Feel like you’re missing out on what could have been during your studying abroad time? Read this…

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Perhaps you are stuck at home and thinking about what you miss about your pre-corona life... What have you lost because of the corona lockdown? The stress that accompanies studying at a foreign University? The pressure to go out and miss nothing fun that your city has to offer? Maybe it is that awesome city trip to a European metropolis with your friends. Or it may be the fellowship with Christians. Perhaps it’s your independence; maybe you have gone back to your home country because the borders are closing, and you had to be with family again. Perhaps you have had to cut short your studying abroad semester.  It might be that you have not said goodbye to the friends you made whilst studying in the Netherlands. Maybe you are afraid you will not come back to the Netherlands. These are all experiences of loss.  

Loss comes in many forms; it can be the loss of a relative or a friend, or a broken relationship, or the move to a different house or even different country; it can be the loss of identity as you graduate and can no longer identify as student and blame your laziness or procrastination on the clichés that surround ‘the typical student’ (at least in the Netherlands). These are all legitimate experiences of loss that should be looked at that way, and they can be mourned. Loss of future dreams or of past experiences is painful and it is okay to admit that!  

You may think that these are #firstworldproblems and stand in no comparison to the loss and suffering that people go through because of covid19. True. And yet, your experiences of loss are real in your life. Suddenly finding yourself in a new, or rather an old, surrounding again can be a big shock. You have not had time to prepare yourself to go home or think about home and now you may be experiencing a culture shock in your home country (known as reverse culture shock). Finding yourself stuck in a country not your own can be a lonely experience in which you are confronted with yourself and your anxieties all the time.  
Here are some things that may help you to cope with your situation:

Tell God how you feel. Or, if you are more of a writer, journal about your experiences. Read your Bible to be encouraged and inspired! There are so many Biblical characters who dealt with loss – only think of Joseph in Egypt who was cut off from his family, or Paul who traveled around the Greek world and Asia Minor for years, but who was quarantined upon his arrival in Rome for two (!) years.
Talk to your friends, stay connected with your ISM group. Chat to the local IFES staff connected to your group. When you reach out to them, you will find that they are more than happy to listen to you, talk through some helpful tools and pray with you for encouragement! Just drop them a message 😊.  

Let’s be honest to ourselves and others: this situation is just not great. It can be very lonely. Lack of hugs and physical contact is tough. Lack of cosy group meetings is a pity. Not being able to nose around the Uni library is sad. Not being able to see friends and family is difficult. Frankly speaking, loss is always painful.  
Why not take a moment today to acknowledge that and think of who you can and would like to talk to about this?

Marieke Sybrandi

Studentworker

Marieke@ifes.nl

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