Ik Student
Universiteit Amsterdam

‘The last thing I want to do, is disappoint my father’

Father’s will

‘My father told me the combination of law and economics would get me far. When I said I didn’t think it was right for me, he would start on about all the long days and the heavy labour he did, so I could go to university. That would shut me up. The last thing I wanted to do, was disappoint him.’

White Dutch people

‘Because there were only white, Dutch people at my school, I didn’t feel at home there. When I complained about it, my father would tell me to persevere. It was good for my future.’


‘I didn’t want to go to a regular psychologist. I was ashamed of my problems. It would probably be a white man who had no idea how to deal with me.’

It isn’t always easy for Ghanaian Ashur (22) to be surrounded by only white students. His father doesn’t understand that, he thinks Ashur should persevere. Ashur was doing very badly for a while, until he met somebody whom he trusts.

Ashur was born in Ghana and at a young age, he moved with his parents, to a neighbourhood in Almere Buiten where many foreigners live. His father ensured he was enrolled in a school with predominantly white pupils. ‘My father is a hardworking labourer and he has always pushed me to go to university. That was very important to him. He wanted me to do better than he had. I went into secondary school with those expectations.’

Suit and tie
At the insistence of his father Asher studied law after secondary school. Again he found himself in a school with almost only white Dutch people. ‘That course was not right for me at all. Law doesn’t interest me. I certainly couldn’t see myself in a suit and tie.’ Ashur had many problems with his lecturers during his first year. He didn’t have much contact with his fellow students either. ‘Basically nobody was interested in my plight. I really missed that.’

Ashur: ‘After a year I had had it completely with university. I didn’t have any money and I didn’t have a job. I got into fights with my parents every day.’ He didn’t feel at home at university at all. So he looked for refuge with other Africans. ‘I had hoped they would understand me, because they know what it’s like to be a foreigner. I spent more and more time with people who didn’t have a job and who basically did nothing all day. We often went out drinking and smoking pot . A friend of mine would borrow his father’s car and we would cruise around town in it. On the weekends we would usually go to reggae parties, chasing after the girls.’ His studies came to a standstill during that time. ‘Drinking and smoking weed was at the expense of my studies. ‘In the mornings I often had a hangover and couldn’t get out of bed. If I did go to lectures, I couldn’t concentrate. I fell increasingly farther behind.’

Another world
‘Despite sharing the same aversion of society, it turned out that the Africans I hung out with had other views on life than I had. That was hard at times. At one point I felt so desperately alone. My friends weren’t really friends after all. They had no idea what was going on inside my head. I didn’t know anyone in school. I was in contact with one guy from time to time about the homework, but that was all. It was as if I had fallen into another world. Everybody carried on with their normal lives, but I had come to a standstill. I was living in between two worlds during that time.’

Bottle it up
Ashur couldn’t discuss his problems with his father. I’d rather he didn’t know I wasn’t doing well. He would have been so disappointed. I didn’t want to be a burden to him and I wanted to live up to his expectations by being a successful student in all aspects. Turning to him for help was not an option.’ He couldn’t share his problems with his friends either. ‘I couldn’t tell those guys. If you wanted to be a part of their group, you had to be a macho, be the tough guy. When I started bottling everything up, the problems really began. I felt I had to talk about it, but I had no one to turn to. I felt locked up within myself and I became aggressive towards others. Even my sister, with whom I always got on well, didn’t recognise me anymore. During that period I became increasingly down.’

Tell everything
Ashur: ‘I didn’t want to go to a regular psychologist, because I was ashamed of my problems. I also thought it would probably be another one of those white men who had no idea how to deal with my specific problems.’ In the end he met a youth worker through a friend of his. ‘She simply took me along one time and said we were going there for a beer. I didn’t trust anybody anymore by then, but there was an immediate connection. He had had a rough time when he was younger as well. I hung out there more and more often. We had fun playing cards and pool. It took a long time before I told him anything personal. But at a certain point I realised I could trust him. Our relationship grew and I ended up telling him everything. That man has become a tremendous support to me. I don’t know what I would have done without him. Sometimes all it takes, is to trust someone.’

Back to university
Ashur has given up smoking weed and drinking completely now. ‘That was hard to do at first, but there comes a point when you calm down and you can think clearly again. That feels good. I don’t see my ‘old’ friends anymore. Not because they’re not good people, but because it’s not good for me. My studies are going better because of that. School is what it’s all about now. That comes first, then work and then relaxation.’

Ashur’s story: ‘The last thing I want to do, is disappoint my father’
Lisa’s story: ‘If you don’t join until the master, you don’t know anyone’
Ruby’s story: ‘In the end love conquers all’
Rose’s story: ‘I didn’t feel at home in that student scene’

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