Written by: Wakana Kitamura
My identity as a student…
We asked numerous first- and second-year IRO students about how their identity has changed throughout their experiences at university. Here are their responses…
1. Mindmap with what do you think is your identity?
2. What do you think is your identity in an international environment? Using Personal stories.
I feel very much part of the international community around me. I lived abroad when I was little and I never really felt completely at home once I returned to my actual home country. However, moving to The Hague to study in a foreign place with so many international students, made me realize that it almost feels as home.
I feel very much part of the international community around me. I lived abroad when I was little and I never really felt completely at home once I returned to my actual home country. However, moving to The Hague to study in a foreign place with so many international students, made me realize that it almost feels like home.
During my stay in The Hague, I’ve met so many people who come from different cultures and have a variety of values which made me realize how big the world is. I have become a person who is more open-minded compared to when I was in high school.
I am an Asian/Vietnamese student. Precisely because The Hague is an international environment, it can be considered a melting pot of different cultures. As a result, my nationality and cultural background become a more unique factor that defines who I am.
I’ve grown up between two very different countries- Bulgaria and Syria. I do feel connected to both cultures immensely and I believe experiencing those contrasting societies, religions and lifestyles shaped my identity into what it is now. Having been predisposed to intercultural communication in my childhood, I feel like I belong in an international setting, I thrive in it. My identity in an international environment is accepting of everyone else’s, eager to learn more about others, and always trying to bring out the best of my cultural affinity.
3. What was the biggest change in yourself, and in your identity, ever since you became a university student?
I’ve really grown into the person I want to be. I’m more outgoing and extroverted because I’ve found a big, welcoming group of like-minded people with whom I feel at home.
I think I became more independent and I’m learning to take care of myself and also people around me. I think being independent is the biggest change in me after I became a university student.
I think I have become a more confident, expressive and outgoing person ever since university started. I have always considered myself to be more shy and reserved, and it is something I was always self-conscious about. That is why I made it a personal goal to push myself out of my comfort zone and change. I believe I have been able to do so, whether it be joining more social events and getting to know more people, or simply trying new activities and changing up my style. These are very simple things to do, but to me, they signify a new phase of change in my life. Though it does not seem that way, I think my newfound confidence also makes me more expressive and proud of where I come from. I used to not talk very extensively about my culture but now I find myself wanting to promote and share more about Vietnam and East Asia in general with other people.
The biggest change I’ve observed in myself is that I became more strong-minded, independent, and decisive. Now that I live alone and for the first time away from my family, I’ve learned how to take care of myself but more strikingly, I learned how to make decisions. Although these decisions are not always the right ones of course. I didn’t realize how much I relied on external help when it came to making decisions about my own life. Being a university student taught me how to decide for myself and shape my own life the way I want it.
4. How has your identity changed from the first year to the second year of university?
I think that the biggest difference in my identity was present in the first block of year 1 and moving into block 2. I believe that the first 6 months of the university made the biggest difference and “upgrade” to the person that I am today. Nonetheless, comparing how it was a year and a half ago to today, there is still a small apparent change in the way in which I behave, however, it is not that big of a change from what it was throughout year 1. Comparing year 2 to year 1, I have improved the way in which I handle my stress. This means that especially during exam season or when I have deadlines, I have learnt to use my stress more productively and as motivation, compared to last year, where my stress would bring me down mentally. As time passes and I become more independent, I see that my identity evolves and becomes a better and more mature version of myself.
5. How do you expect your identity to change in the future?
Based on my experiences so far, I think I will become an even more confident person and be able to take charge of my daily life to reach new goals that I set up for myself. Maybe I will discover new aspects of my identity, but I know I will always identify strongly as a Vietnamese and Asian person.
In the future, I hope to continue shaping my identity in a big and diverse international setting. I know I still have a lot to work on myself before I can call my identity fully complete and entirely “me”. I believe that the key to learning about ourselves is to learn about others. I hope in the future I’ll be surrounded by people that I can learn a lot and I’ll have opportunities and challenges in my life that will shape me into a better and stronger me.