A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
When you go to a new land for college almost everything is foreign, new, just waiting to be explored. It’s exciting! Your main reaction to most of the things is Wow. El-Cid, Intro Days, going out at nights, your first lecture, finding new cafes, shops, bars, clubs… It’s a time of firsts!
You move into your room, get some stuff from shops or the streets (Yep, this really is true and very handy actually!). You see your school building and it’s pretty cool. You are meeting new people, so many that you start mixing up names and faces and their stories! One thing you all have in common though is the excitement.
What I’ve been told was that after a few weeks or months when the sky gets darker and the excitement fades away, homesickness will kick in…
What I will tell you however is a different story.
It doesn’t have to be that way! Of course you can miss your home, the familiar faces and places but this doesn’t have to be a sad process and you don’t have to be sitting under a blanket in a dark room all by yourself.
It all depends on your attitude.
“Oh I miss Taksim… And Kadıköy… and the Bosphorus…”
“When I get back we are going to Taksim! And Kadıköy! And we’ll take the ferry!”
It all depends on your attitude.
“I miss real home cooked delicious meals my mom used to make…”
“I talked to my mom and when I get back she’ll make a bunch of awesome food!”
I don’t know if you realized but what I’ve been emphasizing in both of the positive sentences is the phrase “when I get back“. Because yes, eventually you will get back. Nostalgia is only good if it brings warmth to your soul, not tears to your eyes. Don’t let that ruin your Dutch experience which has the potential to be something awesome.
You may or may not realize this but when you get back home, the missing probably won’t be over. This time you’ll be missing Holland, your new home, new friends and that little coffee shop you always go to.
What I’m trying to say is, enjoy where you are and what you are doing. Carpe diem. Hakuna Matata. Or whatever you want to call it but you get the idea. I get that it’s easier said than done but I know for sure that you can do this. Seize the moment and take it all in. Because, no matter how cheesy it sounds, you do only live once; try to make the most of it.
You are not the only one from your country, I’m sure of that.
Meet people from where you are, get together and cook or exchange places where you can find the goods you are looking for. We sometimes meet up with my two Turkish friends to cook (or experiment!), prepare Turkish Nights for our international mates and we also had a Greco-Turkish night which was really cool.
The Hague is a very international city.
You can find something from home very easily. There are expat shops for the British, many Indian restaurants, the Hague Market has a lot to offer, there are many Indonesian shops etc. In short you can find something that feels like home if you just go for a short walk.
Above you see;
happy me after finding sucuk – an awesome type of Turkish sausage
baklava – which inspired a Dutch friend to get some as well
and a meal shared with a fellow Turkish friend.
We also found a place called Harem, only two minutes walking distance from where I live, a Turkish lounge where you can have really good Turkish food, rakı (a Turkish alcoholic beverage), shisha/hookah/nargile (whatever you prefer to call it) and tavla (backgammon). Whenever we felt homesick we would go there, just a simple phone call was enough and it would make us feel like we were back at home. Get out there and you will find something.
When I got back, I was talking to my aunt on the phone and like everyone else she asked me how it was there and how it feels to be back. I told her that I really liked it there and that I was glad I made this decision. Also how amazing it was to be back. Her response summarized all my feelings, all my thoughts into four simple words:
“Happy here, happy there.”
PS. The expatriate definitions are from a book I read some years ago: Single in the City by Michele Gorman. It’s basically about an American girl who moves to the UK for a new start and these definitions reflect how she views the word expatriate, thus herself, in the beginning and end of her London experience.
I hope this view will be the same for you and you will consider yourself lucky to have been in The Netherlands and to have experienced all it has to offer. Carpe Diem! Hakuna Matata!