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Interviews in a Pandemic- Janna

How to manage doing two masters in the middle of a pandemic whilst being far from home? Our next interview was with Janna Sullivan, a Law and FPN student from the US.


Hi Janna, can you start by telling us a bit more about yourself?

Hi, my name is Janna Sullivan, and I’m in Maastricht studying Legal Psychology and Forensics Criminology and Law.


Where are you from Janna? Do you view this country as home and do your parents still live there?

I am from Tybee Island, in Georgia, in the USA. I definitely view this town as home and my grandparents still live there.


How often do you go back to Georgia? I only get to go back once a year as its pretty far away.


Why did you decide to study in Maastricht? I came to Maastricht for the legal psychology programme, and because I felt like I was very stagnant at my job as a paralegal back in the US. I was super passionate about stopping wrongful convictions in the US and felt like the legal psychology programme would push me further and this is the only place I could study it. But I love the city too, even if other places had this programme I would still have chosen Maastricht.


How long have you been here? I arrived on July 10th 2018!


Hahaha very specific, I like it! Would you say you've settled in? Do you like your life here?

I settled in within hours of being here, I felt at home the same exact day I arrived, I liked this city so much. I’ve never been happier here and I’m lucky to have found so many wonderful friends. I discovered rock climbing and that has been my favourite and most enjoyed pastime, and I’m now on the board for the student climbing association. I also love ashtanga yoga and work at the yoga place in Maastricht. And I love cooking!


That’s so nice to hear! Even though you love Maastricht, did you ever think about returning home home at the start of the pandemic?

No, not at all. I knew I had better resources here, and I could still go outside. I could afford to go to a doctor, as it’s at least a hundred bucks cheaper here than back in the US. I think my quality of life is a lot better here and my family understands. I really wanted to go back to Georgia this summer, but I am wondering if that’s possible or if everything will still be dangerous.

I was also really worried what would happen to me if I got Coronavirus back in the US. An ambulance is over 1,000 dollars, so I’d end up calling an uber to take me to hospital. I also have elderly grandparents and some of my immunocompromised friends are unable to afford health insurance. I don’t have to have this stress on my mind if I just stay here until this blows over.

What were the main reasons behind wanting to go home?

Of course, I’d have loved to see my family and friends, and to be able to spend summer on the beach where I live. If things had started to open up, I’d have loved to be in my favourite bar eating fried seafood with my friends. There isn’t a place in the world like the island where I live. Was there something that stuck out as the deciding factor? The healthcare. And the population density in the US and the Governor in Georgia is really stupid and relaxed restrictions so early, so I was scared to go back. I thought I’d have a better quality of life here, and I was also afraid that my visa would get cancelled and I wouldn’t be able to continue my education. It would also be risky to visit my elderly family members and immunocompromised friends. And my cats!


What did your family think of your decision? They totally understood. My grandparents have reminded me that “there’s nothing for you here” and they’re happy that here in the Netherlands I could still go out and walk around the city for exercise. I still had a lot of friends in Maastricht to keep me company, and they understood that I didn’t want to get stuck in Georgia. I don’t want to risk infecting my grandparents after an international airport visit.


What has lockdown life been like for you?

At first, devastating. And lonely. It was really shocking, I had to give up so many of the things that made me happy. I’ve had to regulate my climbing cravings and assimilate to this “new normal.” So I’ve been able to make this experience meaningful by by finding new hobbies to make me happy, so that I didn’t have to think about missing the things I used to do. It’s been tricky with school, but at the same time I’ve never been more productive in my life now that I can’t climb or go to parties. I've gone from being devastated to now accepting the new challenges of my life. Whats been the toughest thing in lockdown so far?

The removal of my biggest source of happiness, which is climbing. Not only is it exercise, it was my main social activity. I met most of my friends through that and we really were a family. It was healthily competitive and I loved feeling strong.

I failed an exam which was taken a few weeks into online classes, and that was really tough mentally, as it took me a lot to convince myself that I could continue. I’m doing two masters at once, and its a lot of work!! Especially when it's online and I can’t meet my tutor. The quality of education has inherently gone down and there is nothing anyone can do for now. I know logically that I’m working really hard but it was still a difficult switch and I’ve felt very academically stressed at points during this. The same studying I would be doing in PBL feels a lot harder online. It feels like the same level of adjustment I needed to do when I moved from America to here in regards to learning styles. If it wasn’t for school, I would have definitely been taking the time to relax.


What have been the things that make you happy? :)

My friends. And my cats! They’re thrilled that I’m home so much and they’re getting more loving every day. It not only makes me happy but it keeps me mentally healthy, but I’ve taken a few bike trips and walks to the nature and countryside around Limburg. I’ve been cooking a lot as my creative outlet, so I cook something brand new every few days.

I feel accomplished when I can take time to workout a bit in the morning. I’m happy I could teach my grandparents to facetime. And I don’t know where I would be today without Netflix. And therapy. There is no shame in seeing a therapist during a time like this, and I want everyone reading this to know that. And if you try, every day you can find a new spot in Maastricht that is amazing and beautiful that you’ve never seen before. Going on adventures by picking a direction and walking has been one of the ways I find diversity in this unique time, it’s so good to find small things that are exciting and new. I try to remind myself that it’s kind of amazing that I will (hopefully) be able to tell my future children that I survived a pandemic!


Thank you so much for participating in this interview. As our final question, what would you say to new students coming to Maastricht in September? Any advice to pass on? Oh wow I have so much advice to give.


I would give them all of my bike routes and walking routes and let them discover the amazing places for themselves. Though don’t go into the devil cave without a guide because you’ll get lost and die.


I don’t feel like giving them school advice, but definitely join a sports association because it’s the best way to find a family of friends, I joined Maassac and felt like I was welcomed by friends from all over the world.


Oh, and my favourite takeout place is With Love Burrito - get the Portobello mushroom burrito and get a side of Halloumi.


Start learning Dutch early! As soon as you realise you want to stay in the Netherlands (and you will want to stay in the Netherlands) you should start learning Dutch.


Go to the Markt on Friday and walk around! And never lose your sense of excitement and wonderment and try to act like you’re a tourist in the city as much as you can. Walk around without expectations and you’ll always be pleasantly surprised.


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