Ik Student
Universiteit Amsterdam
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‘Typical for me is that I lose friends along the way’

Children are pure

‘I could never say no when people asked me to babysit their children. I took it so seriously. Children are extremely pure. If they ask you to come babysit again, you can’t say no. Children know immediately when you lie. But honesty and total commitment are not prevalent when studying. Studying requires egotism, dedication and sacrifice. Students put everything aside for their studies.’

The meaning of life

‘Who can you talk to nowadays about the meaning of life? Everyone glosses over it. Nobody looks up anymore to look at a bird. Nobody stops to think about the everyday things in life. I feel I’m all alone in doing that.’

Student counsellor

‘Last year I was summoned by the student counsellor for the first time in ten years. The conversation was only about credit points.’

Marco is 33 years old, has already graduated once and is now on his second study. At least, he’s enrolled, he has been enrolled for ten years. But he does a lot of babysitting and his studies have stagnated. He thinks perhaps he ought to go into regression therapy.

After secondary school Marco enrolled in laboratory studies in Utrecht. ‘I completed the course for organic chemist within the set period. That went quite smoothly, really. I was carefree and had no other obligations.’
After his graduation Marco worked in a German laboratory for two years, but he returned to Holland. ‘Being a no-nonsense Dutch guy, I found life in Germany too cold and heartless.’ Because he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life working in a laboratory, he decided to study chemical engineering at the HvA.

Within a week he found a place to live in Gein. But before long there were problems because the digs had been sublet twice. When the situation became intolerable, he fortunately found a new room to rent. ‘I replied to an advertisement offering a room in exchange for babysitting: twice a week and occasionally on the weekends. It was an act of fate, I truly believe that. I connected with the parents immediately and moved in. For the past decade I’ve more or less stuck around there.’

An easy life
‘At first I thought babysitting wouldn’t be a problem. But if you’re with children from 3 to 6 pm, you don’t do much in the evenings anymore. That became apparent very quickly. Babysitting takes a lot of energy and pretty soon I took on other babysitting jobs as well.’
His studies deteriorated rapidly. ‘I either didn’t plan enough time to pass my exams, or my exam was on a day when I had to pick up the children. At a certain point my priorities shifted and I lost sight of the reason why I had come to Amsterdam.’
‘I had an easy life, too easy, really. It was all great fun, but it had a negative effect on my study programme. The children compensated for that completely. But sometimes it was weird. I would be playing with the children in the park and think about how other students were sweating over their exams. That was a strange realisation.’

Building up something
If you do that for a few years, it changes your perspective on life. You’re walking along holding the children’s hands and you see everyone rushing to work. You see how they work themselves to the bone their whole life and earn loads of money. But are they happy? I happen to know a lot of people who hate going to work in the mornings. There comes a time when you wonder if you should join them, whether that’s the path to take. Because as soon as you stop studying, you have to join society, you have to start building up something. Buy a house, start a family, get a company car and then what?’

Lost friends
Over the years Marco has lost touch with many friends. ‘After my first degree course I had many friends, but I lost touch with them, especially after a year in Germany. That happened to me once in primary school as well. There was a friend there who I lost touch with. It’s a great shame, but that’s just the way it is with me. My contact with friends is scattered. I’m in touch with a couple of people here and there, but they’re not friends I can discuss emotional stuff with.’

Marco doesn’t like to talk to others about his loneliness. ‘First of all, I don’t want to bother anybody. I have been advised to talk to a psychologist. That’s what they’re there for, they say. They earn loads of money, they have to see you. Full stop.’ Despite his reluctance Marco went to a psychologist last year, at the advice of a teacher friend. ‘But it was pointless. What is the point of someone staring into your eyes, looking something up in a book and saying: “Ah, you are sad.” He seemed like quite an experienced person, but if that’s all he has to say! I could have had a more profound conversation with my mother. In the end I only went once and I settled it by email.’

A fresh start
Marco often thinks of making a fresh start. ‘It may be better to move, close this chapter and complete my studies. I think that is the only way.’ He’s also considering regression therapy. He thinks an alternative approach may help him. ‘It may sound very woolly. But some people are too proud, other people have commitment issues. All in all a human life is geared towards finding a balance. Becoming a stable person in the end. Everyone has some issue or another to deal with.’

Hoesem’s story: ‘I don’t expect much of people’
Ida’s story: ‘As long as I don’t attempt suicide, I’m all right’
Mary’s story: ‘I think about literally everything’
Marco’s story: ‘Typical for me is that I lose friends along the way’
Marianne’s story: ‘Now I will persevere, even if it takes another 20 years’
Simon’s story: ‘If you don’t live in Amsterdam, you do not really belong’

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