It was almost 10 years ago that I came from China to The Netherlands to study my bachelor and master in law. A lot of happy, sad, vulnerable and proud moments flooded to my mind today. So I decided to do some sharing of my stories.
Let us start from here, in the first bachelor year, my English was not so good enough to understand all the legal terms, therefore I had to get up at 5 in the early morning every day and tried to learn everything as fast as possible to catch up the lecturers, I do not know if all other EU/Dutch classmates had the same problems as me. I stayed in the University around 22.00 in the evening and went back to my student room alone and then cooked my dinner and prepared my breakfast for tomorrow, because The Netherlands was still an expensive country, my family has invested a lot for my staying and I wanted to save some money for them. Instead of having parties or chill student life, I have put all my focus on learning and graduating on time due to the high tuition fees and I don’t want to disappoint to my family. We have 7 hours of time difference, they cannot be my side whenever I needed them, therefore I had to learn how to live in this completely different country. I also tried to have some part-time jobs in the summer holiday in order to reduce financial burdens and got to know the local society. I remembered in the last period of writing my bachelor and master thesis, I went to Peace Palace Library every day, deleted all my social apps, therefore nobody could reach me in order to concentrate and finish my thesis without any disruption.
In the end I made it! Graduated from bachelor and master on time and have published my bachelor thesis on EU law journal. And later my EU law professor in Maastricht shared with me that he told younger students in the class, if an Asian can pass the whole course, how can you fail EU law? He remembered and used me as an example to encourage other students.
After I have finished my studies, I first interned in Everaert Advocaten Immigration Lawyers for 2 months. Then I have entered a very difficult time to find a job. As for my expertise, most of the law firms would want Dutch native speakers and in the companies they would prefer EU nationals due to the work permit issues. I was unemployment for more than half a year, and I had 1 year visa limitation – which means if I am not able to find a job, then I will have to go back to China. Every day I woke up and kept asking myself with doubts “Lydia, you are a master in law, is it a shame that you are not able to find a job, why do you stay here if you cannot make a contribution, are you wasting your time here?”. In the end, even though under a lot of financial pressure, I kept telling myself “don’t never give up, keep applying, do as much as you can”. I went to library every day, started 8 in the morning till 20.00 in the evening, kept studying Dutch in the same time so that I can switch my frustration to hard work. I got some invitation for online tests or interviews, but in the end, it was all rejections. Sometimes I called my parents and cried, saying that I want to come back home and I am not able to hang in there anymore. My parents left me to decide, I know in the bottom of my heart, I still want to prove that I am as good as the others and maybe even better. Therefore, next day, I wiped my tears and started to go to library again.
After months of trying, I got a job in Vanderlande, met a lot of nice and caring people (thanks again for the team to give me this great opportunity), received a permanent contract within 6 months – and my new journey started from here and stories continues. During my 10 years journey in NL, I have successfully completed my study, got my permanent working contract, got my permanent Dutch residence permit, got my driver licenses and ik spreek meer Nederlands ook! In the meantime a lot of difficult moments came to me too, when my mum was sick I was not able to take care of her, I couldn’t see my grandpa for the last time and I have missed every birthday of my parents. Normally I do not share these personal moments because of my culture, modest is the key and you don’t “show off” what you have done. Be nice and humble always.
Here I just want to encourage all the people who were in the similar situation, especially with COVID-19 situation, a lot of people are struggling to find a job or lose their job, having some depression or mental issues, having difficulty in their relationships, starting a new life somewhere that you aren’t familiar with. My good friend who has a similar education as me, but she is not able to find a proper employment and needs to return to China, other friend who is having some relationship issues and it didn’t work out for her etc.
Please remember never give up, keep trying and learning, make it the best out of it, sometimes crisis can be a challenge and this challenge can also turn out as positive or “must have” experiences in life, as life is always full of ups and downs, it depends on how we see it.
Most importantly, I cannot achieve all these without a lot of wonderful people I have met in my life – you have all supported me all the way and I couldn’t be more grateful to have you all – thank you all for everything, especially to my parents, they aren’t able to see my 2 times of graduation, the moment when I passed my Dutch and driving exam, nor can they see my working surroundings. What I can do is keep making them proud.
With all the love and support, I am looking forward to my next 10 year journey.
Lydia 21 June 2020 Eindhoven, edited in 9 July 2020 Veghel