A year ago, on a random Thursday, I finally finished building my door. Everyday I would stare at it waiting for something— waiting for a knock, a twist on a knob, anything that would tell me that something is behind this certain aperture. As months pass by, the silence grows and the desire turns into a pain. I would ask myself, was all my labor into building this gateway worth it? Am I waiting for nothing? This question would drown me daily, the silence from the door pulled me in deeper until one day, it saved me— like how a door saved Rose from drowning in the North Atlantic Ocean. The door unlocks, the opportunity knocks, and I was beyond ecstatic to know that I would be studying abroad, that I passed my chosen university.

As an average person from a fragile country, being given the opportunity to study abroad has been the best door that ever opened in my life. My questions finally had answers and my dreams finally rose from the dead— I finally know what is on the other side of the door, or so I thought I did. The days of painfully waiting for the results did not prepare me in any way for this humongous change. When I thought I finally got over the anxiety, I gained even more worries. When I first came into this unknown land, everything felt petrifying. The language, the food, and the culture was entirely different from what I know, and it was overwhelming to be receiving all of this information all at once. Despite the distress, I knew I was not alone. I had my family, friends, and the Erasmus Student Network supporting me all the way.

In this journey, learning how to swim is not enough. You need to have a lifebuoy, a strong support system to guide you in every paddle that you make. In my experience, having the people from ESN, my family, and meeting new people that eventually became my lifeline immensely helped in easing up to this new country. Furthermore, diving into the unknown is what helped me understand more about what’s on the other side of the door. Trying new things with new people is a refreshing getaway and a great way to reinvent one’s identity. I simply went with the flow of life, and experimented on what worked and did not work for me. Eventually, I found myself considering this country my new home.

The life of an international student is no way near the description of ‘easy’. There is a lot of longing, sadness, and loneliness that Social Media often does not see. Nevertheless, being an international student is one of the most fulfilling things you can do in your life. My small town persona disappeared when I got immersed in different cultures and traditions. Meeting different people, trying out different traditions shaped me into how I am today. Having the Erasmus Student Network beside my journey helped me ease up almost immediately, the people I met and the tasks I did opened so much perspective that helped my personal and career life grow. I know myself that I have a long way to go, but so far, building and opening that door has been one of the best decisions I ever made because the deeper I walk into the door, the more I see, the more I feel, and the more experience and finally I can say, I know what is on the other side of the door.

Lhian Kelsey, international student & ESN volunteer