Back on the campus: “It feels empty, but familiar”

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Back on the campus: “It feels empty, but familiar”

The first lectures are being taught once more, to small groups, on the campus. In the MetaForum library students can study again and Atlas has reopened to those wishing to work on the campus one day a week. Slowly but surely, the ghost campus that the university has been these past months due to the corona crisis is coming back to life. Cursor took a tour to gauge the mood.

photo Bart van Overbeeke

Accompanied by Alexander Ramp we take the stairs down to the study seats in the library in MetaForum. This master's student of Sustainable Energy Technology has not been on the campus since March: “This morning I had a lecture in Atlas. A group of fifteen of us students were sat in a small lecture theater while others watched via a live stream. Another room had been made available in case we had to scale up.”

Alexander found it “felt really good to be taught face to face again. Lately everything has been done via MS Teams, which works, but it is not so immediate if, say, you have a question. It really is nicer to be sitting in the classroom, live.”

He plans to spend some time in MetaForum studying; he finds that easier here than in his student house. “This place has a good study vibe. It is still a little empty, but it feels familiar.”

From behind a large Perspex screen, Geraldine Suijkerbuijk, hostess and front office staffer at the library, answers students' questions, over the telephone and live. Most questions relate to the procedure for booking study seats in MetaForum.

“I spent the entire corona period working here, on my own. That's because books were still being loaned, though you had to order online. It was my job to find the book and take it to Atlas, where it could be picked up.”

After this lonely stretch of work, she is hugely happy to see colleagues and students returning. The library in MetaForum has space for 120 students. The study seats can be reserved on BookMySpace. “As yet, only students and employees of TU/e are allowed to come here,” says Geraldine.

Study cabins are also available: eight large (for up to two people) and eight small (for one person). These can be reserved on Outlook.

Johanna Höffken, Assistant Professor at Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences, and innovation Space, will be on the campus three days this week, in part because yesterday her new learning line for USE courses got underway. “I am very pleased to be back on the campus, and the students feel the same way, too. Online education is okay, but the real work is done on campus, isn't it? Challenge-based learning, in particular, requires that we are here, together.”

This lecturer believes the university has put a lot of effort into managing the return process well. A minor point still needing a solution is that students sometimes have to come to TU/e for only an hour-long lecture. “But they don't want to complain, and they are grateful to be allowed back. I think that's fantastic,” she says enthusiastically.

“It is perhaps a little kitsch, but when I walked onto the campus and heard someone in the distance playing the piano in MetaForum, it felt so good again. I am happy!”

(Read on below the photos)

At a large table in the Auditorium are seated Yingchao Du and Jinfan Xu, quietly working on their laptops. These master's students of Data Science are making headway with their master's theses. So while they have no more lectures to bring them to the campus, they are very happy to have the opportunity to study here again. “Studying on campus is much more efficient for us than working at home. We feel safe here, the signposting and other signs really help people keep their distance.”

Video | Niels Dusseldorp

Back on campus @TU/e

Video | Niels Dusseldorp

In the Market Hall, we come across Niek Durlinger, a bachelor's student of Mechanical Engineering, at a picnic table. “I'm just watching a lecture before I go to a meeting here. This is my very first time on campus; I have just started my degree program.”

He would have followed the lecture at home, but couldn't. It would not have left him with enough time to travel up from Maastricht to his meeting. Nor was viewing en route an option because he forgot to bring his earpods. “But this is a solution.”

Gijs van de Sande, program-maker at Studium Generale, is on the campus today to prepare for the first live lecture of the new season. “On Wednesday September 2nd, Mindy Howard will be in the Blauwe Zaal with ‘Blast off!’ This will be a hybrid lecture: one with the audience in part offline and in part online.” Gijs has his work cut out for him today ensuring that the offline element follows the corona rules. He likes being back at work on the campus: “It is still quiet, even so isn't it nice as you walk in to simply have your colleagues there? To be able to ask them a question directly again, to look them in the eye. To ask, ‘Hey, good morning, how's it going?’ These small moments give you a lift.”

Wearing a pale yellow T-shirt bearing the words 'corona coach', Salah Hamed, bachelor's student of Automotive, stands in the Auditorium. “I am here to make sure that the corona rules are followed properly.”

Students who have booked a study seat on BookMySpace can report to him or one of his colleagues. In return they are given a large placemat of sorts to lay in front of them to ensure they are always sitting at a clean workspace. The placemat is easy to clean and the student can keep it. “There aren't that many students in the Auditorium yet, but I'm keeping a watchful eye. We work in shifts, so at 14.00 hrs another coach will take my place. I'm doing this as a job alongside my Automotive program. It's nice to earn a bit of extra of course, but I'm also doing it to ensure our safety; my uncle had corona - luckily he's recovered, but it makes you keenly aware of how important the rules are.”

“It is great, it really is, to be back here again, especially now that the academic year has begun,” says community manager Erik de Jong with a broad smile on his face, all the while waving to familiar faces he sees walking by. “We managed to organize a great deal online during the corona period for our community, but there is nothing like seeing people in the flesh. This morning I have already spoken to so many people and got a lot of things done. I'd never have done it all so quickly online.”

We come across Melanie Hendriks, bachelor's student of Mechanical Engineering, in the library, where she “is attempting to watch a lecture and work on my BEP. I attend few lectures, I do a lot of private study and I watch recorded lectures when I need to." During the corona period she was doing all this at her parents' home. Now that she is back in Eindhoven, she is pleased that MetaForum is available again. "It's still wonderfully quiet here.”

As Melanie now knows, a study seat can be reserved for two hours, but you can also book multiple blocks back to back on BookMySpace.

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