Dating back 2009…
I have been living behind the gates for almost two years now. I have experienced so much and yet so little. It is very hard when someone asks me to describe my life at UCU. Can I portray it as a flowing sequence of events and memories? Not exactly, for life at UC is turbulent underneath the silent and peaceful green grass of the quad. Looking back, the best way I can imagine my UC time is if I see my life here as a small album of four photographs: four types of clashes a student experiences here.
A table full of Bulgarians, with only one missing
Dinner time, Dining Hall is full. The lamps throw dim light over the red ceiling and grey columns, and there is a low steady buzz of voices surrounding the tables. Listening closely, one can distinguish the slightly louder laughter coming from the long table at the left side. I turn around and I see them. Laughing, talking to each other, loud and free without anyone else around being able to understand them. They look happy. Then I turn my head back to my table and look at the faces of my friends, each and one of them from different parts of the world. Some people say there are intense culture clashes at UCU but what happens when you clash with your own culture? I tell everyone I have mainly international friends because I like to experience new cultures. But deep down I know that the truth lies in the reason I came here in the first place. I want to be the tie between past and present for my parents, and I want to have opportunities they never even dreamt of even if they come at some cost. The boundary between not wanting to remember and not wanting to forget your past and origin can be dangerously thick. And as I am still trying to find what I am looking for, my place at this line is yet to be discovered
Me trying to find the post office
I have been asked: how do Dutch people treat you? Do they distinguish between foreigners? Do they care that you are Eastern European? After four semesters in theNetherlands, I have no clue how to answer these questions. And the reason is the oh-so-familiar UCU bubble effect. This photograph depicts me off campus for the first time in a month, cursing quietly under my breath, because two years of living inUtrechtis not enough for me to know where the post office is. I am not going to go into detail, as we all speculate about the vast invisible walls of this bubble. We all talk about it and in the same time we all know that living on campus is nothing like living in real-lifeNetherlands. I have found my place in UC society, but I don’t know my place beyond the gates. Here, I have people I can depend on, but what happens outside the comfortable UC network of units? The clash between what we experience here and what is out there is big and the fierce truth is that I haven’t got the faintest idea about it. I go back to my country and tell people I know theNetherlands. But while saying that, I know that lying to yourself is not as easy as lying to other people.
The smile of a “sister” I never talk to
Three weeks of inseparable partying, eating, studying together, and two years later we don’t even glance at each other when we pass in the corridors of Locke. This is a phenomenon I haven’t really experienced before coming to UC. The constant grouping and regrouping, the constant clashing of social circles creates a very peculiar picture. Campus is small, a little more than 700 people, everyone living together, soon the time comes when you know everyone. By face. By what you have heard. Or due to the fact that you used to be good friends. Key word – used to. I could accept the idea that this is normal for such a small insular society, but that doesn’t make it less strange. And then there is the other thing: UC people are social animals, open people, nice people, polite people, yet everyone has their own circle, group or “society”. You pass someone outside your circle on campus, he looks at you, with an inclination of a smile, but then quickly gives up and looks away. You coincidently meet the same guy at the Hema in town, he stops and talks to you for half an hour. And in the end, you sigh deeply every time you look at that dusty old photograph of you and a girl you don’t care about anymore, signed with love on the back.
My home and why I avoid it
There is this interesting definition people use to define themselves. It is this very human concept, which leads their lives and helps them develop their roles. The concept of home. For me, well, that concept scares me. I have left what I have perceived as home for eighteen years, to settle in an imitation of a home, preparing for the creation of my future home, without even knowing what kind of or where I want this home to be. Here you have the photograph of a girl with nothing international in her despite her way of thinking, trying to find something she is looking for without knowing what exactly. And trust me that photograph does not belong only to the foreign students. Students who leave home, and especially go abroad, will experience the clash between what they had and what they should create. They will never let go of that burning sensation of being torn between going back and going forward. They will never let go of the warmth they feel for their past, and the passion for a great future. And yet they will go on. There is no right way, there is just brave compromise, well, and a bit of chance.