Living in Leuven – 1

Last Saturday morning, I gave an awkward hug to my husband in the Jeddah airport and it’s been one hell of a week so far. I finished two of my semester exams with severe bronchitis and vigorous coughing by the side. I have shed tears like never before and have called my husband every two hours to cry some more. While all my utensils soak in the sink, the layers of dust on my floor are dancing as the cold wind slips through the window. All the furniture are scattered in the room; the couch blocks the entrance of the toilet, two chairs are at the center of the room with loads of clothes on them, and the ladder to my bunk bed is enjoying the heat by the heater! Right now, I can see the right slipper by the chair and left by the heater, and my study table has all the notes from the previous exams. On top of these papers, the “priorities” have taken their place – my bottle of vicks, my antibiotics, some more medications, nasal spray, and a glass of water. Amid all these chaos, I lie on my couch (actually sit at 60-degree angle) also facing the toilet door. In fact, if I extend my legs I can touch the toilet door.

It has been a difficult week and I am not sure for how long I am going to be sick as I am not getting any better. I am tired of coughing all the time; with each cough, my lungs are crying out loud now.  My stomach muscle can’t tolerate one more cough. And my head, can’t bear more headaches! My room needs a makeover to even make it a little more habitable. On top of all this, I have two more exams left. I still have to study. I have been hating every second of my week with just one desire in my heart – pack my bags and leave for good. Be in the arms of the man who cares – who would pamper me whenever I fell sick, who would bring me food, who would take me to the doctor, who would do the dishes, and who would bring a warm glass of water every time I coughed. Being sick and being alone is just sad!

Why am I cribbing about all this? Well, I am just painting the picture of reality that it is not easy. Not even for those 22-year-old boys and girls studying here. Nobody likes to be away from family, friends, and familiarity. Some of my own acquaintances back home think that we all have so much fun here. It is fun on some days. But, on most days it is lonely, it is hard work, it is a struggle. Every morning we wake up and rush to college, then once we are home, late in the evening we need to work on assignments and finish up those notes and also, think about cooking, washing utensils, taking the clothes to the laundromat, doing groceries shopping, and survive on a budget. No! It is not easy. We not only miss home food but also those roadside panipuris, masala dosas, not-so-healthy gobi manchuris, and those ganne ka juice! We not only miss our family members but also those crowded streets and strangers bargaining over a 100 rupee chappal! We miss our streets, our people, our food, our kind of joy, and also, our kind of living. So yeah, it is not easy at all!

Yet, we all are here – some straight out of college, some after a few years of work experience, some left their boyfriends/girlfriends behind, some left their group of besties behind, and some like me left their spouses behind and all of us left our parents behind. We all are here with a dream, a vision, a passion, and a hope of better future. It is not fun, it is definitely not easy but we are here supporting each other like a family. Trying to gulp all the hardship, considering every moment as a learning. When one feels lonely, the other lends an ear. When one is sick, the other brings medicines. When one is hungry, the other cooks food. Yeah, we are here for each other. Studying in a foreign country is not similar to studying in a different state in India. Here, we are the aliens! But, we are here.

I am glad to have met such amazing people. Like I always say, at the end of the day life is all about the people we meet. It is not easy being here, but they make each day pass faster.

 

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