A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
I remember my first day in the Netherlands like it was yesterday. The flight from Israel was an emotional journey, spent listening to sad end-of-an-era songs followed by energetic beginning-of-something-new songs. A living cliché. It felt exactly like what It was- leaving one thing behind and starting something new in its place. By the time the plane’s wheels touched the ground, I came to peace with the understanding that this is my new home.
And then I got to Leiden. Excited, somehow energetic after the five-hour early flight, and carrying three suitcases behind me, I arrived at the USC, dropped my things in preparation for the OWL, and left, walking towards the city center.
I arrived at the train station, the only place I knew in the city, and was confronted by a terrible thought: now what? I was all alone, I didn’t know anyone, and didn’t even have my own place yet. I couldn’t arrange anything, had nothing to do, and had a whole day to pass before the OWL began.
So what did I end up doing? Well, anxious and still (somehow) full of Adrenalin, I just started walking. I didn’t look at a map, didn’t use my phone, I just walked through the city, letting my feet carry me, and slowly I relaxed. Fear gave way to sheer happiness. Each new spot I discovered in Leiden brought with it a new kind of reaction- “oh, this looks cool! I should come back here”. The city was full of opportunities- cafes, museums,restaurants, landmarks, and people. And I had all the time in the world to explore it.
I was lucky enough to be part of a Facebook and Whats-app group of my program, and as the evening approached several people who also arrived early suggested to arrange a meetup. So my first night out in Leiden was that very first night, where I set awkwardly and nervously with a group of people I didn’t know in Cafe De Keyzer, excited beyond words.
And that day -my first day in Leiden- was the only day where I can honestly say that I felt alone, at least during the first part. I was surrounded by people and friends ever since, most of whom I met during the OWL. And that concludes my first day in Leiden.
So what can you expect?
First of all, expect emotions- in all shapes and colors, or perhaps even none at all. Sadness, happiness, fear, excitement, regret, or pure shock. It’s all possible, and every person will have a different reaction.
Expect to feel I can’t explain it, but for me, something changed the moment I was suddenly on my own for the first time- far from home, free, and independent.
It may take time to find the people you connect with. I was really really lucky to meet them during the OWL. The important thing is not to panic over it. Just go with what feels right, and don’t force anything. Everyone finds their groups eventually, I can promise you that.
And one tip– be open, don’t be lazy. Go out, talk to people, be social! In this new situation, it really helps to be with others who understand what you’re going through- they’re going through the exact same thing.
~~ I hope this helps some of you out, especially now that the big change is approaching. For those of you who already made the change, I’m curious to hear what your experience was. Did you enjoy your first day in Leiden? Was it hard, fun, terrifying? Share your thoughts with me in the comments 😊