There is a world of difference between how Emma van Hoof spends her time now and how she used to in the pre-corona days. “It was remarkable how little time I actually spent at home when I was still living in Eindhoven,” says the fourth-year student who in September began a double Master's in the Science and Technology of Nuclear Fusion and Sustainable Energy Technology. “On weekdays I'd leave early for university and wouldn't get home until late at night. My diary was often full. With dancing at Footloose and group meals at Scala every Monday evening; with a SOLID team evening every Wednesday; and I regularly had evening activities at Van der Waals or my dispuut Curieus on other nights. I was so busy that when the corona period started I really didn't mind having more space in my diary; it was lovely spending more time at home.”
As time has passed, she has come to miss campus life, holed up as she is in Hardewijk. “I work in the same spot each and every day, all day long, and my days have a sameness to them. I miss the variety I had at uni. My work and activities took me to different buildings, and I would often drop by a friend's place if I felt like having a chat between sessions of study.” Feeding the chickens, that's one of the few things she can do now that she couldn't before.
For SOLID she works part time, and her commitments for the business team and recruitment she can fulfill at home, although this is proving something of a challenge. She was able to carry out only part of the original recruitment plan on campus before the lockdown. “That mainly involved a great deal of talking to people and being a visible presence on campus. With the advent of corona, a lot of that simply ceased. Now, for instance, it is difficult to reach students who aren't on any social media, and to tell students about SOLID in a face-to-face chat, to get them enthusiastic about what we are doing and why being involved in a student team is so cool. That's why we are giving recruitment a stronger focus this week on our social media channels.”
She is pleased that SOLID is making just as much headway online as it was before this corona period. “We spend a lot of time on Slack and Skype and app each other a lot, and we are still holding our weekly team evenings online via Discord. We use PowerPoint and Voice Notes to share our team updates. During a team evening, we have fun playing online games, eating pizza together - each of us at home, of course - or we just have a chat, catch up on all the news. I admit I miss eating together in innoSpace; every team evening a number of our members used to share the cooking and big pans of food would be carried over to Matrix, and there we would tuck in together.”
By contrast, something that dismays her is the cancelation of the event at which SOLID planned to demonstrate an application of iron powder, the circular and CO2-free fuel. “One of the things that really ticks me off is that the corona measures mean our demonstration at Swinkels Family Brewers, which was planned for May, can't go ahead. It is being rescheduled, but it's still a matter of wait and see as to when events like these will be allowed again.”
Emma really hopes she can go back to uni in September. “Studying together, having a drinks party at Van der Waals, holding team evenings and dispuut evenings, it's all that sociable fun that I miss most. But, then again, I don't know whether it is realistic to expect to be doing that again in September. I wonder whether people aren't being a bit hasty about leaving their homes now that the measures are being relaxed, and whether this will lead to a kind of second wave of infections.”
As far as she is concerned, the next relaxation of the measures would be the freedom to arrange to meet a group of friends. “An online version of just about everything has sprung up now, so in some form or other the old life is carrying on, albeit it online. The biggest difference is that you see fewer people in person, and it's less easy to have a conversation involving several people. Online it is much harder to understand people who are talking over each other, ha ha.”