We are nearing the end of this strange and special year, 2020. Time to reflect on the status quo. 20 people with links to Ghent University were selected at random. They tell us what 2020 meant to them, what they will carry over to next year and above all: what they hope for in 2021.
Céline Vaneeckhaute is an alumnus from Ghent University, and meanwhile professor of bioscience engineering at Laval University in the Canadian city of Quebec, where she has been living with her husband for years. She has enjoyed some benefits of the extra time and tranquillity resulting from the lockdown, however, she misses her family and friends in Belgium.
How was 2020 for you?
“It was a very strange year. There have been two waves of Corona in Canada, just like in Belgium. The first began at about the same time. That means I’ve been working from home ever since March. I do miss the contact with my colleagues and students, but otherwise, I don’t really mind working from home. I live with my husband in the mountains and in the middle of nature, outside the city. There are worst places to spend time in quarantine (laughs). Before the Coronavirus broke out I usually stayed in Quebec during the week, to be closer to the university. Otherwise, there was too much commuting, and that was not only a waste of time but also quite dangerous when there was lots of snow. Now that I’m working from home, I see much more of my husband and enjoy more tranquillity, flexibility and time for hobbies and sport. In fact, it’s a rather pleasant pace of life.”
What do you miss in the lockdown?
“Social contact with my friends here, and the fact I’m no longer able to travel. I normally pay regular visits to Europe, and see my family and friends. It’s now been more than a year since I saw my father and brother. That’s a real strain.”
Last year was like no other, but it was also filled with warmth. We supported each other and shared in each other’s ups and downs. Now this is your chance to thank everyone who was there for you. Not in the usual way, but with a virtual projection of your best wishes onto the Book Tower.
Of which accomplishment are you most proud in the past year?
“I am rather proud to have been awarded a Canada Research Chair. This is given to academics involved in promising research, so it’s a real honour. The title also raises extra money for my research group, which is naturally the cherry on the cake. In addition, I’ve also recently been given a permanent position at the university, which I’m naturally delighted about, and it takes the weight off my shoulders. It’s not easy to emigrate to Canada, and, as a young professor, you need to really prove yourself in order to get a permanent post, and therefore also to be allowed to remain in Canada. It’s in my nature to work hard (laughs), but now we’ve achieved this stability, I can be more relaxed and enjoy a little leisure time. That feels really good.”
Have you learned new things this year?
“Being such an atypical year, I’ve also done all kinds of atypical activities (laughs). I’m someone who can’t sit still, so I made good use of the extra time. I participated in a challenge to run 125 kilometres in the 4,200 metre-high mountains in a month. I’m so happy I managed it. In the summer, I also learned to sail with my husband. We jokingly said to each other: ‘If this lockdown lasts a lot longer, we’ll just sail to Belgium’ (laughs). So we took some lessons.”
What do you hope for in 2021?
“I hope that the balance I’ve now achieved can continue in 2021. I don’t think I’ll go back to spending five full days at the university. All that online communication has its advantages, and working from home is also more efficient. Also, I’m inspired by the time I’ve now acquired. I’d like to go back to school and start a master degree in business, so that I can continue to develop my own business. I’ve already started a book to teach myself, but I’d like to get to a higher level. I also truly hope to be able to return to Belgium as soon as possible, in order to see my family and friend. And not from a distance or after two weeks in quarantine. Preferably together, with a lovely glass of beer on a terrace in Ghent (laughs). That’s my greatest wish.”
What do you wish other people at Ghent University in 2021?
“It’s a real cliché, I know, but I hope that everything soon gets back to normal. I’m thinking particularly of the students, because it’s so tough on them. I hope they can very quickly start enjoying their student life and that they can sense and experience the positive vibes of the wonderful city of Ghent and Ghent University, like I was lucky enough to do.”
20 people with links to Ghent University were selected at random. They tell us what 2020 meant to them, what they will carry over to next year and above all: what they hope for in 2021.