Every morning he plans his day, down to thirty-minute units of time, so as to know what the rest of his day will look like. For example, he attended an online tutorial this morning, then he answered Observant’s questions, another tutorial this afternoon, then tutoring, and then working out.
Why do you plan your days in such detail? Do you think it’s a shame to waste time?
“Using the day well makes me feel satisfied. I’m not the kind of person who likes to sit on the couch and stare out the window. I’d get bored.”
Students’ mental health has seriously deteriorated over the last six months. Does this also apply to you?
“No, things are going pretty well, socially and emotionally speaking. I’m lucky to still live at home rather than in a student room all by myself. I’ve also been tutoring a lot and working out four times per week. Routine is important to me. It keeps me going.”
Pots is one of the six first-year students Observant has been following this academic year, in these COVID times. He lives with his parents (and his sister) in Scharn, a neighbourhood of Maastricht. At the beginning of May, they were shocked to find out that they were all infected with the coronavirus.
“It was quite a shock, also because we were immediately labelled as people with COVID. Then again, it makes sense that our friends and relatives were concerned and immediately wondered when they had last seen us. Fortunately, we didn’t spread the virus to others, as far as we know, and none of us fell seriously ill. I felt mostly fine, but my mother had cold-like symptoms and lost her sense of smell and taste. The worst part for me was having to spend ten days at home. It helped that all four of us were infected, which meant that we could all quarantine together.”
It didn’t affect his studies. Until now, he passed all his courses with a grade average of 8 out of 10. “I always go for the highest possible grade, but I adjusted my expectations from the start because it’s a difficult, fast-paced programme. The faculty wants to separate the wheat from the chaff in the first year. I got mathematics tutoring through the study association for two courses, including probability theory.”
What were some recent highs and lows of your life? Let’s start with the good news.
“I quit playing football at MVV. The club wants to reduce the quality gap between the first team and the youth team, which meant I’d have to start going to practice six times per week. You either go for it or not. I decided to quit; it would take up too much of my time. And, to be realistic: I’m quite good at football, but I won’t make it to the top. My coach agreed.”
Was that a painful realization?
“I’d been thinking about it for quite a while, but it did affect me, also because I was a player at the club for over thirteen years. Cycling home for the last time was quite an emotional moment for me.”
It’s odd that you would call this a recent high of your life.
“Yes, I feel ambivalent about it. I said goodbye to something that gave me a lot of joy over the years, but because I was so aware of it, I enjoyed my last few football practices that much more.”
What was the lowest point?
“My girlfriend and I broke up last month. We’d been together for seventeen months. We were no longer able to meet each other’s expectations. My busy life sometimes got in the way.”
Lots of farewells and goodbyes.
“Yes, I had some difficult decisions to make. They also affected the routine of my life. Meeting up with my girlfriend every week, cycling to football practice… Those are the things I miss most. But it’s also an opportunity for me to establish new routines. I’ve decided to join Uros, the Maastricht Student Athletics Association. I enjoy running and I would like to participate in half marathons in the future. In July, I’ll participate in the Obvion Run in Heerlen. Running events will be my new football matches.”
Any other plans for the upcoming academic year?
“Yes, a double bachelor’s degree. There’s a lot of overlap between Econometrics, which is the programme I’m currently enrolled in, and Economics. I’ve scheduled an appointment with the study adviser to discuss it.”
Are you planning to move out?
“Once the pandemic is over, certainly. I’ve got to know more other students by now, who already live on their own. It’d be nice to spend more time at each other’s places and eat or cook together.”
Does it bother you that COVID has stolen some of your time as a student, keeping you from enjoying it to the fullest?
“I don’t see it that way. I try to frame it positively. This period of time has allowed me to do things that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise, like tutoring secondary-school students. At the same time, I do realise that a full year has passed. So yes, I definitely want to get more of a taste of student life.”