Room and Board

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UCU student Keerthi Sridharan participated in the competition for the title of Campus Columnist 2020. The jury was impressed with the way she describes her life on campus in the weekends, and decided to nominate her for the title.

Read in Dutch

My first year at UCU, I stayed on campus nearly every single weekend. I got used to hanging out in an empty unit, with my (Dutch) housemates accustomed to leaving on Saturday morning and arriving back at the unit with home-cooked leftovers late Sunday night. I would make pancakes and blast music in the kitchen. I would walk through Wilhelminapark listening to podcasts. I would deep-clean my room, clearing my desk of half-empty mugs of tea. And through all of this, I would be deeply, sadly, lonely.

UCU deems anyone absent from campus events, rarely seen at the bar, and just generally hard to spot outside of class, a "campus ghost". But looking at campus on the weekend, it’s clear that it's not the students that are apparitions. The whole campus seems to flicker in and out of existence, populated only by the odd international or two, all the exchange students deserting in favor of traveling through Europe. Dining hall is closed, so those of us poor souls that need sustenance have to make it ourselves, often steadfastly ignoring a pile of dishes that those lovely unitmates 'forgot' about before they left for home. Once, in the middle of winter, I walked across the quad, and I still swear that I heard the echo hit the wall of Kromhout.

"Are you really in college if you go home every weekend?" I ask of a Dutch friend eventually.

"I guess I just see it as normal." she says, and I think of how sometimes, if my parents remember to sit in the room with the good Wi-Fi, my mom's face is clear enough that I can see her dimples. "I get homesick if I'm not back every few weeks at the latest. And my parents miss me a lot too."

I've been to her house for the weekend a few times since that conversation. Of course, her free weekend-ov makes the trip far less hassle for her, but I'm always grateful for a hot meal and a kitchen I don't have to clean entirely on my own. I ask my dad about it over the phone; "if you lived here, would you want me to come visit you every week?"

"Well, you're always welcome, and we would want you to come spend time with us, but," he frowns, a little bemused. "You're not exactly in boarding school, are you?"

Don't get me wrong--it delights me to get updates from my Dutch friends on how their pets are doing, and to sneak spoonfuls of the homemade pesto that they bring back in Tupperware. But for students, especially for us internationals, this time in our lives marks an important change in how you answer the question: where's home? Homesickness is something we all feel, but we've all heard that college is the time to leave the nest and fly. And that bag full of dirty laundry? All it's going to do is weigh you down.

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