Interviews in a pandemic- Hillmann
Wanting to go home, but finances standing in the way is an incredibly tough situation. Read our interview with Hillmann as he finds ways to stay positive through bittersweet lockdown life.
Hi Hillman! Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed by us. To start, can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Hillmann, and I’m a third year Medical student. It’s quite tough but I enjoy every minute of it.
Nice to meet you Hillmann. Where are you from originally? Do you view this country as home?
I’m originally from Cameroon. I view Cameroon as home and my parents and lots of my family still live there. But my mum lived in the Netherlands until she passed away last year.
Gosh, I’m so sorry to hear that. How often do you go back to Cameroon?
I don’t get to go back too often, I’ve only been back one time in the past four years, in February this year.
Why did you decide to move to study in Maastricht?
I was living in the Netherlands for a year already with my mum, and I wanted to apply for medicine but I could only apply in English as I didn’t speak Dutch at the time, now I do. This meant I could only go to Groningen and Maastricht. When I came to Maastricht I found it a lot more connected, and I value social interaction a lot, so I chose Maas for that.
Would you say you've settled in? Do you like your life here?
Yeah, definitely. I played a lot of basketball until I had an injury. I did a couple of board years for basketball and the honours programme and now I’m the president of the honours programme. I also did a few different extracurricular courses. And of course lots of hanging out with my friends, and the church community. I also work on a lot of personal projects, like health projects in Cameroon and Ghana.
Did you ever think about returning home home at the start of the pandemic?
Yeah, I hoped someone would pull me out to go back home. What were your main reasons behind wanting to go home?
I just felt like it would be more fun in lockdown in Cameroon compared to here. My family would be there, we would always be laughing.
If you wanted to go back, what were the reasons you wanted to stay in Maastricht?
Finances, I was back in February, so I was back just before the lockdown. So I couldn’t just hop and go back, unless my family could pay for my ticket. And as for my medical programme, they could still call us any time to go into the hospital, so I decided to stay here in case they decided to do that. If they’d called and I’d have been in Cameroon, I obviously wouldn’t have been able to go. I wasn’t worried about safety, I have a few concerns about how Cameroon is going to deal with the pandemic but I think overall I would have been safe.
What did your family think of your decision?
They were ok with it. No one ever questioned it, because it would have been a special case if I had gone back. Everyone kind of expected me to stay here.
What has lockdown life been like for you?
Very bittersweet. I had just come back from Cameroon, and had gone through a lot mentally with planning funerals, coming back and then the lockdown. At the beginning it was a breath of fresh air, I could finally sleep normally, something that isn’t easy for me in medical school. After a while, deadlines caught up with me, and the stress started. After a while I had to find a way to keep a balance between deadlines and the relaxation I needed. It was and still is a lot of searching. What's been the toughest thing in lockdown so far?
Honestly, I think it's been the fact that the gym is closed, I really miss it and it was a good outlet, especially as I’m the kind of person with a not-so-great metabolism, so going to the gym was a part of my schedule. What have been the things that make you happy? :)
I didn’t completely socially isolate myself, so I still needed to see a few friends or I know I would not have coped. I loved that I could reach out to people virtually, even after ages of not talking. My friends are all over the world, and the world slowing down and everyone being home meant that I could reach out to people and have conversations which didn’t get interrupted. I get energy from helping people, having long conversations. I helped friends who were going through really tough depressive episodes, and we both felt better at the end of it. I loved getting back to talking to people.
This was a really interesting interview, thank you so much for talking to us. As a final question, what would you say to new students coming to Maastricht in September? Any advice to pass on?
The university is adapting to the “on-campus if possible, online if necessary” and I know that students might find it challenging to stay at home. I know I had issues adapting when I just came. My advice would be to take your time, it's always tough in the beginning, don’t get frustrated when the process is slow. It will definitely get better. Do your best to interact with people when you can, try and make connections so that when corona is done you can go crazy.
There is so much in Maastricht to release pressure. Sports, clubs, going on runs, anything. Try and do something you get energy from instead of just things you spend energy on.