Tuesday, 29 September 2015

First impressions and friendly translators

        They say first impressions are vital, and once you have made up your mind it is pretty hard to undo what's been done. Having said that, lets just hope this virtual space will give me a hand with that and help me out. As you all might figure, I am a student in Utrecht, particularly,Master Student in LLM Law & Economics. I will try my best to give you a proper view of what it is like to study here in Utrecht (And living in Holland!).
      My name is Maria Laura, and I come from the other half of the world (Half and then to the left, and then to the south), Argentina. I arrived to Holland on the 2nd of April of this year. Knowing that a lot of changes awaited me, I decided to travel early. This adventure (I still feel like it is one) had most of my friends puzzled. Mainly because of my choice of the country, and some of them were worried about the language. Little did they know I had undertaken a 4 months course of dutch in Buenos Aires and after all that time I can proudly say... I can count. And that´s about it. Somehow numbers came easy on me. The rest.. well.. geen idei.
      My relationship with Utrecht started with a trip and ended up with my enrolment to the University. I had my doubts regarding studying abroad, primarily because I was scared about the system, I do, in fact come from a very different environment. Luckily, (although I do not particularly believe in luck, there must be a reason under this) I sent an email and I got myself an appointment in the university. After my meeting nothing could stop me. My fears were not vanished but the hope and confidence became palpable. There is something about the way the staff treat you, like you are somehow important and valuable as a student and frankly, I never felt that from an educational institution in my life. Of course, my day dreaming about changing the world was struck by reality, as the deadline for inscription was closing 48hs after my meeting. Emails and buses and trains passed by and I became a Utrecht Student.
      During a personal research I found that Holland is one of the most welcoming countries of the world. English is spoken by the majority of the population (except for my 85 year old neighbour and his wife, with whom I had long and completely incomprehensible-at least on my end- talks). So technically language is not a problem to be very worried about. One of the things I love is that the dutch curiosity makes then very sociable when you try (and try and try) to speak their language. They are instantly drawn to ask you where you are from, and how they can assist you. Once, not so long ago, I was trying to get a special breakfast in a supermarket and the girl at the counter spoke no English at all (I failed even at the word breakfast; since it's not a number the word escaped me). A woman that was passing by, literally on her way to the isles decided to step by and become my personal translator (very United Nations style). She basically ordered me breakfast, and continued with her shopping.
    Since I did not know where I was going to study, of course, I found a house and a job before I found Utrecht. So currently I I'm living in Haarlem (delightful little city, you should visit and I could give you a very limited but enthusiastic tour) and working in Amsterdam. As far as cities go, Amsterdam can get crazy, loud and then act completely normal about it. When the sun comes out (and yes, sometimes it does! Or so I've heard) boats appear from the canals and as summer comes to an end, loud students appear and sing inexplicably 'beautiful' songs; families pass by with no hurry whatsoever and tourists gather to snap 437 pictures of the surroundings.
     As an international student I know how difficult and challenging it can be to live far away from home, let alone study. The pressures, the fears and insecurities seem to erupt from within, but please do not worry. We are in Holland, we are in Utrecht and there's a lot of us out here. Every time I feel I have doubts I figure no one was ever born knowing everything, we are here to learn and make mistakes. There is no evil in mistakes, they are choices and to make them (and to have the courage to take them) is the only way to succeed. If we hadn't walked out of the door and went to the airport, things would be different (not good or bad, better or worse). But this was our choice and we can definitely make it through.
     In this blog I wish to share what is going on in my head as a student. I'm not perfect nor I intend to be, and this is going to be a challenge.I'm happy to be able to share at least part of my journey with you all.