Article by: Gosia Krakowska (Poland)
Picture credits: Gosia Krakowska
”How did you do it?”, my befriended law professor asked me. ”Did what?” “Did not give up on this (law studies) after so many years.”
To make the story short: I arrived in the Netherlands in 2005, alone, from Poland, to pursue my law studies at the University of Amsterdam. I did not know Dutch, had no knowledge of customs, nor did I have the slightest understanding of the Dutch mentality. I had no friends and no network at all. Instead, I arrived with a luggage of faith, and conviction that ”I can do it.” I will not tell my whole story here… Instead, I would like to share some tips on how not to get lost and survive hardships when you are alone and studying abroad.
Shortly after completing my course in Academic Dutch (it was required if you planned to continue your studies in Dutch), I enrolled at the Law Faculty at the renowned Amsterdam Law School. Studying law in a language I barely knew was not easy. I had to persevere through many, many sleepless nights and a lot of stress. I remember that during my first year, I had to memorize my own essay for the European legal history exam by heart because from obvious reasons I had to write it in Dutch. In order to avoid making mistakes, I memorized every word, every sentence (and yes I passed it). Don’t get discouraged with difficulty, but nail it until it’s complete.
Have a sense of self-esteem
In his research, Nathaniel Branden, evaluated self-esteem as the sum of self-confidence and self-respect, and defined self-esteem as the experience of having the capacity ”to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness.” No doubt about this one here. Know your worth and the feeling of personal capacity. Life will bring you challenges. If you face them, do not run away from them. Set your limits and standards of acceptable behavior. Have faith in yourself, and in what you do.
Yet, some people tend to confuse self-esteem with arrogance. Wrong! Just because I did not follow your advice, does not mean I had no respect for you. Just because I believe in myself that I can achieve something, does not mean I am not humble. I am simply not convinced whether your tip will work well for me. And that’s only because I know better myself than you do.
Turn a negative experience into a positive one
No spiritual truisms about this one here. It is just about being practical. Every time I have encountered an obstacle, a difficulty or disappointment, I did not let it affect me too much. Instead, I taught myself to translate this negative experience into a positive one. Such a technique requires your mind to switch into the positive thinking mode right away. In every negative experience, there is an opportunity. Do not forget that.
Know what you want and follow your gut
Maybe I am repeating others on this one but do not forget to have a plan. Know what you want to achieve. Do not let anyone turn you away from your life’s path. Yet, be prepared to encounter distractions. There will be distractions of any kind, and yes we all get distracted from time to time. If you feel you are capable of doing something, go and do it. Follow your gut. Always.
Stay inspired and motivated
For the inspiration, I always read ”Frank Sinatra has a cold”. Written by Gay Talese in 1966, for Esquire, the article is probably one of the greatest celebrity profiles ever written. Sinatra refused to be interviewed yet Talese did not give up. Instead, he followed the famous singer everywhere he was for a consecutive three months, and wrote this acclaimed piece. The point of this tip is to make sure that whenever you see the door closed, get inside through the window. Don’t give up and get just get it done!