal contact with my peers, I can’t imagine fully returning to how it was. I hope that meetings will be held more locally and that lots of conferences and symposia will continue to be online and free.
‘While visiting a colleague I saw she had a piano with sheet music open at it. I realised that I missed that: my current home lacked creativity. So I decided to take up the violin again having not played for years. I now have a violin lesson every week and practise every day after work. That’s how I herald the end of work each day.’
Jasmijn Mioch, HRM learning & development adviser
‘At a certain point, I caught coronavirus. I suddenly realised I’d lost my sense of smell and taste. I’m hugely grateful that we didn’t infect anyone around us. We immediately went into quarantine as a family. Luckily, my boyfriend and I only had very mild symptoms.
‘An essential ritual in these times is to keep moving. At least 8,000 steps per day. If I can, I move away from the screen and walk around while I’m doing my phone appointments. Even when we were in quarantine, I still managed to reach my 8,000-step target every day. If I’m not allowed out, I just run around our garden, while the children are playing in the sandpit and on the trampoline.’