A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
As a third-year student in the Netherlands, I have had very little insight into the experience of starting one’s first year during this pandemic. I cannot imagine how different it must be from my first year in the Netherlands. Thus, I have interviewed a first year who recently moved to the Netherlands from South Africa: Murray.
Jordan: What were your expectations of your first year in a pandemic?
Murray: When imagining my first year in the new world of coronavirus it was daunting. I immediately knew that I would have to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to conduct my life like I had never before.
J: How did you need to move out of your comfort zone?
M: I knew that I would have to be more vulnerable and open to meeting people in new ways. I was aware that I would not be able to be with people all of the time and that I would not get the experience of meeting people in physical classes as all of my classes were online. I expected that I would have to make plans to meet people one-on-one, who I couldn’t get to know before the meet up. In South Africa I usually got to know someone, talked to them for a while, before arranging a one-on-one meet up. But I knew I would have to change that here in the Netherlands.
J: How do your expectations of your social life compare to the reality of it now?
M: I have still had to move out of my comfort zone, but I think that’s just a part of moving overseas and growing up. It was slightly easier to make friends than I expected. My orientation week guides were incredible in making sure I got to meet people and had opportunities to engage in some version of student life. As well as all of the people I have met have been incredibly open to meeting new people. I definitely did need to still be vulnerable when meeting them however. I think that in being an international student you can’t cling to the norms of your home culture. You need to almost break yourself down so that you can be open to different people. I feel like I have become more mature now, I base my friendships on values rather than just similar cultures which is something that this pandemic has helped me with.
J: What were your expectations of online learning and how do they differ from the reality of it?
M: I expected online learning to be quite difficult as it is so distinct from what I had done at school. I was used to having my friends constantly around me and always being able to directly engage with my teachers. As well as in South Africa we never used laptops in class, so this is my first time ever studying using a laptop. Yet, my expectations were pleasantly different from reality. I actually thoroughly enjoy online learning. It is a lot more practical and nicer than physical learning as I have the freedom to do my work according to my own schedule. I can now fit in my studying with my friends from other courses as well as into my busy hockey schedule. It did take me a while to learn all of the new programs we work with but after working that out it has been great. I do miss sitting with friends in class though.
J: If you were to describe your first year, how would you?
M: If there were any way I could describe my first year, while in a pandemic, it would be using something I’ve recently learnt in class: universalistic. My first-year has been universalistic because all of us first years are in this together. We are all subject to studying during a pandemic and we go to an international university that allows for universal values. Also, the ability to study when and where I want adds to the universality of my first-year. I guess I could also say it’s been affordable, with no clubs open I really have been saving a lot of money.