20 April 2020

Southern comfort

Just over a month ago, they were celebrating that spring had finally arrived in Maastricht. The day after, they sat on a plane home – where they still are (home, that is, not the plane…). First-year UCM students Giulia Petrilli in Puglia, Italy and Max Griera in Catalonia, Spain share their experiences of the coronavirus crisis in Southern Europe.

Max Griera
UCM student Max Griera at the foodmarket in Sant Cugat, Catalonia

Disinfecting the dog

Max still gets out most days to do groceries at the food markets and walk his dog – but things are far from normal. “I wear a mask and gloves, and I disinfect the dog’s paws afterwards. My sister wanted to volunteer in the hospital but there was too much of a risk that she might infect us.”

They both miss Maastricht, the close-knit UCM community and their friends – as well as structure. “It felt like a holiday at first,” Max remembers. “I hadn’t been home in three months, so it was nice and relaxing: I had drinks with my friends via video conference, slept in, and watched a lot of Netflix…” Then, the need to study forced him into a better routine.

Max doesn’t really take to online education: “I just love the sense of community, talking to the people after the lectures and so on – I really miss it!” Giulia, though, was positively surprised: “It’s better than I’d thought. UM has put in a lot of effort and it was quite a smooth transition.” She agrees that structure is vital. “I try to get up at roughly the same time and plan ahead.”

Grateful for the little things

Giulia enjoys having the time to contemplate the learning outcomes in greater depths. She has even started learning French during her time in self-solation. At the same time, she advocates enjoying the small things in life and finding a healthy balance. “At this point, I’m really excited if I get to do the groceries!”

Both hope to return to Maastricht before the summer – but aren’t too optimistic whether that might be possible. They will certainly bring back a heightened sense of appreciation. “I look forward to start rowing practice again,” says Max, “and I miss the library a lot.”

“I really enjoy walking to class; it will be even more beautiful when it’s sunny,” Giulia concludes. “And I really enjoy living on my own, making my own decisions...” So there’s that to look forward to – and whatever the opposite of social distancing is. “Yes, meeting people, lots and lots of people!”

Closed shops in Sant Cugat
By: Florian Raith