An Erasmus Semester in Cyprus
I imagined my last semester in Cyprus to be one where I would be quite productive, I would continue to explore new bars and cafes in Nicosia and take full advantage of living on the Mediterranean’s largest island. I’m currently in the last semester of my bachelor’s degree in Germany, and in my second semester of the Erasmus program.
The coronavirus came to Cyprus a bit later than the rest of Europe, as it is not part of Schengen and rather isolated. Cyprus didn’t hesitate to take measures quickly, about the same time as other European countries and major American cities, with much fewer cases. There was no doubt in my decision to stay here: here I have a place to live and a residence permit, neither of which I currently have in Germany. I never considered going back to the United States – I love my parents, but I have lived abroad for nearly four years now and going back would not necessarily be smooth.
I’m quite lucky: both Germany and Cyprus have taken appropriate measures, and my home state, Minnesota, has a very competent governor. I live in a beautiful neighborhood in Nicosia, with housemates who I like spending time with. We have a garden, and the house is much bigger than most apartments. I have to text the government to get permission to go outside – you get one trip a day – which does feel quite strange, but highly favorable over compared to scenarios in other countries.
The timing also hasn’t been terrible regarding my class schedule and internship. I have two classes this semester, as well as a thesis to write. I have once class where we read texts and comment on them on an online forum, and another where we have an online session. While I’m not great at concentrating during online class, I’ve quite good at learning through reading texts. It may not be ideal, but I am still learning at the same rate I would without a pandemic. I’ve also been a bit slower with accomplishing tasks for my internship, but they have still been getting done.
While I have been sluggish but effective regarding classes and my internship, the same cannot be said about my thesis progression. The work in the latter category takes mental effort, however, not the sort of intense analytical thinking required for my thesis. Right now, I do not have the mental energy for intense analytical thinking and have made no progress on my thesis. Since I’ll be here longer than anticipated, I’ll concentrate my efforts for non-thesis projects, so when I do have more mental energy I will be free to fully concentrate on my thesis.
I don’t think that I’m the only one mentally effected by the crisis, though it sometimes does feel that way, as I know many people who are very good at being productive at home. I’m typically very productive, and in all honestly being so inefficient has been frustrating. Over my entire academic career, I’ve trained myself to be productive – outside the house. I work best at cafes and libraries; preferably cafes because I do well with some background noise and human interaction.
Of course, that isn’t possible now. Realistically, it won’t be an option for longer than I wish. I’ve resigned myself to brewing my own cold brew – with coffee from my local café – and attempting to get a good daily routine going.
The one consistent part of quarantine is attempting to take advantage of the brighter parts of the day. I am still allowed to get out of the house once a day, and I certainly could live in a worse neighborhood. There beautiful old buildings, cats to pet, excessive citrus trees – all set to the backdrop of the Kyrenia mountain range. Cyprus is also notorious for having pretty sunsets, and my walks and runs have not been disappointing.
My schedule has also made room to accommodate baking, which I have done at an unprecedented rate. Since quarantine has started, I’ve learned how to make all sorts of American treats that I had never attempted before. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the quarantine is that I have made cookies that I prefer over normal chocolate chip cookies. After years of making chewy chocolate chip cookies, I have discovered a shortbread-chocolate chip cookie hybrid that disappears faster than any baked good in the house.
I’m not a person who can claim to be an expert at coping well with quarantine. I have learned, though, that prioritizing your mental health is important. Try to take ahold the things that help you cope, whether it be baking, writing, or getting to go outside (if it is possible in your situation). I’ve found it helps to figure out what I can do, and then try and accomplish that, rather than have unrealistic expectations about what can be achieved during this time. You don’t need to be in the worst of situations to still find these difficult and frustrating.
Cyprus is now starting on a downward trend for case numbers, so it feels as if the light at the end of the tunnel is visible. There is a good possibility that part of the summer I can spend frequenting my favorite bars and cafes in Nicosia, and maybe even be a bit productive.
Germany has also managed the situation well, and I am looking forward to being able to travel to Flensburg in person to hand in my thesis. Hopefully I’ll be able to see my friends in Northern Europe in person – pandemic pending – as they have been the best part of my time here. Until then, I will savor the video calls.
I’ve taken advantage of the availability of citrus in Cyprus, and used it for cheesecake.
This is right outside of my house. I never get sick of the view.
Cyprus is home to many cats, which are nice to meet on walks.