And so Salma has no choice but to stay in Eindhoven, where she lives in student apartment block Aurora on the campus. “Many internationals are feeling trapped here because they can't go back home, to their family. Many governments have changed their policy on allowing travelers into their country with immediate effect. My friends at Cosmos (Salma is secretary of this international student association, ed.) tell me that they really want to go home. The Cosmos treasurer left for the airport yesterday, but it was a fruitless journey and she had to come back. People are not happy to be stuck here.”
Salma isn't worried about herself but about her mother, who lives alone in Egypt. "I've already warned her many times that she must be careful because the Egyptian mass media does not seem to be taking the corona crisis seriously. It seems as if they do not understand that it's not so much about whether you get ill, but about stopping the rapid spread of the disease. I feel the situation there is tricky. I try to call my mother regularly, but she isn't very good with the new technologies. It is very difficult to be so far away from her, especially since my father has passed away. But now the fear of infection is rearing its head, I'm finding it even more difficult. But she is smart, I hope she is following my advice," adds Salma positively.
Personally, she's doing okay; Salma is busy with her academic work and is in regular discussion with the board of Cosmos. "Many of the Cosmos activities have been canceled now that the Common Room is closed. We are trying to explain to our members that it was not our choice to close the Common Room, but it is good that it has been closed as a precautionary measure."
"As yet we haven't heard about any problems that our members are encountering, except for not being able to travel back home. That idea now has to sink in with everybody and we are going to look at online activities that we can offer - like a Netflix party. Chrome has a plug-in that enables you to watch a film or series with multiple people and chat. It gives you a little of the feeling of being together. Besides this, we are now sending a weekly newsletter with puzzles and games to our members. That provides some distraction."
As yet the only questions the Cosmos board has received from members have been about their education and what is going to happen. "But like everyone else we know only that TU/e is working hard to roll out its online education. I am pleased with the corona updates that the university is mailing regularly." Salma expects that next week, when the online education gets underway, the first problems will rear their head. "But we are going to make the best of it."
Salma tries to stick to a regular routine whenever she can. Every morning she does her workout in an open space outdoors. "Now I've got the time for it." For the rest, she plans her day full of meetings. "I am constantly looking at how I can ensure my studies stay on track. In the past I was involved in a lockdown in Egypt; you have to adapt all the time. An important component of the Architecture degree involves making models in the studios in Vertigo. Of course, that's closed to us now. Fortunately, one of my group members has a 3D printer at home that we are kindly allowed to use. So I have been able to complete lots of models. Despite the situation, we are trying to complete everything within the given timeframe and this printer is helping enormously."
Student apartment block Aurora on the TU/e campus is now scarily empty, remarks Salma. "I think that most people have either gone back home or are staying indoors. I feel for the building; it's normally so full of life. I had expected that people would seek each other out in the lobby, but in the past four days I've seen only three people there. Given the circumstances I suppose that's not a bad thing."
"I live on the eleventh floor and this morning I heard absolutely nothing. There was no one in the building, I heard no sounds of construction work, absolutely nothing. It was utterly surreal."