'International students never get to rest'

Spending time with yourself

Students partying in Utrecht. Photo: DUB archive

What is a perfect university experience? What stories do our parents tell again and again at dinner parties? You go out with friends, you go to concerts, you practically live in that one friend's room or there is this pub that was your spot. Those were the best years of our youth, some say wistfully — and do you know how many people met the loves of their lives in uni? There is all this expectation built around what university should be like and what we would be missing out on. 

As my first year is coming to an end, I feel like I have achieved at least some of the stereotypical experiences I had in mind. However, between the FOMO, the academic weight, adapting to living alone and getting used to a new country, I have realised I have forgotten how to spend time doing things I like. I have always loved consuming art, always trying to create time to read or watch something. Since coming here, I have barely engaged in this.

I had been feeling lethargic for no reason as if I were tired all of the time. Being an international student means you never get periods of rest. During school, you are always socialising or studying and, during the breaks, well, you have to crunch months you did not get to spend with your family and friends back home in a couple of weeks. It is a lovely type of tiredness, but I had forgotten when was the last time I could just sit and enjoy my personal time without feeling an impulse to do something else as if I were wasting important time that could be put to use in a better way. 

I had forgotten how to do something just because I wanted to, without a larger goal or hurry behind it. Some abstract idea of productivity was just following me around everywhere. So, as I am getting done with one-third of my time here, my newly realised goal is to think of what type of university experience actually want. Of course, I want to have stories to tell my children, but I also want to be able to say that I have improved myself in some way that is just me. Whether I have written the poems I wanted to write for so long that no one is going to read or I have started to run to keep myself healthy, I want something that is not glorious, not something that other people will care about, but something that will make me remember how I lived for myself and not for how I want to be perceived by others or how it fits into my idea of what my life should be like.