I know how the last few days have passed. But have I realised that it has been a month? The weeks between me now – sitting over incomprehensible economics – and the first day – stumbling through the building of our Uni – seem worlds apart. But this is life, I’m now starting to realize on this shiny autumn day.
A new life consisting of an intangible number of readings, with red eyes not caused by the legalized lawn sold in coffeeshops but by studying through the late hours of the day. A new life consisting of a cultural weather shock introduced suddenly last week (eight months they say till the sun gleams out again) and the number of bikes parked in front of the HS. These moments of my new life are the topics of the short and superficial words exchanged on the Uni corridors or party floors. Only parted by the essential enquiry “Where are you from?”, “What countries have you lived in?” or “Oh shit, have you gotten your economics grade already?”. That’s life now, Uni life. And right now, during the first week, it seems like there won’t be space for much more.
And sometimes I’m even grateful for that, for the no-time-left reality, for the greedy readings that are always stealing time. To be honest, after the first weeks my social battery has experienced a utilisation beneath the zero percent mark, even though I have always believed that a decent “Hi, my name is Mona” would be impossible in such a state. Uni seems to be the perfect excuse to reduce the social pressure of the need to meet new people, and the possible new best friend, to a bearable amount.
But still, as the first groups are crystallising themselves out of the immense mass of us International Studies students, one can quickly fall into the belief that one is missing out on something. That one is the single person in this building not yet feeling home. That one can only observe those groups which seem so familiar and trusted with each other. This although oneself is observing those groups which seem so familiar and trusted with each other out of an exact similar one.
There are many things that distinguish us. Our history, “the number of countries we lived in” or the language we speak, the money our parents earn, our culture and our values … our ability to socialize at random parties. This history, the experience everybody had collected seems sometimes to be insurmountable. Just a bunch of random people gathered in the third largest city of the Netherlands, in one of Europe’s smaller countries. How have we ended here? How can this diversity possibly lead to something other than contrast?
But there is one thing I hope we all share. Maybe something we can’t even admit to ourselves. That is the feeling of homelessness. I’m not just referring to the terrible and scary housing situation in the Netherlands which has led to the establishment of the term homeless students. No, while some may be homeless in that sense as well, we are detached from the feeling of home. We have all left something behind in our former life to start this new life. Friends, family, trusted house valleys or suburban lawn fields. We left our Home behind. It is idealistic or even ignorant to assume that this feeling of home is only found within us as it is also dependent on the people surrounding us. And those people we love, and we trust we left behind and exchanged them for the social awkwardness every beginning promises. Now we are confronted with empty evenings, and the longing for the comfortable words of a dear friend when everything seems too heavy.
Home we long, Home we are looking for in Facebook announcements and in people crossing us with a beer in their hand at some party. But maybe this is the starting point of our commonalities. May our past and our level of experience of foreign countries, or people differ, but by this point we will experience the same history. Our worldview will be inspired by the same contents we will be exposed to, and the stress and doubts we will endure during the upcoming year will be shared by all of us. And inevitably because of this, we will grow together, all our distinguished personalities, and form a community. And maybe even a home. I already see the tender beginnings of this process advancing. In the end, we may still be the students away from Home, but we nevertheless found a home within Us.
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