I have big news – I managed to find somewhere to live for the year! I’m no longer having to think about homelessness or where else temporary I have to move to next, I can move into somewhere and call it my own. No more dragging a huge suitcase around either – this is a bigger yay for me than you might think.
Maybe for some people reading this, none of these things sound too bad. Oh, you had to spend time looking for somewhere, well, it could be worse, right? That’s what I thought too. Before I moved to this lovely country, knowing I had nowhere permanent didn’t faze me too much. It hadn’t sunk in yet, that I would be living somewhere new that I couldn’t even comprehend, so my mind did what it does most times I have to deal with a potentially stressful or new situation – it ignored it as best it could. But after moving here, it hit me like a brick. I didn’t have anywhere, and I would have to spend the next month of what would end up being a very busy introduction week, meeting a whole load of new people and starting my courses at uni with lightning speed (my first day I already had an essay due for two days’ time – they really love strict deadlines here).
All of this is enough in itself, but having to juggle this with constant applications for house viewings, being rejected over and over again for being an international student, and dealing with life in temporary accommodation (having nowhere to cook means a lot of cold sad meals for dinner), is incredibly stressful. Add this to some of the unavoidable misfortunes of learning to live in a new country, like getting my bike seized for not being able to read the sign at a bike parking bay hence not realising I hadn’t stored my wonderful little bicycle properly, or not being able to pay for anything in shops without a Dutch debit card, makes life as a study abroad student pretty overwhelming at first.
But you know what, all of this has been worth it. For the first time since moving to Leiden, everything feels like it has fallen into place for me. I have lush friends here, I got a great grade on my first assignment, I got myself a shiny new Dutch debit card and I got my bike back, so yeah, things aren’t going too badly at all! I’ve even managed to fit some travelling in – I went to an amazing rave in Rotterdam, and have plans to go to Amsterdam for some more incredible music.
I think I’ve learned some pretty useful lessons from being here. That even when you feel like nothing is going right, and everyone else is ahead of you, that’s pretty definitely not the case. We all have our own paths, and just because mine doesn’t look like someone else’s, neither is wrong. Also, homelessness is awful. There are so many people out there who don’t know where they will sleep tonight, and having experienced just a tiny bit of what that feels like created so much extra pressure for me. I’m so lucky to have what I do and to be where I am right now, and I have greater compassion for those who are in that situation.