Living on a farm
How can one be an active member of the university community? As the semi-amusing Roman poet Horace wrote, ‘Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt’ – translated and heavily paraphrased, that means, ‘Merely changing the location won’t change who you are’. While this might be intuitively appealing, I do think that changing one’s environment could influence how we think about what’s going with us on the university grounds.
Balancing serving on a board for a year, good grades and a social life – not to mention maintaining personal well-being and achievement – is considered living a normal student lifestyle, immersed in the busy streets of the city centre throughout the day. In order to manage such a balancing act, it may seem attractive and even necessary to resort to solutions such as taking pills developed by your fellow students.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that if a student is brought to the point of buying supplements to help him or herself rise to the challenges of being a successful student, the problem might not be with the student, but with the way these demands are shaped. Even if we allow for such exhaustive expectations, there must be some other way to tackle them than students resorting to buying any kind of pill.
Spiders and sheep
So, in a quest for the possible solution, here is a simple thesis: to think outside of the ‘box’, one could try to physically leave the ‘box.’ Consider switching from life in a student house in the city centre to, for example, farm life outside of the city.
For three months now, I have been living on a farm that is a stone’s throw away from the city limits and a 12-minute bike ride to my faculty. While my friends were looking into finding the most comfortable spots at our library and attending each premiere at the Forum, I was searching the Internet about whether spiders can crawl out of the vacuum cleaner once inside, discovering through trial and error how to dig holes for new plants without cutting through underground cables and exploring the nearby field crowded with sheep.
By spending a large portion of my time being physically distanced from the university, I started developing a sense of mental detachment from the exhausting lifestyle I generally enjoy. This detachment, in my opinion, came from the mere fact that I stopped spending as much time as I used to on the campus grounds.
Instead, I was spending much more time alone, researching and indulging ways to make my participation in faculty life more effective. The quantity of the study load didn’t change, but the qualitative side of it did, as I was able to literally remove myself from the hyperactivity of campus life, which has in turn given me more mental energy to dedicate to my personal projects.
Unfortunately, no list of what exactly makes living on a farm better than living in the vicinity of the Oude Boteringstraat exists. If one was to make such a list (‘17 reasons this lifestyle is great – number 13 will blow your mind!’), one would be reduced to comparing the two alternatives. I could argue that while some authors warn about the unhealthy effects a life in the city might have on someone, which is something we all more or less acknowledge by now, my original intention was simply to step outside of the totality of university life and see if I can actually exist outside of it.
In this case, I am strictly focusing on the physical detachment and benefits it could have on one’s studying career. In case anyone wants to discuss this further, please feel free to leave me a note, and I’ll see you (possibly) on campus.