Devi and Cedvro: ‘Living next to the university feels very safe’
Living next to a university makes Devi (48) feel safe. Together with her small son Cedvro (5), she enjoys living in the Munttorenflat. It is her dream to one day obtain a degree from the university.
How do you like living in the Munttorenflat?
‘When I first saw this apartment, I thought: wow, very nice! It’s a beautiful neighborhood, very green. And I am very happy that I can see the university. In Indonesia I lived near the university Gadjah Mada, a famous university in Yogyakarta. Living in a university environment is good for me.
‘And, fortunately, only good people live in this flat. From downstairs to upstairs: Kurdish, Dutch, Moroccan, Spanish, Polish, and Surinamese, all good people.’
What do you love about living in this place?
‘It’s very international here. People from all countries pass by, I recognize people from China, Korea, and India. Every morning my son and I wait down here for the school taxi. The students and university staff who pass by are all very sweet to my son. He often runs around with a ball, and sometimes they play with him for a while. Or he walks with them for a bit and smiles at them, they always smile back.
‘I come from abroad, I don’t always understand Tilburg and the Netherlands, but living here feels very safe. Once I was walking home from the train station with my sleeping son in an Indonesian sling. I couldn’t open the lock and then a Korean student came to help me. She opened the door and took me all the way upstairs.’
Who are our neighbors?
Anyone walking from Tilburg University station to the campus invariably passes three large flats. They are right next to the railroad tracks and all three were built in 1961 by housing corporation Tiwos. The residents are Tilburg University’s immediate neighbors. Univers wondered who these neighbors actually are and how they experience living next to the ever-expanding knowledge institution. These are their stories.
Do you ever come to the university campus?
‘We often walk together to the fountain on the campus grounds. There my son can enjoy playing. And we go to the forest. My son loves it there! Because in the forests of Indonesia (laughs), you don’t just go hiking there, it’s not safe.’
Did you study yourself?
‘I love learning and studying. In the past I started university studies three times: economics, accountancy, and administration. But each time I stopped after just one year because I was moving. I now use the knowledge I gained for my own accounting. You see, all my expenses and income I record accurately in this book.
‘My dream is to study at the university and get a degree. Maybe one day I will succeed. In the Netherlands, you can still study when you’re fifty or sixty, can’t you?’
What does your daily life look like?
‘Cedvro goes to elementary school in Goirle during the week. I myself have language classes three days a week at MST-Tilburg and at Broodje Aap. I also attend a course at the Textile Museum. There we learn all kinds of things about textile technology.
‘Now I don’t work yet, but next year I will have to. Ideally I would like to do something in healthcare, but I don’t know if that will work out yet with the language. I think I’ll go cleaning.’
You moved to Tilburg in 2019, what was that like for you?
‘I came to live here with my then husband, the father of my son. When problems arose, I left. Because of my son, I couldn’t go back to Indonesia. I lived in a student flat for a while until I finally got this apartment.
‘I worked hard for two years to accept that I am here now and staying. Of course I miss my daughter in Indonesia. But she has been with me for 23 years, she has a job and leads a good life. Now I have a small son that I have to take care of.
‘Fortunately, I have God. I’m a Christian and I pray every day, I get strength from that.’
Meanwhile, do you feel at home in the Netherlands?
‘After a difficult time, I finally found my way here. I fell in love with the Netherlands. When I was still living in the student flat, there was an older man who also lived there, he said to me, “Devi you have to learn to love the Netherland. If you learn to speak Dutch well then you can live here.” I tried very hard to do that and now it is my home.
‘The Netherlands takes very good care of the people. The municipality gave us a house and money to live on. We get healthcare, education, and guidance here. It is clean here, and there are almost no homeless people. Since I live in Holland, I am sad about my country. Indonesia is also very rich, but what do they do for the people?
‘I am very lucky that I get to live here and not in America or in Africa. So I thank Jesus: you put me in a difficult situation, but in the Netherlands.’
Do you want to grow old here or perhaps return to Indonesia?
‘I feel that my final resting place will be here. My God has brought me here.’
Translated by Language Center, Riet Bettonviel