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  • Writer's pictureSofia Ballon Hamann

International Studies | A Peruvian in Zeist

A look into the life of international students: Utrecht University graduate student Sofia Ballon Hamann talks staying put in the Dutch forest during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Being 10,542 kms away from Lima, I am mostly concerned for my parents' physical and mental health. They are over 60 years old, have blood pressure conditions, and are close to retiring from work. They are no longer together and I am not with them, so it is heart-wrenching to see them in their respective isolation.

The lockdown situation in Peru is very strict. Civilians can only leave their homes - one per household - to purchase essential needs and briefly walk dogs. The military patrols the streets from 8pm to 5am when NO ONE should be out.

My president said #quedateencasa and I am doing that, just not in Peru.

I am Peruvian with dual citizenship as an Italian, now I study in the Netherlands. This is where I am hunkered down for the quarantine. I got word overnight that classes would be cancelled Friday, March 13. Later that day, another formal communication advised classes would be cancelled for the remainder of the month and all university buildings were shutting down for that time period as well. I briefly joked with colleagues about rushing before closing and being a printer paper hoarder rather than a tp hoarder.

We had been receiving daily reports on the Covid19 situation. It was very sudden how these communications switched from: how to come to class if your roommate has corona (wtf?) to: stay away through May.

Living in Zeist, the two times I went for food these past couple of weeks I saw close to the usual amount of people out as well; children in playgrounds, non-essential shops open. An elderly couple I know are bummed about not being able to partake in their volunteer groups and continue to tandem bike and be out and around several towns. It is an "intelligent lockdown" or “lockdown light” because it is not as restrictive -as other European countries- and its practices can be maintained for a longer period of time. As a side effect, it’s also developing herd immunity.

In the past two weeks - or has it already been three?- I’ve seen several other international students return to their home countries. Because classes will now be online for pretty much the rest of the term, they are not coming back.

I am currently staying put at the dorm I share with -now- about twenty people - we used to be eighty. It’s a nice community and we are isolated from reality within a forest. Leaving is not an option for me; Peru is shut down through Easter -or even May- and I had sought to establish myself in Europe.

The weather, for a change, has been surprisingly sunny. It doesn’t cheer me up, though. I hear loud ambulance sirens and think of my parents.

See what Sofia's all about here.

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