How ten students are keeping thousands of internationals informed about the coronavirus

How ten students are keeping thousands of internationals informed about the coronavirus

For international students, staying informed about the latest coronavirus developments in our country can be challenging. A group of University College Utrecht students decided to step up and provide coronavirus updates for non-Dutch speakers. In just a few days, their Facebook page ‘NOS in English’ has grown to over 11,000 followers.

Noes Petiet, a student at University College Utrecht, wondered whether her international friends were able to follow the latest news and developments as the coronavirus crisis quickly deepened. To help them and others stay informed beyond the information provided by the university, she gathered a few student volunteers and created a Facebook group with self-made translations of daily news updates: NOS in English.

That was a little over a week ago. What started out as a Facebook group for friends and fellow students has now become a public page with more than 11,000 followers. 

“We definitely didn’t expect to get such an enormous positive response,” Noes Petiet says by telephone from Utrecht. “We’ve received a lot of appreciative messages from international students, but also from expats living in the Netherlands and from people across the world with family or other ties to the Netherlands.”

Working in shifts

The students are translating news articles at an impressive pace. They publish several translations per hour, covering everything from the latest situation in hospitals to the outbreak’s impact on society and the economy. 

“We work in shifts of one and a half hours,” Petiet explains. “All ten of us take one shift every day, and we all communicate regularly through a Whatsapp group and Google calendar. That works pretty well.”

Some of the students running NOS in English have never met in person, Petiet says. They were brought together by their shared desire to help fellow students in times of great uncertainty. “We didn’t know each other before we started this project, which makes the good collaboration between us all the more special. When the quarantine is over, we’ll get together to celebrate. Some of us will meet for the first time then.”

For as long as it’s needed

The coronavirus crisis probably won’t end any time soon. But those wanting to stay informed about the unfolding situation don’t have to worry about having to go back to depending on Google translate, Petiet says.

“Our spring break had just started when we created NOS in English, so we had a lot of free time. Now that online lectures have started again, it takes a little more planning to combine our studies with the Facebook page. But so far everything is going smoothly.”

The students have no plans to stop. “As long as this crisis continues to develop, we will continue to provide translations of news updates. We’ll keep helping international students and other non-Dutch speakers stay informed on the situation for as long as it’s needed.”

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