What taking a year and a half off and moving across the world to the Netherlands taught me
At the end of Semester 1, 2019 I decided to leave my studies and travel across to Europe overland through India and the Silk Road. It had been something that I had been considering for a long time and so I took the plunge. After a hilarious backpacking journey across to Europe, I settled down in the Netherlands and made the decision to whether out this pandemic here. And while living in the gorgeous city of Amsterdam during these times has led to some incredible highs, it has also, in many ways, been quite difficult. There have been a lot of things that I have had to learn about living abroad the hard way, so I thought why not share them here. These are the most important things I have learned while living abroad during these times.
· Carpe Diem//Just Do It//Take the Risk or Lose the Chance etc –
I am so aware of how cliché this sounds but this is something that freezing of borders due to Covid made so clear to myself and a lot of my friends.
When I left Australia, I was farewelled with a chorus of colleagues and friends telling me that I was making a mistake, and that if I just finished my degree I could go travelling around the world WITH a degree. Even people I met abroad told me, how badly they wanted to travel but they first needed to finish their degree. I understand this, that travelling is not necessarily the top priority in life, but my heart really hurts for people who would’ve preferred to be doing something else but didn’t leap at it. And it is VERY intimidating, telling my parents I was leaving was incredibly difficult and messy. But if I had listened to those people and stayed at uni, then I would have lost the chance. Coronavirus would have physically stopped it. Those friends have all finished their bachelors now but yet they have nowhere to go and their travel plans are postponed indefinitely. As corny as it is, this is the overarching lesson of the pandemic for me - that if there is something you want, go for it as there is no guarantee there will be another opportunity.
· When in Rome… - The Dutch are not overly nationalistic, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t proud of their country and its little quirks that Lonely Planet don’t tell you about. It doesn’t make up for not being raised there, but it shows you are actively interested in where you are.
· Understand that you will get homesick – And it doesn’t matter how tough you think you are. There is nothing wrong with being sad, and as the days stack up since you last saw ‘home’, it’s almost inevitable you will feel an ache. Give your loved ones a ring or do something that feels like home, this can really help. It will pass if you acknowledge it, if you suppress like all emotions it’ll probably get ugly.
· Always try and learn at least a little bit of the language where you are staying – Obviously in non-English speaking countries this is essential. But this also goes for those bilingual European countries like the Netherlands. Sure, everyone does speak English but that doesn’t mean they want to speak it all the time. You’re experience is so so so so so drastically improved if you try to learn, as well as the locals really do appreciate it.
· Appreciate your loved ones – It has been nearly 2 years since I have seen my parents and perhaps for some this is not a new lesson, but for me it was. Before this trip, I saw my parents nearly every day and beginning this trip I was under the impression that they would come and visit every now and then. Again, Coronavirus changed this and now I am looking at another year before I have a chance at seeing them again. There are family members who have gotten very sick and I have been unable to be there. Sometimes this can’t be avoided, but it has taught me to really cherish those you cherish you.
There is definitely many more niche bits of wisdom I’ve picked up (like never buy a bike from the Waterlooplein Marktplein) but these are the lessons that I feel will last with me for a good while to come, I hope they can help you too.
Wishing everyone a safe start to the school year.