My LDR with UU

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Chandni Syam is a second-year master student of Cultural Antropology.  She's one of the English-speaking finalists of the 2022 Campus columnist contest. In her nominated column, she reflects on her long distance relationship with UU, while she's doing fieldwork in India on Covid vaccinations.

Yes, I am with a university that I have never met in real life. It’s been all online. I know it sounds doomed like many long-distance relationships. But hear me out. I think there might be some hope still.

It’s a huge deal to uproot life as you know it and move across oceans for a prospective relationship, but it wasn’t scary because UU was always there. I balked at the rental prices but talked myself into a student loan to make the move happen. I think I can say we were going steady and planning a future together when the pandemic struck. 

In the beginning, there was so much hope. We had regular communication and there was a lot of effort to work on the relationship.  Regular online discussions and seminars, monthly check-ins with the course coordinator, workshops with career services, and well-being classes. I put in my share of the work by never missing out on anything regardless of the time difference.  

And then things started changing. There was a stark difference in perception. Maybe it was just the enormity of the distance between us. In May this year, India saw a horrific second wave with thousands of deaths every day. The hospital next to my house did not have enough space for dead bodies. And I had to do an assignment that expected me to be out in the field. I struggled with making sense of the disparate worlds I existed in.

The void between us seemed to expand. Life in the Netherlands opened up slowly but after much discussion, it was decided that I should do fieldwork in my home country. That seemed less likely to be affected by travel restrictions and safer for everyone involved. I was heartbroken. It had been a whole academic year and I had yet to even set my sight on my university. 

The pandemic was far from over and I did not think the brief respite would be seen as anything but that. It was different for UU though. Department seminars moved offline with no option for access. The honors program I was looking forward to refused to accept applications from those who weren’t already in the Netherlands. Words like intimacy and convenience started popping up more in conversations discussing hybrid settings. This was regardless of the students who didn’t have a choice to be in university because of reasons much beyond their control. 

 Inclusivity must be both small actions and loud positions of being. Other than the effort of my classmates to support each other and some other kind souls in the administration, I am lonely in this relationship. I am trying again to move to the Netherlands and hopefully salvage more of this relationship. Yet, as I struggle with finding health insurance that covers my requirements and I wait for another week to hear back from the international team on my call for help, I realize I am truly worried about this relationship.

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