“I'm studying in my old bedroom”

Working from home during this time of corona crisis is slowly becoming our new normal. We are learning to work with the changing parameters and negotiating our own personal pitfalls, adjusting to the demands of homeworking, and missing the campus and each other like never before. Every day Cursor calls a fellow homeworker to hear how they are doing. Today, Jo-Ann Ewald, third-year Medical Sciences and Technology, who has a part-time job in a nursing home.

photo Privécollectie Jo-Anne Ewald

It has a hint of luxury, living back home as a student, but it is also takes some adjustment, on both sides. Jo-Anne Ewald has spent the past two-and-a-half years living independently in an apartment in Helmond, but has decided to spend the current period of online education living with her parents and younger sister in Utrecht. Motivated to a large extent by her part-time job in a care home in Utrecht.

The garden is lovely but it is not where you'll likely find Jo-Ann in this nice weather. “In this neighborhood a lot of children play outdoors so I find it hard to concentrate. I prefer to study in my old bedroom.”

A bedroom, it must be said, where the air carries a delicious scent. This is because she shares it with her sister who works with chocolate.My younger sister is training to be a baker and is a self-taught chocolatier. As this room is the coolest in the house, it's the best one for the chocolate. Once I was using it only on the occasional weekend, she was able to start using it herself. Now we are doing our best to coordinate so that we both have the space we need.”

This deliciously scented room is also where she now takes her exams. She finds this pretty tricky.“The room has to satisfy a lot of criteria: no one is allowed to enter, the wifi can't be overloaded, there can't be any noise. I can ask my family members to be considerate but suppose the guy next door decides to start drilling? I can hardly ask the entire street to be quiet because I've got an exam.”  

So far, as a diligent student Ewald can say that online education has been working very well for her. Although it is a shame that the component she had studied in advance will no longer be tested. “Some of what I was due to be learning is being taught via online education and some of it has been put on ice. I'm pretty bummed about that; I'd already studied the whole course in advance of covering it in class and now we aren't going to be doing it! The online education that I'm getting, on the other hand, has been totally great. Except for the occasional faltering internet connection at the lecturer's end, or someone not having their microphone on mute, everything has gone pretty well. No one could have foreseen these circumstances and I certainly feel that TU/e put its best foot forward in getting this 'solved' as quickly as possible in the second half of quartile 3.”

Eight weeks

An entire quartile online, however, she expects would be more of a challenge: “You can't ask a quick question between lectures, for example, and there isn't any real personal contact, which is one of TU/e's strengths, I feel. My online education so far has consisted only of a group project that we had to do and that we had to discuss with the lecturer, and this is an entirely different proposition from having to follow a series of lectures lasting eight weeks. I imagine that could be pretty hard going at times. I also have an OGO and a project, and there's a question mark over how the project will be taught. So I am intrigued how this situation is going to unfold.”

“I am pleased that, because I was in the iGEM team this year, I won't be doing a Bachelor's Final Project in the next quartile. I'd want to do that in the lab, so that I can choose my master's on the basis of my lab experience. You can't really ‘simulate’ that in some other way that is going to help you make the right decision.”


Care duties

At home in Utrecht, Ewald does not need to do the cooking, the laundry or grocery shopping and she even has tea brought to her when she is sitting upstairs studying. She in turn takes care of those in need of help in a nursing home. This has been her part-time job for the past four years, but her work is now somewhat different. “The COVID-19 measures mean the restaurant is closed and no visitors are allowed in. Which is obviously very difficult for both parties to bear. It also means that the residents need us assistants more than ever, because along with their fellow residents we are the only people with whom they can now have a face-to-face conversation (though at a distance of 1.5 meters). Besides this, I can help them to use a cell phone or a tablet they may have just been given by their family so they can video call. For many of our residents they are using these devices for the first time.”

She gets a kick out of the pavement drawings chalked outside the care home, the singer who stands outside and sings to people indoors, the cards and drawing made by children in the neighborhood and the flowers delivered by a local florist. “It is lovely to see how quickly everyone manages to switch gear at a difficult time like this and that initiatives like this are being set up. Corona is no fun for anyone so I hope that this period is over soon, but in the meantime we can make things a little more bearable. I already found my work rewarding but the fact that you are especially valuable to the residents, and they let you know that, makes it extra special right now.”

Another thing she is happy about is that the government is still allowing us to exercise outdoors. ”You'll find me outside in the fresh air every day, running or cycling. And it's a lot nicer in the sunshine than in the rain.”

The crisis has also set her thinking: “However awful this may be, however great the changes it asks of everyone, I hope that more people will become aware of the fact that you can't take your life, freedom and all the other things we see as being 'normal' simply for granted. As a result of this misery, I hope that people start to value the small things more and that they see that even these little things can really boost your spirits.” And she hopes that everyone cares a little bit more about their nearest and dearest, “even if that only takes the form of a card, letter or app, but at a difficult time like this the most important thing is to show each other that you care.”


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