Lockdown stories: ‘Maybe I can offer a few words of wisdom’

The lockdown has challenged and inspired Programme Officer Shamangi Kooistra to support the student members of X at TU Delft.

(Photo: Heather Montague)

“I’ve been a fitness instructor for almost 24 years now. I started working at TU Delft five years ago as a substitute teacher for group classes and then the hours just grew over the years. Now I’m a Programme Officer at X. I teach classes at other places as well, but I really like it here because it goes further than just sports. We organise events, everything that has to do with things like personal development, finance, sexuality, and relaxation.

Some of the people from my classes went to China during Christmas and when they came back, they had to go into quarantine. Then at X, we decided to close down even before the official lockdown. We decided that there were so many people from different countries and there was more risk. I was hopeful we could continue with fewer participants or more space, but they said we needed to close down. That was weird and surreal because for a lot of X members this place is very important to them. A lot of them are from different countries, some of them are quite isolated and this is a way for them to connect with other people and the teachers.

Not teaching classes was strange. On one hand I felt paralysed, but on the other hand I was focused on what we could do, what the possibilities were, and what we could offer online. A year ago, I had started pushing the online platform because our classes fill up so fast. So that helped to speed up the process a little bit. What really moved me was the students connecting with me. I got so many messages and they were sending me pictures and videos of how they were doing their exercise. It was very moving and inspired me to work even harder. I also tried to encourage my colleagues because I knew teaching classes online was out of their comfort zone.

‘A lot of people are still very isolated’

We have a regular class schedule on Zoom, but there are not as many people participating. I think that’s to be expected. I get tired of being online all the time for meetings so I understand. They do classes online, talk to friends and family online so it makes sense to me that participation is lower. 

The good news is that the Executive Board approved the first two phases of the reopening of X. We started with singles tennis last week and this week the sports associations will start with outdoor training according to a strict protocol. That doesn’t mean that X is open to all X members yet, but it’s a good start. We will evaluate how this goes day by day and are working on how to implement the next phases.

In the meantime, I am still trying to connect with X members online because a lot of people are still very isolated. Some people find it hard to connect or are afraid of doing things in person. And some people are struggling with their mental health and depression. What I like about working at X is that sometimes people share their issues with me, like they’re getting a PhD and having struggles. Maybe I can offer a few words of wisdom, but for me it’s more about sharing experiences. It’s inspiring to look at what we can do at X, what can we offer them, and how we can support them.”

In this special series, Delta takes a personal look at how Covid-19 and the lockdown have impacted the people who work or study at TU Delft.

Heather Montague / Freelance writer

Editor Redactie

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