PandēmusSpiegeloog 403: Global

Pandēmus: Internationals in Amsterdam – To stay or to leave

By April 11, 2020 April 16th, 2020 No Comments

On March 12, following government measures, UvA announced that all on-site teaching was to be suspended, and would be offered online until the end of the month. In the following couple of weeks, many international students jumped on a flight or train to get home as soon as possible. This was the logical reaction for many, including us. When we heard that there were quite a few internationals in Amsterdam, even in early April, we assumed they had probably tried to go back home, but were ultimately ‘stuck’ here. Thus, we decided to interview first and second-year Psychology students who are still in the city, and hear about their experiences.

Among those who are stuck in Amsterdam, is Loizos. For him, the timing was awful. Although he booked a flight to Cyprus, departing a few days after the announcement by UvA, it was already too late. Questionable decisions from home officials got his plane and the ones after cancelled. With the last flight to Cyprus departing a day before his scheduled one, he was left with no way to go back. The Cypriot embassy in the Hague is still finding a solution for students like him. He isn’t ‘in a rush’, but he would like to ‘get home and be safe’. Official decisions also led to another student having no way out of Amsterdam. With an expired visa, she couldn’t go back to her family in Dubai, and going to her home in Kazakhstan, to stay with other relatives, meant a two-week quarantine in a specialized facility. With no better option, she decided to stay in Amsterdam.

However, not every international student in Amsterdam is ‘stuck’. When we began the interviews for the column, we realized that there was another side to the story. 

Some students decided to stay in Amsterdam because it allowed for more social interaction. This was the case for a couple of Italian students who had the option of going back to Italy, where the lockdown is far stricter than it is in the Netherlands. In Northern Italy, where Francesca is from, a lockdown had been imposed since the beginning of March. Going home meant being ‘quarantined with family’. She thus decided to stay in Amsterdam with her five flatmates and under a partial lockdown. For another interviewed Italian student, social interaction was so important that he has now decided to fly home because his friends have left. 

While some students chose to stay for the company, others had more surprising reasons to do so. Valentina, another first-year student, didn’t even think about going back to Chile. She had been living in Europe for the last two years, and every summer she went back home to the Chilean winter. She hasn’t had a summer in two consecutive years, and she’s determined to break this pattern. In Nicole’s case, it was her consideration towards the general welfare of society that determined her decision. She wanted to be with her family and had the option to fly back to the United States. However, that meant going through airports and potentially helping to spread the virus, so she decided to stay. Another student from Italy has an even more surprising reason to stay: her love for horse riding. After her roommates left, she had decided to go back to Milan. Things changed when she received a call from her riding trainer in Amsterdam: they offered her an apartment in their stables with no extra charge. She then had to choose between quarantine at home or practicing a hobby she loves more than ever. It certainly wasn’t a tough decision for her.   

In the end, these are all quite unique stories. Contrary to what we expected, not all international students in Amsterdam are ‘stuck’ there. Some actively decided to stay, and their reasons are very different. Yet, they still have many things in common. These times have brought to light how important social interaction and support is for all of us. With this in mind, Jesper and Gabi, two Dutch students, created a WhatsApp support group for internationals who remained in Amsterdam. Through this group, they translate news from the Dutch media and check in on how everyone is doing since they are away from home and many are living alone. In their conversations with the students and our interviews, we made a common observation: despite the rapid changes and uncertainty, people adapt quickly and keep moving forward. So wherever we wait the quarantine out, we will accommodate and overcome the crisis.  A mildly comforting realization in these difficult times. 

Photo by Jan Vašek

On March 12, following government measures, UvA announced that all on-site teaching was to be suspended, and would be offered online until the end of the month. In the following couple of weeks, many international students jumped on a flight or train to get home as soon as possible. This was the logical reaction for many, including us. When we heard that there were quite a few internationals in Amsterdam, even in early April, we assumed they had probably tried to go back home, but were ultimately ‘stuck’ here. Thus, we decided to interview first and second-year Psychology students who are still in the city, and hear about their experiences.

Among those who are stuck in Amsterdam, is Loizos. For him, the timing was awful. Although he booked a flight to Cyprus, departing a few days after the announcement by UvA, it was already too late. Questionable decisions from home officials got his plane and the ones after cancelled. With the last flight to Cyprus departing a day before his scheduled one, he was left with no way to go back. The Cypriot embassy in the Hague is still finding a solution for students like him. He isn’t ‘in a rush’, but he would like to ‘get home and be safe’. Official decisions also led to another student having no way out of Amsterdam. With an expired visa, she couldn’t go back to her family in Dubai, and going to her home in Kazakhstan, to stay with other relatives, meant a two-week quarantine in a specialized facility. With no better option, she decided to stay in Amsterdam.

However, not every international student in Amsterdam is ‘stuck’. When we began the interviews for the column, we realized that there was another side to the story. 

Some students decided to stay in Amsterdam because it allowed for more social interaction. This was the case for a couple of Italian students who had the option of going back to Italy, where the lockdown is far stricter than it is in the Netherlands. In Northern Italy, where Francesca is from, a lockdown had been imposed since the beginning of March. Going home meant being ‘quarantined with family’. She thus decided to stay in Amsterdam with her five flatmates and under a partial lockdown. For another interviewed Italian student, social interaction was so important that he has now decided to fly home because his friends have left. 

While some students chose to stay for the company, others had more surprising reasons to do so. Valentina, another first-year student, didn’t even think about going back to Chile. She had been living in Europe for the last two years, and every summer she went back home to the Chilean winter. She hasn’t had a summer in two consecutive years, and she’s determined to break this pattern. In Nicole’s case, it was her consideration towards the general welfare of society that determined her decision. She wanted to be with her family and had the option to fly back to the United States. However, that meant going through airports and potentially helping to spread the virus, so she decided to stay. Another student from Italy has an even more surprising reason to stay: her love for horse riding. After her roommates left, she had decided to go back to Milan. Things changed when she received a call from her riding trainer in Amsterdam: they offered her an apartment in their stables with no extra charge. She then had to choose between quarantine at home or practicing a hobby she loves more than ever. It certainly wasn’t a tough decision for her.   

In the end, these are all quite unique stories. Contrary to what we expected, not all international students in Amsterdam are ‘stuck’ there. Some actively decided to stay, and their reasons are very different. Yet, they still have many things in common. These times have brought to light how important social interaction and support is for all of us. With this in mind, Jesper and Gabi, two Dutch students, created a WhatsApp support group for internationals who remained in Amsterdam. Through this group, they translate news from the Dutch media and check in on how everyone is doing since they are away from home and many are living alone. In their conversations with the students and our interviews, we made a common observation: despite the rapid changes and uncertainty, people adapt quickly and keep moving forward. So wherever we wait the quarantine out, we will accommodate and overcome the crisis.  A mildly comforting realization in these difficult times. 

Photo by Jan Vašek

Néstor Narbona Chulvi

Author Néstor Narbona Chulvi

Néstor Narbona Chulvi (2001) is a first-year psychology student, also interested in economy. He writes about behavioural economics and other applications of psychology. Sometimes he gets philosophical.

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