“Could you please keep one and a half metres’ distance?” The new students at the entrance to the information market at Tapijn take a few steps to the side. “Thank you very much,” says the senior-year student, wearing an Inkom sports shirt.
It is Inkom week. But the city is unusually quiet, no senior-year students preparing for a week-long party, no Inkom groups on their way to an event, no overcrowded pubs. Even at the information market this Monday afternoon – one of the few in-person Inkom 2020 activities – there are no big crowds. The first-year students are registering in dribs and drabs (completely in accordance with the protocol) and are making their way past the stalls of the student associations, the university orchestra, UM Sports, a major bed manufacturer, and Studium Generale, organiser of lectures and cultural events. Halfway through, there is the chairperson of the Inkom Working Group, Milou Berdenis van Berlekom. She and her team had the most bizarre experience ever preparing for Inkom. In spring of this year, COVID-19 forced them to overturn the whole programme that they had worked on for months, changing it to partly online and partly face-to-face. When that was finished, media reports started to appear two weeks ago saying that the introductions were to be cancelled because COVID-19 was rearing its ugly head again. Eventually, Prime Minister Rutte stated that something would still be possible under strict conditions. “It was a huge blow; we had worked on a safe Inkom for months.” Then cheerfully: “It is a small victory that this market, at any rate, can still take place, students will still have direct contact with each other and the university.”
A little further along, six or so students swarm before the city of Maastricht’s stall where it is being explained how to separate household waste. Also, at the bed manufacturer’s stall – students can win a bed – there is suddenly a small group. But not for long. Someone in an orange vest kindly asks them not to forget about the one-and-a-half-metre rule.