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Homeless

Originally, I wanted to write about being homesick and how fortunate Dutch students are with having their “home” – whatever you want to call it – nearby. Yes, on Friday afternoon, the NS has to deal with the thousands of students who are making their way home – meaning; their home city or parent’s place. Although it is maybe a 3 hour journey, other (international) students don’t even have the ability to go home or need to travel maybe double the time. That makes the lazy days at your parent’s place not worth going and staying “home” in Maastricht might be the only other option.

Either way, everyone has something what you can call “home”, either your student flat or your parent’s place.

And then there are the people who don’t have a “home”. In with “home”, I mean a roof above your head or a warm shelter with at least 4 walls and a front door. When you think of homeless people, you might think of beggars in India or Brazil.However, in the current Western society, homeless people do exist. Some of them try to collect some money by selling newspapers; others can’t be bothered and just lay on the street, hoping for some spare change. Each and one of them has his/her own story about how they became homeless. Quite recently, I spoke to a guy in Auckland who went bankrupt and got divorced at the same time. His (ex)wife and the bank came knocking on his door for money and that is how he lost everything. Even more striking was that his family didn’t want to help him which is why he ended up on the streets.

In the donut city of Christchurch, I spoke to Richard. Richard is 39 years old, born and grown up in the city. Since the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, he lives in his car since he has no home left. According to him, the council is too slow with providing and renovating houses. And if they provide them, they are often without hot water or electricity – these are his words. So when the rebuilding started, he stored al his possessions in a safe garage – furniture, his MTB collection – and moved to his van. He drove to the suburb called New Brighton, pulled over at the parking lot and didn’t leave that spot ever since. In fact, he is too afraid that his car won’t be able to drive. I’ve talked to Richard for hours – and hours – and he basically is homeless. He has no address, no work, no family, only a van and government support in the form of money. On his roof, there are solar panels to run his laptop. I’m pretty sure he won’t move his car for the rest of his life.

At the moment, I feel quite similar like Richard. Although Auckland CBD is not like Christchurch and we do have a job, we are still living in a car with no fixed postal address. Surviving on the streets changes your way of thinking. Instead of just buying whatever you like, you have to consider the amount of space you got left. Or the fridge, which we aren’t able to run due to the low capacity of the battery. Furthermore, you have to walk 200 m to the toilet and back; but also to brush your teeth, to clean yourself, to do dishes or to fill up your water tank. Showers are a 10 minute walk and paid ($2,5). The first proper WiFi connection is available at the library, half an hour walk. Laundry is only doable at launderettes, which are coin operating and don’t always supply a dryer. However, I’m not complaining because we have the best free camping spot, with great view on the Skytower.

In other words, not having a roof above your head is a challenge. Knowing that we HAVE a home, an the other side of the world sets our mind at rest. If everything may fail, we can always go home.

City story

At the bottom of the Netherlands’ southernmost province, Limburg, Maastricht is gem of cobble streets studded at its corners with warm pubs and bakery’s. Read more

Hello friends. Or not friends.

(We shall see.) The name is Sophie.

People in Maastricht are always so preoccupied with explaining where they come from. And granted it’s complicated. So just for the sake of satisfaction I’m going to throw in a few city names as to give you a gist because honestly, does it even matter… Places I call home are Berlin and Hamburg, Germany, and Richmond, Virginia- not always, and not always equally. Maastricht has a special position, but it will continue to be my home for one more semester. And it better be glorious. Read more

Living abroad

It’s been three weeks since I’ve landed in Maastricht, and I’m still having trouble coming to reality.

Am I really here? This is actually Europe. I’m in Europe! Read more

First Impression of Maastricht

I arrived in Maastricht on a cold January morning. I had been told that I would be picked up in the Brussels airport by a student, and I would immediately be meeting the other study abroad students in the CES (Center for European Studies) program at Maastricht. Read more

Jet Lagged and Back in Europe

Originally, I had my doubts about going all the way back to my small home town in Wisconsin for only a couple weeks over Christmas.  I kept thinking of how many places I could visit in Europe for the same cost of a ticket to the States, and my grandparents’ home in seemingly-close-by Stockholm was calling my way.  Really though, I have to admit that I was afraid being back in Spooner (yes, that is really the name of the town I come from) would make me just a little too comfortable, and that being home would make me remember all of the things I usually seem to have conveniently forgotten.

Read more

Ways to deal with Homesickness.

 

Homesick [ˈhəʊmˌsɪk], adj; depressed or melancholy at being away from home and family homesickness (Collins English Dictionary)

I am officially home in Edinburgh for a few weeks and it’s good to be home, although really strange. I’m sure many students experience the ‘which home is my real home’ problem and I found that in some ways I am now homesick for Maastricht. (Strange.) Some people say that homesickness is merely being uncomfortable in a new environment, others don’t believe it exists at all. Whatever it is, some people may experience an uncomfortable time when living away from home and here are some good ways that I have found to deal with those feelings:

 

#1 Meet up with people. Literally the best thing you can do. Go for coffee or a walk or to the gym. Life – affirming things generally help to distract you. I would not recommend beer or the cinema as you will generally start thinking about the fact that you are homesick and beer has the added con of putting you on a high for a short while before a let-down in mood the next day.

#2 Bubble bath or a good hot shower. Makes you feel good and lets you take some time for yourself.

#3 Have a nice skype conversation with your family or friends from home. But not too long, otherwise you forget to live in the moment and appreciate your life where you are.

#4 Eat well. Food seems to have a big affect on mood so skipping the chocolate and coffee and having some fruit instead seems to be a good idea.

#5 Decorate your room nicely. It always feels good to be living in a space that feels comfortable and is a nice happy place to come back to after a hard day at uni.

#6 Join a club. Having a weekly club like salsa or football to look forward to can keep your mind off things. Also exercise increases your endorphins, which makes you feel happier too!

I am sure everyone is different, but feel free to comment if you have any other tips. 🙂