“When I leave the attic and go downstairs, I am home”

The second wave: study advisor Olga Penninger


The new lockdown brings new challenges for Olga Penninger, study advisor at the Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences. “We are showing a new colleague the ropes but not everyone can work as hard as normal because of their personal circumstances, so I now have extra work.” That is, as far as is possible, because Penninger and her partner Mark are also responsible for the distance education of Ise (11) and Arne (8). The morning walk – which is how she started every day in spring – has now been moved to the evening.

Teaching at home has improved since spring. “Ise’s teacher especially has really got things organised. With the online instructions and the meet-up moments as well as the work that they receive, it is almost as if they are really at school. That was a completely different story in March-May, Mark and I spent much more time answering their questions.”

At the moment, he supervises the youngest in the morning, while she takes to her computer at half past seven. “I try to take a break of an hour later on, instead of half an hour. In spring, I organised things in such a way that we were all ready at eight o’clock. Then we would first go for a walk. Now I do that in the evening, sometimes with the children, sometimes just with Mark. I’m not someone to be cooped up inside. I need it more than when I am in the office. Your eyes get tired from looking at a screen all day.”


It was such a change to start working from home back in March, but she likes it. “I am going to ask my boss if I can keep working from home for a couple of days a week after COVID-19. I look after myself better at home and I am more productive.”

The fact that talks with students are now online, also has its advantages. “I literally am given an insight into their lives. Sometimes, the conversation stalls so I start talking about a poster on the wall or a musical instrument in the corner. “Do you still play the guitar?” I might ask. Do you take time for your hobbies, for yourself? One of the biggest worries is that students just keep sitting in the same small room. If your whole day happens on a screen and you also eat and sleep in that room, you don’t get anywhere. We notice that they are anxious or have feelings of depression more often. So, I encourage them to take breaks, to get moving and go out for some fresh air.”

For Penninger herself, it helps to end the day properly. “I am lucky that we have an extra room in the attic. There was a desk there already. With the chair from the UM, I have a great office here. When I leave the attic and go downstairs, I am home. Then I say to my boyfriend, ‘I’m back’ and we kiss each other, just as if I have been really away.”


But she has also encountered obstacles. “Just after the New Year, the neighbours started to renovate their house. At times, even headphones are not sufficient. That is when it is very hard to concentrate, I find it particularly difficult to see the children wrestle with it. We also irritate each other more easily, spending so much time together, starts to take its toll. Moreover, it is also easier to allow work and private life to mix. Checking your e-mail on your day off, I never used to do that before.”

Penninger is not afraid of getting COVID-19 herself, but she is worried about the people around her. “Especially for my in-laws, they are in poor health. My father-in-law was even in intensive care for a while this summer, while it wasn’t clear what was wrong with him. After that, he had to recuperate for quite some time. My mother-in-law occasionally stayed with us or Mark went to stay with her. That was a tough time, I actually temporarily took on less work back then.”

Not going on holiday

The family is strictly adhering to the RIVM guidelines. “I think it is really necessary, it is already almost impossible for health care workers to manage. The children are allowed to play with other children, but we hardly see any adults and then preferably only outside. The fact that I couldn’t be with my parents and my brother and his family for Christmas was really difficult, but it is just not possible.” 

She is glad that there is a vaccine. “I don’t think it is scary to get it, I just don’t know whether it will quickly bring us back to ‘normal’. Everything takes longer than was originally thought, so I have already told the children that we will most likely not be going on holiday this summer either.” At any rate, Penninger wonders whether everything will be exactly the same after the pandemic. “Who knows, maybe from now on we will be more inclined to stay at home – where we can just keep working – if we have a little cough or cold. You are and continue to be more aware of the dangers of infection, I would imagine.”

“When I leave the attic and go downstairs, I am home”
Olga Penninger tijdens lockdown winter 20-21
Author: Cleo Freriks
Categories: news_top
Tags: Covid-19,second wave,instagram

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