Ik Student
Universiteit Amsterdam
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‘That time in Barcelona was a turning point for me’

Down the pub

‘If I had something important to do the next day, I would go down the pub the night before. I didn’t stop to wonder what I was doing, whether this was what I wanted. Not every student is still dealing with those doubts in their third or fourth year.’


‘When I couldn’t motivate myself to get down to work, I looked up a lot of information on depression and burnout. When I realised I was suffering all the symptoms, it all became clear to me.’

Phoned a psychologist

‘Last year I was on the train and I suffered such a bad panic attack, I was afraid things would never turn out right again. That’s when I told myself: that’s it, you have to take action now. That’s when I phoned a psychologist.

Dick (23) devoted himself to his studies enthusiastically and took on a lot. Until suddenly he didn’t know who he was anymore and what he wanted in life. ‘At first I didn’t even realise I had changed.’

After secondary school Dick enrolled in commercial economics at the HvA, because he felt university was too scientific. ‘It was right for me, at the time, anyway.’
In his second year he also enrolled fulltime in business economics. Initially he was a very diligent student. ‘It came easily to me. I find things interesting quite quickly, so I started taking on all sorts of other things as well. I was highly ambitious and a tremendous perfectionist and I took on a lot. I enjoyed that, having all those responsibilities. But at a certain point, I didn’t know what I was doing anymore, who I was and what I wanted in life. I couldn’t motivate myself anymore and I couldn’t get anything done. I would sit at my desk and write two or three words. That was all I could manage. I had so many responsibilities.’’

After his third year he went to Barcelona for an internship. That was a fun and new experience with a lot of freedom. ‘It’s a completely different culture, with different customs. You socialise with other people and see that there is another way of living. That time in Barcelona was a turning point for me. I could do whatever I liked there, go wherever I wanted to go. I realised you waste your time if you do nothing but study, you have to do fun things as well.’

‘When I returned I suffered a burnout. I didn’t feel like doing anything useful anymore. Whole days went by without me doing anything. Normally I’m not very good at lying in, but during that period I was much better at it. If I set the alarm clock, I would sleep right through it. It cost me a lot of energy, dealing with myself in that state.’ His friends noticed that as well. ‘They said I had changed since Barcelona. They thought I was tame. Before, if I had wanted something, I had gone for it. Not anymore. I didn’t realise I had changed myself.’
Studying wasn’t going very well anymore either. ‘It was strange to experience that something I used to be able to do, had suddenly become impossible. It made me feel useless that I hadn’t achieved anything again, that I had wasted another day.’

Each time Dick managed to pass his exams. This meant it took a while for him to admit things weren’t going well. ‘Every time there would be another deadline and I felt that I would make it if I worked until three in the morning. That was utter nonsense of course.’
He hardly talked about his problems. ‘I’m a very private person. I have had to learn to talk more. I know many people don’t understand me and think, oh that’s Dick again.’
To keep the peace at home, he doesn’t like talking to his parents about it either. ‘The threshold to professional help is a low one, but I was very reluctant, because of the shame I felt towards the people around me. I decided to sort it out by myself. I didn’t feel I really needed professional help.’

Student psychologist
Eventually Dick saw a student psychologist. ‘That was good. Admitting things were not going well, was something they had to teach me there. It’s been quite a process, which has cost me a lot of time. You tend to say you’re doing fine, even when you’re not.’
The student psychologist helped him to break through the vicious cycle he was in. Without the tools the psychologist gave me, I couldn’t see that. You know you’re not alright, but you can’t define what it is.’
Dick now counsels first year students with their problems. He has become far less rigid. He hopes to graduate at the end of this year in both commercial economics and business economics.

Carmen’s story: ‘As you’re studying you are discovering yourself’
Dick’s story: ‘That time in Barcelona was a turning point for me’
Julia’s story: ‘It wasn’t until the third period that I really started studying’
Marsha’s story: ‘I broke down. That was a turning point in my life’

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