Ik Student
Universiteit Amsterdam
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‘If you don’t join until the master, you don’t know anyone’


‘University College is rather prestigious. My mother in particular, loved the fact that I went to study there. She gave up her own degree course and that’s why she would love for me to end up in Oxford.’

Eye opener

‘When you don’t know what’s what anymore, it’s good to have someone to think along with you. Especially if it’s a problem you carry around with you twenty four hours a day. You can’t switch off your own head.’


‘Studying is just like driving a car: there’s a clutch, a brake and a steering wheel. You know how it works in theory. To accelerate you have to perform actions in a certain order and then the car will drive. But there are always people with whom the car stalls.’

She began at the prestigious University College. But Lisa (24) didn’t feel at home there and switched to the UvA. Things aren’t working out there either, though. Now she’s very worried, but a good conversation with her parents is not on the cards.

Because she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to study, Lisa chose to go to University College in Maastricht. ‘It’s a course you don’t have to enter into with tunnel vision from the word go. You focus on multiple disciplines. It’s less free than a regular university as well. If you’re having problems, it’s easier to stay on track there. I liked that.’

Lisa: ‘Academically speaking there is nothing wrong with University College. It’s just the social environment I could have done without. You live on campus and you always eat together with other students in a large dining hall. You pay for that. If your friends don’t leave for home before a certain time, you have to walk all the way with them to the main gate, to let them out. That restricts your freedom terribly.’ She didn’t feel at home with the people there either. “The students at University College are, for the most part, elitists. People who normally end up in a fraternity. Students with wealthy parents. Johnny the butcher’s son doesn’t go there. The other part consists of bright young people who are really too young to go to university yet.’

To the UvA
Because she didn’t feel at home at University College, Lisa decided, after three years, to switch to the UvA for the sociology master. The transition proved too great. ‘The broad range of subjects in my preliminary studies meant I hadn’t done enough sociology subjects, which in turn meant I didn’t have an overview of the field. Very quickly it all became too much. I would regularly sit at my desk crying over my course books.’ She didn’t have much contact with fellow students either. ‘That was to be expected, of course. If you don’t join until the master, you don’t know anyone. It’s difficult to get to know people then.’

A failure
After a year she switched to the regular master. ‘That wasn’t much better. I would often sit at my desk for days on end, but not study at all. In the library I would only hear the strip lighting humming.’ As her studies stagnate, Lisa sees other students progressing. ‘People around me are all graduating and landing themselves good jobs. Or else they’re on the right track to graduating. I am standing with my feet in concrete. When people ask me how my studies are going, all I can say is that it’s just as bad as six months ago. That’s why I don’t like to talk about my study problems. When you talk to others about it, you feel such a failure.’

Awake at night
Lisa worries a lot about the progress of her studies. Even a bad grade keeps her awake at night. ‘It’s not realistic, but if a small thing, such as a paper doesn’t go well, it is easy to lose yourself in an endless maelstrom of unrealistic dream fantasies. You drive yourself mad with the idea that you’ll never find a job.’ The debt she has run up on her student loan also causes a lot of stress. I once cried for a week after receiving a letter stating I had a 24 thousand Euro debt on my student loan. When you read that, the whole world seems to be resting on your shoulders.’

Not a good conversation
Lisa: ‘My mother gave up her degree course. Because of that it’s not possible to talk to her about my study problems. On top of that, she also has a difficult way of communicating. There are always two options in a conversation with her: agree with my mother immediately, or agree with my mother after a fifteen minute discussion. My father does nothing but work. And when he is home he reads the paper and listens to opera with his headphones on. I can solve practical matters with him very well. But a profound conversation about my inner most feelings? Pigs might fly.

Copy paste
Lisa is finally about to start her thesis. She’s still extremely worried though, especially about her future. ‘The thing I worry about most is that nobody will have heard of University College and that people will think I’ve been copy pasting on a grant. Besides, I have a resume with a failed master’s degree on it. That’s not the resume people are waiting for.’

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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