I’m a lucky sonofabitch

I’m a lucky sonafabitch. Maybe. Definitely. See this morning I’ve had the weirdest conversation with an administration clerk. Who of you can remember the last time a clerk was actually on your side? I mean, really, helping you with more advice than you knew you could get. Okay I hear you. This HAS happened. Miracles, here and there, perhaps it was the clerks birthday. Perhaps I reminded him of his long lost son. And you think ‘is that all it takes to be a lucky sonofabitch?’. And to you sceptics, I say NO! This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill adminstrative chat. This was about money. A LOT of money. And then some. From the Dutch government, no less!

Alright, I’ll cut the crap: Tal Benisty (that’s right, me) is finally going to get study financing. A LOT. For the next 5 years if I want to. At first I thought this was kind of absurd, seeing as I’m pretty much at the end of my studies. All I have left to do is start a graduation project. Had to. What with my mom still supporting my studies and my little brother soon going to college, it was time I got out of the monetary equation. I did find a student job in september, and a cool one at that. Working at the reception of the cultural centre, paid to do adminstrative stuff but sworn to be the best DJ that building has ever seen, I guess I was already somewhat lucky. It just didn’t pay enough for me to be completely independant. Hence the increasingly loud ticking of the clock on my studies. And then I paid a visit to the IB-Groep. The organization as generous to the Dutch as it is unforgiving to the rest of us. But that just changed for me. Because from July on, I’ll have been living in this country for 5 years. (6, if it wasn’t for my stupidity; I didn’t register at the town hall until my second year here). And this is where I turn into a lucky sonofabitch. This clerk, god bless him, asked me: ‘How long will it be before you finish your studies?’

– Well, I still have to do an internship, and then a graduation project… so maybe a year

(False, I just have to start a graduation project, but I didn’t know where he was going with it. So I added some time to be on the safe side. Little did I know he had big plans for me).

– And what do you want to do after your studies? he asked (with a sparkle in his eyes, me, still unaware)
– Maybe a PhD, I said, or start working… (at this point, I still think he’s only chitchatting. I say PhD, guessing that answer would please him)
– You know… You are now entitled to 60 months (5 years) of study financing.
– Ha! Well that’s a lot longer than I’ll need… (Getting confused here, am I getting into trouble? What is he getting at? I know we’re talking about a lot of money, that I’m entitled to, but this is so unusual, I feel like I’m cheating the system somehow)
– Why don’t you start a second master? You can study anything you want. (he’s outright smiling at me)
– Heh… that sounds nice (maybe I do remind him of his long lost son, the one that never went to college, and now he wants me to do a second master just to make him proud…?)
– Actually (and this is where I started wondering whether he was my accomplice in some weird heist of the dutch financing safe), you can even register at a university, say Leiden, and start working. We’ll never check whether you go to class or not. You don’t have to worry about anything, since you practically already have you master’s degree. You can register anywhere as a student, start working, and still receive study financing from us, 5 years long.

– HOLY FUCK! (okay I didn’t say that out loud. You know those weird times when you’re trying NOT to smile like a Machiavellian master puppeteer? When you’re about to get a lot of money and you’re supposed to pretend like you’re innocently surprised. You put on the humble facial expression of a Protestant being offered a blow job. Love thy neighbour, what to do…).

Did this guy just explain to me how to start working, earning money and STILL receive study financing from the government? Did this guy just tell me to skip classes? as long as my name is on the university’s list?

– The only thing is you have to be careful not to earn too much money, he adds.
– Ah… (Protestant’s suprised look still on my face), how much is that? (and I mirror his body language, hands flat on the table, slightly reaching forward).
– About 13.000 euro bruto. You know what you can do?
– No…? (Put one hand under my chin too, mimicking his position)
– Well, say you worked a lot and after 7 months, close to going over the 13.000 euros limit. Well then you just contact us to stop your study financing until the next january. And those months you paused it for, well those are still for you to get whenever you want to.
(Seriously, this man is laying down the blueprint of exactly how we’re going to rob the IB-groep, TOGETHER. I pinch the desk again just to be sure we’re standing on opposite sides.).
– Wow…
– But this is exactly the idea! This money is for you to specialize if you want, do a second degree in whatever you’re interested in. To keep you up to date, educated, and to take your time! (I swear, the clouds opened up above his head and a beam of light shone down from the neon cubicle light).
– Wow…

The rest of the conversation ended in a blur of Thank you’s.
I don’t know yet what this means for my future. Maybe it will change all my plans. Maybe not. One thing is sure, I’m about to be fully independant, without a single dime being loaned.

Just my lucky day.

Tal Benisty

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