Build your own identity

My earliest memory of DU is the orientation ceremony for new students. I attended with my husband. Each course had an assigned mentor who would accompany them throughout the day, showing them the University and discussing their upcoming semester. I, of course, had no idea where to go – I had only signed up for two freestanding courses, Swedish and Japanese. I simply attended the orientation and when it was time for students to go along with their respective course mentor, I walked home, feeling out of place.It was much later that I realized – there was a separate mentor for exchange students, which is the group I should have gone with, since most of them ended up in my Swedish class.

I guess what I want to tell you is, there is always a place for you even if you are a dependent. I will admit, however, that it hasn’t been easy. You’re never as busy as your spouse and you will have a lot of time on your hands to spend alone. I went through quite a bout of seasonal depression as they call it – the days were shorter, my classes were over, I wasn’t making any effort to get out of the house. Meanwhile my husband got his bank account, his personnummer and started preparing for a driving license test. He kept pushing me to do all these things as well, to institutionalize myself (his words). I didn’t relent and continued moping around, so to say. I didn’t see how getting a bank account would make me feel any better.

One day, I finally decided to go to the bank and apply for an account. I had a check waiting to be deposited and I couldn’t put it off any more. It was snowing when I took my bicycle out and I reached the bank at 9.50am. I was the first customer to go in that day! Having filled out the necessary paperwork, I then headed across the road to the tax office (you can read more about it in Katrin’s post here) and filed an application for a personnummer. All this in a matter of one hour, since I reached both places early and there wasn’t much of a line.

Can I tell you – I had a huge smile plastered to my face the entire ride back home. I’d taken a step towards ‘institutionalizing’ myself in Sweden and I was actually feeling quite happy and satisfied! I thought over everything I have here – a bloggers group that keeps meeting for fun excursions like this, classmates who are all Japanese enthusiasts like me and can discuss Japanese food, culture and anime at length, my husband’s classmates who never fail to include me in all their outings (and whom I’m good friends with now!) and most importantly – my own identity. I’m a student learning Swedish and Japanese at DU and I also happen to be a writer for the university’s official blog.

It is easy to become your spouse’s shadow if you come here as a dependent, but I urge you to try and build an individual life as well. Small things like a separate bank account or even a library card add to the bigger picture of your identity here. It won’t always be easy, but it will definitely be worth it in the end.

Don’t get lost in the crowd, be part of it.

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