As we walk to the bus, Julia adjusts her backpack, tightening the straps. “At the start of the academic year I always carried a nice handbag and an extra fabric bag for all the heavy textbooks and law volumes. That wasn’t very practical, so I asked for a sturdy, handy backpack for Christmas.” After a short bus trip we transfer to the underground in Schiedam heading towards Kralingse Zoom. Julia eagerly anticipates the new metro line that will connect Rotterdam with Hoek van Holland, but the Hoekse Lijn route is facing mounting delays. “Then I would be able to board here and get off just around the corner from the campus. Do some reading and eat breakfast without having to rush or transfer to another line. Perfect.”

But that’s not a journey she’ll be taking in the next half-year, because Julia is no longer subject to mandatory attendance for the Law programme. At least not until September, when she will start her studies a second time. Why is she restarting her studies? Her study advisor offers some insight: Julia works quite a lot for someone enrolled in a full-time programme. She works twenty hours a week at FloraHolland in Naaldwijk, and she tutors for four hours a week. “The study advisor said it was just too much. Someone in this programme should work no more than one day a week, and then preferably at the weekend.” Actually, Julia was determined to do whatever it took to pass this year, until a friend told her about the stricter rules applied to the compensation scheme: you’re no longer permitted to compensate for an unsatisfactory grade if it’s lower than a 5.

Julia Federowicz
Image credit: Tessa Hofland

Hoek van Holland

There’s no doubt that Julia is disappointed. “But I’m also aware that I’m not the only one stopping now to try again in the next academic year. A lot of people I know have done the same thing, and in a way that makes me feel more optimistic.” She has her parents’ support, and Julia is very grateful for this. She plans to spend the remainder of this academic year mostly working. “That way, I won’t have to work during the next academic year – and hopefully for part of my second year as well – and I’ll be able to completely focus on my studies.”

Julia Federowicz

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Julia had brown hair at our last interview, now it’s quite red. “Well, that wasn’t exactly what I was going for”, laughs the law student as I compliment her new hair colour. Julia wanted ‘Kylie Jenner-blond hair’. Platinum blond. But after two colouring attempts she ended up with hair the colour of ‘yellow piss’, so she gave op. She tried to cover it with a brown hair colouring, and the combination led to this radiant red.

“Sorry we can’t meet at my house”, says Julia as we take our seats in the Mijn Torpedoloods restaurant in Hoek van Holland, close to the bus station. While the venue is also available for wedding parties and ‘wining and dining’, we stick to just cappuccinos. “Our bathroom is being renovated.” Last summer, the Federowicz family moved from Rotterdam-Ommoord to the seaside district in the farthest reaches of the municipality of Rotterdam. Her seven-year-old sister loves Hoek van Holland, but Julia misses Rotterdam’s bustling city vibe. From a city where there’s always something to do to Hoek van Holland, where it’s just the opposite. But she does really like her (still relatively new) job in Naaldwijk, and it’s ‘only’ 30 to 40 minutes away by bike. “A piece of cake.”