We are nearing the end of this strange and special year, 2020. Time to reflect on the status quo. 20 people with links to Ghent University were selected at random. They tell us what 2020 meant to them, what they will carry over to next year and above all: what they hope for in 2021.
Parastou grew up in Belgium after she fled Iran with her family at the age of five. She completed her university studies in England, where she also started working as a lawyer. After nine years in Liverpool, she returned to Belgium this year with her husband, as well as her cat and dog! In September she started the ManaMa International Business Law.
What did 2020 mean to you?
“2020 was all about moving from Liverpool to Belgium with my husband. In England, it is very common to start working immediately after your bachelor studies. I did that when I graduated, although I always knew that I wanted to develop a career here in Belgium. The career opportunities and working conditions are a lot better here than in England. But as a lawyer I had little chance without a master's degree. On top of that … an imminent Brexit and the choice was an easy one: move to Belgium and go back to college. In August we loaded our car and left. That was a big step, because I felt good in England. But I am happy that I can now study at a Belgian university.”
Last year was like no other, but it was also filled with warmth. We supported each other and shared in each other’s ups and downs. Now this is your chance to thank everyone who was there for you. Not in the usual way, but with a virtual projection of your best wishes onto the Book Tower.
What achievement are you most proud of in the past year?
“I’m quite proud of what I’ve done: leaving my whole life behind to start a new one here. I had a very comfortable life in Liverpool, with a lot of friends, a good job… Here I am starting from scratch in a sense. My husband and I have a lot to learn about life in Belgium. I can see that in the little things. A stupid example: nobody in England recycles. Everything is thrown out in one big bag. Here you have to sort through everything. Things like that seem obvious if you’ve been living here for a long time, but for us it takes getting used to. It helps that my family still lives here. In addition, I am really proud of our trip itself. I only got my driver’s license in November 2019. Still I was prepared to drive with all my possessions (and a cat and a dog) from Liverpool to Dendermonde. I thought that in itself was already an achievement.”
Who do you most admire at Ghent University?
“Without a doubt: Svitlana Berezhna. And I think all the students in my study program would agree. She really is our go-to person for basically… everything. From finding parking spaces to questions about the training itself. For the many international students in the program, she is an incredible help. It’s those little things that make university life in a new country a lot more pleasant.”
What do you hope for in 2021?
“I hope that in the coming year I can graduate with good grades. That would be a good start to my life here in Belgium. I would also like to see more young people from a migrant background finding their way to university. I know better than anyone that this is not self-evident and that there are extra hurdles you have to overcome. But I hope that this trend will continue in the coming years.”
What do you want to bring with you to 2021?
“2020 has confirmed to me that if you want to do something, you just have to do it. It is pointless dwelling on the consequences for a long time. Whether it concerns a move, new studies, another master’s degree… it's always better to take your chances. The rewards will be all the greater if you pass. And if you fail, well you’ll have learned from it. My period in Liverpool was like that. I left feeling somewhat scared. After getting through the first year, I’ve felt my confidence grow. I realized: I can do this. That is a very nice feeling.”
What do you wish other people at Ghent University in 2021?
“I would be delighted if I could graduate together with my fellow students, and enjoy an official ceremony. It is a moment that I look forward to, and something that I hope we can experience together. Many students come from far and wide to follow their studies. They do not know the city and at the moment only get to live a very small part of student life. I hope that will come for them. And for myself too! Then I can still experience what I dreamed of in high school.”
20 people with links to Ghent University were selected at random. They tell us what 2020 meant to them, what they will carry over to next year and above all: what they hope for in 2021.