Am I really studying?

If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound? A silly question, I suppose. Nonetheless, it has had philosophers scratch their heads and ponder at the meaning of observation and perception. Do things that we don’t see actually happen? Within the 4 walls and 14m2 of my student room, this question is taking a meaning of its own.

In the past month and a half, I have made to Utrecht only thrice to meet people and just once to the University Campus. This is partially my own fault: following a part-time Pre-Master’s from the comfort of Eindhoven, the commute was a bit too much. But hey, let’s not forget the corona situation, which has now put a cap on my ‘Utrecht visits score card’ until at least 2021. 

Blurring the lines
Now sitting in my chair, all the things I do which were separated by geography are now bound together and mixing with one another. Working and studying from the same desk, and then sleeping in the same space, I don’t think I’ve ever been in the same place for so long at any other point in my life.

The lines which used to separate these elements of my day are all tangling up, transforming into a prison of monotony. With cancelled commutes and closed cafés, there is no alternative to watching the trees in my street turning from summer green to autumn orange.

Work meetings followed by lectures, lectures followed by working blocs, there are no colleagues or fellow students to anchor me into the tasks I’m doing. If you asked me what I worked on yesterday, I think I would have a hard time telling you.  

At the same time, part of me is glad for the absence of commutes: juggling presence in meetings is a lot easier when all you need to do is change your login credentials. I can watch lectures and take calls at the same time and no one can see if I’m wearing sweatpants or discreetly leaving the meeting to get tea. This home situation offers something that the commute takes away: flexibility. So perhaps this is the best worst scenario in a year of semi-limbo between two studies, which is accentuated by the pandemic.  

Where did life go?
The thing is none of the things that I normally associate with studying are parts of my life this year. No coffee breaks, no drinks, no deadline stress (I have all the time in the world to work on assignments). Social life has slowed down significantly, made duller by the absence of chance encounters with acquaintances that would otherwise bring serendipity to my days. Maybe a better metaphor would be to call myself Schrodinger’s student: until the lockdown is lifted, the university opens and student life resumes, I both am and am not a student.