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Mercurius-19 vs. COVID-19

 “Have the apples arrived from Albert Heijn?” 

“Yes, they also gave us oranges and bananas” 

“Great! Do you need another room to make the goodie bags? And what about the speaker gift cards, have they been arranged? I totally forgot to email my new speaker about the change in location of the Borrel. What about the borrel, has De Krater been informed? And how many Board of Directors do you think are going to show up? They were supposed to RSVP by 6th but I haven’t heard from them. And did you arrange for someone to pick up the flowers at 5pm because I need you there for the opening. Oh and one last thing…”

What is it like to do a board year? Read along as the chair of Study Association Mercurius explains the implications of the pandemic on the association and describes her journey so far.

As the pandemic unapologetically barged in on our events, Mercurius welcomed it with pragmatism and acceptance. At first, we prepared to cancel our events until April 6, thereby cancelling the weekend trip to Vienna. There were hopes of a swift recovery, but the thought that it wouldn’t be as easy, swirled in the back of our minds. As the virus further spread its wings, our plan of action seemed to blur and clear up at the same time. We then had to make the difficult decision of cancelling our study trip to Tallinn and Riga in July, which carried its own implications. However, the physical and mental safety of our members is our primary. 

Simply put, doing a board year is a struggle. It isn’t for the weak hearted but for those who are willing to care, comply, collaborate, compromise, criticise and celebrate everything that comes with it. It is demonstrating strength while being vulnerable. It is days that start with 9am meetings and end with 1am borrels. It is lots of free coffee, endless rants, little joys and some wonderfully timed quotes. But not once in my wildest dream did I think that it would also include cancelling an event in 5 minutes that we spent the past 6 months organizing.  

Being the Chair also includes being a part of the FMG board. The FMG is an independent association comprising 7 other study associations along with Mercurius that fall under the faculty of Social and Behavioural sciences. Our congress for the year ‘Humans 2050’ was cancelled a few minutes after the speech made by the Prime Minister and an hour prior to the event. The speakers were immediately contacted, flowers were cancelled, food was distributed, and a few coronas were clinked. 

A few days later, more deliberations were done for the subsidies provided to us for the event. Amidst the chaos I failed to maintain the 1.5-meter distance, it seemed as though the virus got to me via quiet hallways, empty lecture halls, cancelled collaborations, apologetic emails and that’s when I knew that it was over. Except, it wasn’t. 

The show must go on
The show must go on and we must aid our members to the best of our abilities. Therefore, the grind began again. The financial realisations, the deliberations for online events, contacting for online collaborations and figuring out how to make General Assemblies online. 

Not even 7 months into the board year and we learnt the true meaning of crisis management. The board year so far tested our coping mechanisms and made us channel our emotions into constructive actions. Unanswered emails, unappreciated efforts and a pandemic did not stop the board from emerging as motivated individuals with the goal to make the best of our time. Nothing is a better teacher than the school of hard knocks. 

The board year enriches my university experience and polishes my competencies such that I am confidently ready for the next step in my career

The board year has provided me with a corporate environment along with the perks of a student life. It teaches you how to manage your time, integrate in the Dutch culture, meet students outside the discipline of Communication Science, deepen your understanding about how the university functions and bond with your fellow board members as well as people from the course. It enriches my university experience and polishes my competencies such that I am confidently ready for the next step in my career. It further equips you with the crucial tool of how to deal with setbacks personal or professional and deliver to your commitment. It provides a space to make mistakes and learn from them. But most importantly it gives you wonderful teammates that make the journey worth it. 

What’s next?
As we open board applications for the year 2020-2021, we are looking for enthusiastic and motivated individuals who have the drive to experience and learn while adhering to the interest of the association; who aim to further develop their problem solving skills at a professional level and provide creative events for our members. All you need to do is send in your CV and letter of motivation at info@mercuriusuva.nl and prepare to answer the question “How would you deal with a global health crisis?” 

I would like to extend gratitude towards my board – Ellie, Quinta, Joanna and Sorina for their constant and tireless efforts. I look forward to the coming months together and I also look forward to your applications. Stay safe, aware and strong. 

Cover: Aleksandra Muther & Aakansha Gupta

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