There is no place like home

Kate Sytnik is a fearless 19-year-old Russian studying Liberal Arts & Sciences. Embarked on a journey of self-exploration, she tries to make the most out of each day and have some fun along the way.

Two times a year most of international students are stopped at a major checkpoint. Holidays come and each of us is faced with a choice (or lack of it) to go to our home country or to stay in Holland. I know many people who feel incredibly home sick and start counting days till next trip home the moment they get back to studies. They miss home, family, friends, food and what not.

Till recently, I was not one of those people. For me, going home has always been associated with having to face the past that I would like to forget. Don’t worry, I am not a serial killer fleeing from inevitable persecution. Yet, when I meet people that I know I am doomed to be judged just as harshly as at the Court in The Hague. For what, you might be wondering?

Well, for some reason, people tend to think that any place is better that the one they find themselves in. ’But it is so much easier for you in the comfortable Europe’, this is a typical kind of comment I get followed by a fatalistic sigh and a reproaching look. Teachers, former classmates, even close friends, who chose to stay in Russia, greet me this way. To tell you the truth, it is hard not to stare back at them and ask: ’Oh really?’

A warm welcome back continues at home and inevitably culminates during the family gatherings. My uncle and aunt, cousins and grandparents, all gather to watch the exotic display of the ‘foreign’ guest. As weird as it sounds, I must admit I do feel as a stranger at those feasts of unbounded food and alcohol consumption, peppered with debates over current state of political affairs. A specialty in my family is offering meat to me (I have been a vegetarian for several years now). When I kindly reject it, an inimitable disappointment and profound concern shadows over my grandmother’s face. She thinks that if I don’t eat a full plate (or, preferably, several plus desert) I will get blown off by Rotterdam winds.

New Year is a unique opportunity to shed all layers and try something new. Plus I want to see my parents anyway. So I might as well take this trip as a challenge and try to react differently in familiar situations. I dare you to challenge yourself as well in the coming year. Stay tuned to for an update on my progress in the next blog.