Science - May 28, 2009

LIVING APART OR MOVING TOGETHER

Studying abroad can bring great changes in your life. And having a family of your own can make it that little bit more complicated. They can either come along with you or they can stay behind. Both scenarios have a big impact on your family life. Living apart or moving together: MSc students Azlim Khan and Samuel Odunlami tell us what it’s like.

Samuel Odunlami with pictures of his family.
Azlim Khan from Malaysia studies Geo Information Science: ‘I am here with my wife and three boys, Azwaar of ten years old, Azeef of eight and Azfer of four. My kids go a Dutch primary school, OBS De Driesprong in Rhenen. At first they only spoke English, but now they have friends at school and in the neighborhood. They play football, speak Dutch fluently and are doing very well at school. My wife looks after the house. She misses her mother a lot, so they speak on the phone every week. It was lonely for her at first, because she could hardly communicate with anyone. Now she speaks some Dutch and has found English-speaking friends.

I’ve had a very hard time finding a house here. I have tried at least nine rental companies but either my income is insufficient, or the minimum rental period is twelve months, or the rules say we need at least five bedrooms, because I have a large family. Completely ridiculous. I have asked, begged, the university to help me, but they weren’t able to help me at all. With the help of a Dutch friend we now live in a house that is for sale. He also lends me money when my grant in Malaysia comes too late for me to pay the rent. It has been very tough to solve this problem, and I am disappointed that Wageningen UR couldn’t do more for me. But I am really glad that my family is here with me.’

Samuel Odunlami from Nigeria studies Leisure, Tourism and Environment: ‘The first year I was in Wageningen, I didn’t see my family at all. I have two children, my youngest one was just a few months old when I left. I miss my family a lot. When I have to make decisions my wife is not here to talk to. And she has to take care of the children all alone. In Holland I have to do my groceries, cook for myself, and wash. Well, the washing machine does that for me. The food I eat here is very different. Dutch people eat a lot of bread and potatoes, and food is packaged. In Nigeria we eat fresh yams. We eat dinner around nine o’clock at night and we eat heavy food until we are full. People here watch their weight too much.

I communicate with my family by phone and Nonoh, a kind of VoIP system. They send me pictures by email. My daughter Omotayo is four years old, my son Morayo is two. I sing a particular song for them when we talk on the phone. Omotayo last saw me when she was two, and she didn’t recognize me when she saw me. It was difficult. But when I sang our song, she jumped towards me. For Morayo, it took about two days before I could hug him. I was a stranger.’

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