Out of Interest
The legislative change to Dutch student debt has been a subject of intense debate lately. Naturally, the seemingly unwarranted reversal of policy has left a generation of students feeling betrayed and powerless by a political class they probably were too young at the time to vote for. Nevertheless, having recently paid off my debt, this conversation around the debt here, albeit a passive experience for me, brings back the stress and anticipation that has shaped many of my own decisions in the last ten years.
Right when I was finishing off the Masters in Eindhoven, and working out what to do next, I was trying to shop around for places to look for PhD positions. There were nice labs working in areas I was interested in all over Europe, but with a debt due to be paid off in a few years, I would be lying if I said that the decision to stay in the Netherlands for research wasn’t made out of financial prudence.
In contrast to student debt in the Netherlands, most such loans in India have a high interest rate and shorter repayment periods. Similar incentives also motivated choices like continuing living in frugal student housing and all that comes with it. In hindsight, it turned out to be much more fulfilling than I’d initially expected, but even during this time, the anxiety of a looming debt was a constant feeling.
With COVID arriving, bringing all the uncertainty around the PhD project and future employment with it, I felt it was time to offload some of this financial burden. To be potentially unemployed and hold a ton of financial obligation at the same time is nobody’s definition of good party.
On the bright side, probably the only bright side to the COVID years, with many months free from overseas travel, savings had piled up. As a result, repayments became larger and frequent, and early this year, the whole thing had been paid off. It had seemed like a distant possibility for years, but at long last both the PhD and the repayment were part of the same reality. Dobby was free.
In a few months, the time in Eindhoven would likely end and like a few years ago, I would be keen to move again for the next step. Except this time, it wouldn’t be the debt that would motivate the what’s, where’s and how’s of that decision but rather even the simplest whims, like Truman’s unreasonable desire to move to Fiji, would finally be tenable.