A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
OK OK, those of you who unwittingly were lead to believing that the last post I posted on The Leidener was my last, will have to think again. I’m sorry but I am indeed back for more, albeit this time far from Leiden’s distant shores. I am now, somewhat sadly, no longer a Leidener; I am a Melbournite once more. So different are these two cities that it’s safe to say that the concept of culture shock could come into play, however now that the jetlag has worn off like a Leiden hangover (ie. after a very long time), I have settled back in more than well enough.
The first thing you recognise when you return home and jaunt through your home airport are the accents, or I guess, in many respects, simply being surrounded by your own language again. Coming to Australia is always a pretty exciting experience, mainly because customs in my country is fully staffed by professional clowns trained to have the thickest accents imaginable. A known example my family often recalls is a time when, upon searching through a dishevelled backpackers belongings, a burly Aussie gent in customs found a spider and screamed through the arrivals hall ‘Spoydah!’ ‘Spoydah!’ at full voice, is the kind of thing you expect from our unofficial ‘welcome home’ brigade. On the other side of the gate, feeling a bit giddy from excitement, you are welcomed by your loved ones. Scenes from ‘Love Actually’ fairly regularly spring to mind as you kiss and cuddle and speed out of there, your mind often turning to that first wonderful shower. 20 hours on a plane makes you crave a lot of things, sleep is not among the last on that list either.
Once home, you drop your bag(s); it’s far too late/early/neither to be worried about unpacking them now. You remember what your house/apartment/unit looks like, you notice a few things have changed but nothing huge. This turns out to be a fairly common theme over the next few weeks. Most people you meet, friends who you surely abandoned knowing full-well that you’d catch up on the other side, have not changed a bit either. ‘What’s been happening with you?’ is a question you begin to loathe asking, for the somewhat depressing reply that while you were gallivanting your way through Leiden completing a Masters, they have been keeping up with the Joneses, and are in the same job, watching the same TV shows, playing the same sports on the same nights, and generally haven’t really done much in the meantime. Ply them for a bit more info and it turns out they’ve done quite a few things, but nothing springs to mind so easily. I guess it’s all a bit overwhelming, but it’s nice to know they are there for you.
After a few days you start thinking of what your next step will be. Maybe you have a job lined up, maybe you don’t. Maybe you have some kind of casual work lined up which you kind of start itching for because the prospect of sitting at home after all your time enjoying Leiden is a little bland. You often reminisce what you might be doing at the same time of day if you were still in Leiden, you start to miss your Leiden friends and colleagues, wonder about those last few weeks and if you can indeed make any grand statements now you have made your long journey home. ‘Was it all worth it?’ you may ask. I can only speak for myself, but the dawning recognition that you have triumphed over your Masters, and are now safely back in the arms of your loved ones, leads to a resounding ‘yes’. It doesn’t help you from missing it all from time to time. When you’re on the bus, the tram, or walking in the street, you will see a person who is the spitting image of your Leiden friend. Your brain plays tricks on you, and you become instantly nostalgic. It’s strange, and kind of nice.
You go back to your favourite restaurant, you catch up with your family. They have some kind of present for you you weren’t expecting. You realise that some form of administration needs to be done like you need internet at home, you need to change your phone plan now that you’re a bit poorer than before you left, you need to buy some clothes because you lost a vest somewhere in Europe. It’s all a bit of a whirlwind but it certainly keeps you busy. You check facebook at the end of the day, and there they all are, your comrades still in Leiden, lazing about in the sunshine as the rain patters its way along your window pane, the cup of tea still hot in your hand. Why did you only get winter this year? That seems unfair. Oh well, a big hug from the one you love and you feel better. Some vintage movie is on TV; it’s a lazy weekend and your home.
So how does it feel to be back? Is it weird? These are the questions that you will keep on getting asked. How to you reply? Choose your own adventure. All I can say is Leiden is not Melbourne, and I will miss both as I travel and learn through this world in the years to come.