Lokman

In my spare time, I meet with friends and we do fun things together. I’m satisfied with my social life, but that wasn’t always the case. For the longest time, I didn’t do anything about it, but at a certain moment, I had enough of being alone. I realized I wanted to hang out with friends and have fun. Now, I am happy I can do both: hang out with friends and spend time on my studies.

The death of my father.

After my father passed away, it seemed like my peers had no idea what to say to me. They thought, “Let’s not bother him”, even though I really wanted to talk about it. I understand it isn’t easy to know what I really wanted, but they could’ve just asked me. I did connect with people via WhatsApp, but it’s completely different than having conversations in person.

In high school.

I started at VMBO (“Pre-vocational secondary education”). Afterwards, I went to the HAVO (“Secondary general education”), and finally to VWO (“Pre-university education”). In high school, I often explained what being Islam means. For instance, why I didn’t drink any alcohol, but my classmates didn’t get it. The lack of understanding made me feel lonely. I didn’t have the same interests as people my age. They were going out during the weekends and told stories about what happened at prom. I stayed at home, sitting on the couch. Back then, I didn’t have any friends and I truly experienced what loneliness feels like. Most of the time, I played online games. Online it’s all about the game, nobody knows what you actually look like in real life. I’ve made some friends via online gaming, but I’ve never met them in person.

Student association for Muslims.

In my third year as a student, I found out there was a student association for Muslims. The first meeting I went to, I could immediately identify with them. I didn’t have to explain myself, I could just be me, and this felt so good.
I could be who I wanted to be, and because of that, it was easier to make friends. At the student association, I’ve created my largest network. Every member of the association is completely different. You’ve people who pray or who don’t pray, who wear a veil or who don’t wear a veil. There are also people who aren’t Muslim, but who are just interested in the student association.

International students.

At the University, there are a lot of international students. We try to connect with each other, especially during our activities and important festivals (for instance the Festival of Breaking the Fast), so they don’t have to feel alone.

Why do I not have any friends? Am I weird?

While I was in high school, I thought a lot about why I didn’t have any friends. Why don’t I have any friends? Am I weird? I think it would’ve helped me if someone had known about my struggles and had told me “you are enough just the way you are”. I was always trying to fit in with other people.

Tutor

At the university, I have a tutor. We just click. I’ve the feeling that she really understands me, she can relate to things I’ve experienced. She knows how it feels to be a minority and to stick out because you’re different from the people around you. I can vent and she also helps me to feel more confident. She’s very inspiring to me, and that is why she’s like a role model to me.

* On request this story is anonymous. Photo and name are fictitious.