A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
It’s not often that I mix business with pleasure. I like to think of myself as a strict professional when it comes to this blog, as evidenced by so many of my past posts… The Leidener is a place where students can say all about how they’re getting on here, about their courses, visits to museums, the way the canals are beginning to shimmer in the summer haze, and most of all, the fascinating people they meet day in, day out. But for me at least, this year here has been at least as much about one person who isn’t here, as it has been about the people who are.
My girlfriend has been there for me through everything this year, even from sixteen thousand kilometers away. We have called, Skyped, sent letters and postcards and emailed for three-hundred and fifty days and counting, and there is rarely a day when either of us have not been able to send a quick message just to say ‘I love you’. In the darkest days of winter, the tiniest three week period which she visited were the best days of my time in Europe. We visited Paris, Scotland and Turkey for a week each, and of course had a short time in lovely Leiden. We made a scrapbook of our a beautiful holiday so we will remember it when we are old and grey. When she flew home again for the final five months of our journey on separate continents, I was broken and sad for days. Having her supporting me from home, and knowing how well we fit, has made my time here so much easier, and so much harder at once.
There are doubtless other people who have taken a year to study at Leiden, who have left loved ones behind in countries near and far, and who must struggle through the downs and try not to feel too lonely and sad in the absence of their other half. Many of my good friends here have found themselves in the same boat, having left girlfriends or boyfriends, fiances, husbands and wives (respectively?) to pursue their dreams at Leiden. Doubtless many of these relationships are currently governed by that timeless axiom which runs along the lines of “if you love someone, let them go… if they come back, they are yours.” I don’t go for axioms so much, because they’re romance is lost on me, but I somehow managed to see this one a lot clearer after the last eleven months. Perhaps others here are feeling the same way.
And then there are many relationships in Leiden that may not have happy endings. The temptations and vices of student life, the stress levels often induced by long-distance relationships, rigorous study and living in an unknown land, will often take their toll. The endless supply of cool new people makes a recipe for forming special relationships from friendship to whatever word I can use here which isn’t awkward ok I made it awkward. But let’s be honest, there are make-ups, break-ups, one-night stands, four-week flings, people visiting, people staying, people not leaving. Passion, attraction, seduction, those raw principles of human existence are hard to ignore in the heat of many Leiden moments. Heartache is a beautiful and terrible cross to bear.
But back to my awesome girlfriend, I just wanted to take this time to say thank you. Thank you for understanding me, for being my best friend, and for seeing that this will all be worth it in the end. Thank you for waiting, spending those long hours after work in our little apartment, for taking my Skype calls at inconvenient times and convenient ones. Thank you for sending me cards, for showing me how much I mean to you, words can’t express the joy I felt when I opened up those packages. Thank you for the tea. Thank you for wishing me good morning, good evening, good night, and showering me with little ‘x’ symbols I’ve come to understand mean kisses, and little ‘o’ symbols I’m yet to fully understand :p. Thank you for the vest, I’m sorry I lost it. Thank you for sharing every emotion with me, and thank you for taking the bins out from the apartment in my absence. Most of all, thank you for showing me that time and distance truly can melt away with the warmth of a loving heart.
For all those who have longed in Leiden, I share this with you, and will continue to for the rest of my time here. Those yearning hours, those awkward sadnesses at parties, those mornings where all we want is to reach over and cuddle into the arms of our loved ones, they are moments we share separately but not alone. We are all here for our own reasons; for some those reasons are shared and exist in our partners’ hopes and aspirations as much as our own. I salute you all, and I wish you the best for when you are back where you need to be. If it is sad or long to go, think of better days. Think of the day, some time from now, that your time away will be a distant memory, a blip on the radar of your wonderful lives together. Put faith and energy in, and you will be rewarded.
And as the canals begin to shimmer in the summer haze, all I’ve got left to say is this:
‘I love you x’.