The Christmas celebrations had just passed and everyone was getting prepared for the New Years Eve celebrations. As a birthday present for my partners mum, we as a family, with his sister and her boyfriend, all went to Ghent for the day.
Losing someone you know is hard, but losing someone you love is harder.
It was something I never really thought about in my future when moving to the Netherlands at 18 years old. So many happy moments and future plans did not involve the death of a loved one, but its so natural and the worlds way of making room.
Back in 2012, I got a phone call that I never expected. I was woken by my partner’s mum with the phone in her hand, telling me to speak to my mum on the other end. It was already strange that she was waking me up as my alarm was always set, but even more strange that my mum was calling the house phone instead of a Skype call or a Whats app message.
My granddad had been receiving treatment/chemotherapy for Cancer for a while. All was going so well and after multiple treatments he was officially cleared and on the long road of recovery. But unfortunately from being so weak from the treatment he caught a sickness bug while at the hospital, without a strong immune system to fight it, fatally sending him to sleep overnight.
He is someone I will always look up to, knowing how proud he would be. He would put a smile on everyone’s face no matter what situation it was and never had a bad word to say. My love of puzzles was through him, who always had a new puzzle being put together every week. Also with the love of cycling, we explored the island, but mostly to Cowes to watch the yachts and eat either some fish & chips or an ice cream together.
I’m not looking forward to more phone calls abroad like this, but life goes on and we will handle it as it comes. I believe that family is the most important thing in life so cherish those moments together.
Wow!! What an amazing feeling it is to say I have passed my graduation project as well as four years of school abroad!! Studying in the Netherlands has been pretty amazing.
At the beginning I was against the idea of going back into studying and attending school, as I had already been working full time for nearly a year at a previous job in England followed by my 1 year Au Pair job in Rotterdam. But I knew I wanted, and needed, a degree.
My time as an Au Pair was ending and I needed to see my options into studying in the Netherlands, else my next option was to go back to England, which I didn’t really want. I started by making a pros and cons document listing everything regarding my present and future options.
When I think back I must have been crazy, but I hated the idea of going back to school for 4 years for my degree. At the time all I wanted to do was find a full time job, which would give me and my partner the option to move forward, such as a place to live together, travelling to destinations and having the extra money for saving, date nights and future plans. Plus, I was already 20 years old, rather young of course, but I couldn’t imagine being 25 by the time I graduated with the thought of still attending school. I think I got this impression from England, with only a few friends attending university straight from school at 17 or 18 years old, who would have graduated by 22 years old.
Realistically the pros outweighed the cons and I had started my search of a university that taught something related to business in English, since my Dutch was nowhere near ready to study a degree for!
Before leaving England I completed a 2 year certificate in Business Administration at college, which was not high enough for the specific degree I wanted to complete in the Netherlands, so I first had to pass an economic class during the summer, which would allow me to enter the 4 year course of my choice.
September came around quickly and with my economic class passed I was ready with my school books, pens, laptop and notebooks to start the scary process of my first semester at Rotterdam Business School. My chosen study was the International Business and Management Studies (IBMS) with topics such as marketing, logistics, economics and finance.
Studying in the Netherlands requires you to pass all exams in your 1st year before you are allowed to continue to the following 3 years. This 1st year certificate is called a Propedeuse. Getting into the rhythm of having exams every 9 weeks was a little difficult, and after needing to resit a few exams I finally received my Propedeuse in time to continue on to the 2nd year the following September. What a relief that was!
The main challenge for me was that I did not receive student finance, the nice low interest loan from the government that you pay for school and transportation with. This was due to the rules of needing to work at least 56 hours a month as an EU citizen, with proof of contract. Since year 1 of my studies I have actually always had a job, such as working in a fast food restaurant, but with always a 0-hour contract I could not prove the 56 hours. However I still managed to pull through each year by working my ass off with more than 56 hours to pay off the costs of school and either cycle or walk to school to save transportation costs. So I’m also very proud to say that I have no debt from my 4 years of study!
Now looking at the present time, it’s the end of June and it’s the end of my 4th year at school. I have officially had my defense presentation for my graduation project. The last few weeks have been increasingly stressful but I got though it AND I can officially say that I will soon be able to pick up my certificate for my Bachelor degree!! Wohoo!
I don’t think it has truly sunk in yet that I am actually done with school, but this weekend I’m going to sort out all my old school books to sell (or burn!) and throw away old notebooks. I was taken out to dinner by my partner and I will celebrate more with family soon! For now I’m going to get stuck in with planning our next holiday too!
When you think of the Netherlands the first thoughts are often about the tulips, cycling, windmills at Kinderdijk, smoking the legal drug cannabis or the red light district of Amsterdam (I got lost here once!). But the Netherlands also has many beaches to visit, one of them is the well known beach of Hoek Van Holland.
It’s the main entrance for cruise and container ships to enter the Rotterdam Harbour, along the the River Maas from the North Sea. So when the tide is high, the wind is strong and you walk along the North Pier you could be in for a swim! The North Pier itself is 4.5 kilometres long and perfect to walk to the end.
The beach is a combination of sand and stones, with one path that leads you from the North Pier to the busier section of the boulevard, where most tourists and locals stop for a bite to eat and to enjoy the activities.
It’s a great place for a wintery walk with your cosy winter coat on, before stopping for a hot chocolate in a restaurant, as well as a day in summer in your bikini, having a dip in the sea before getting an ice cream.
Getting here by train or bus is pretty easy, with a new metro being built that should be complete by 2018. I once cycled here from Rotterdam, took a little over 2 hours at a pleasant speed with some stops along the way like at Maassluis and at the Het Keringhuis (the storm barrier flood gates).
So grab your winter coat or bikini and visit for a great day out!
Moving abroad was a huge step for me. I was always the daughter that my parents thought of as the one to stay close to home, continue at my full time job and find a little house to rent on the Isle of Wight. Back in August 2011 that changed and within a few months planning I was moving to the Netherlands for a 1 year job opportunity as an Au Pair. I sold my car, quit my job, enjoyed my leaving party with friends and had one big suitcase packed for the year. The idea of this job was to test the love of my relationship with Lennart to see if we could make it work, as well as trying new experiences in another country. Lennart and I were already in the long distance relationship for 4/5 years and so it felt right to test ourselves at the next level.
Life as an Au Pair
I stayed with a lovely family in Kralingen, Rotterdam. They had two amazing children, a boy and a girl, who at the time were aged 3 and 4. The mother was Canadian and the father was Dutch, so the children already had a very Basic English language level, so my duties included that I taught them English. My Dutch was non-existent so everything we did was in English.
I arrived to a new house, to which it was also new to the family as it was just having the final touches done and boxes still needed unpacking. Even in the first 3 days we had no hot water. So we were all in the same situation to adjusting to a new place to live.
Within the first week of working I had lots of ‘firsts’. First time riding a bike with a 3 year old on the back, first time driving their car on the right side of the road (instead of the left in the UK) and the first time I tried Sushi, which was the children’s favourite meal!!
Once I was in the routine and after a few weeks had passed, the children had adjusted with me in their lives, it felt perfect. They could really open up to me as they would with their parents, and would also test me to see what their limit was!
I helped the children get through their morning routine and got them to school. Once the school day had ended I would be picking them both up and taking them to their swimming lessons, to the park for the swings or straight back home to draw/colour/play.
I had my own room and I basically became the 3rd child in the house. Joining them all with breakfast and dinner, helping out with the washing, ironing and cleaning, and also joining in on the family activities like seeing the grandparents and going out to dinner together. For Christmas dinner I was also invited to join the family on 25th December at the Euromast. Delicious food at a height of 185meters.
The year passed and I had experienced an amazing time with the family. Before my time was up I was invited to join the family at their 2nd home in Haamstede, Zeeland. They have a beautiful house close to the beach and in the nature. Here we were out of the routine and play time was all day. I am very grateful and lucky to have had this opportunity.
During the one year I also focused on myself, attending Dutch lessons at the CBE Languages, with small groups of 8 and lots of interaction with each other it boosted my level of Dutch to know all the basics. If you’re looking for lessons in Rotterdam I would definitely recommended them!
At the weekends I was free, which meant I was spending most of my time with Lennart. Cinema dates, grabbing some lunch/dinner and relaxing at his place. It was also fantastic to be able to meet his whole family, though it was extremely scary in the beginning being the English newcomer!
The weekends together really taught us that we could make the relationship work, not just long distance but also with seeing each other on a regular basis. It was a good choice to become an Au Pair first though, so it wasn’t so full on that we were living together straight away. The one year as au pair was perfect to come accustomed to each other and really know what it’s like in a relationship.
One Year Completed
Before I knew it, it was my time to leave and for the next Au Pair to experience what I had. I would really recommend becoming an Au Pair if you want to travel to a new country for a set period of time. Make sure you have good contact with the parents/family before you join them and do your research of the place you want to go to. Most families give you your own time to be free, like I had with the weekends. It gives you the amazing opportunity to explore the city and country you go to, meet new people and learn who are as a person. You may also find love and never end up leave the country like me.
In the beginning I never thought of my long term plans. I was really focused on living there for 1 year. But as August 2012 came closer I moved in with Lennart (and his mum at the time) and started looking for a new job. My last studies from England graded high enough for me to enroll in university too, also in Rotterdam, for an international course that I started in 2013. Everything was going fast but I was on the right track. It seemed deep down that I couldn’t leave Lennart after one year of actually dating not long distance, and I’ve been living in Rotterdam with Lennart ever since.
“Distance means nothing when Love means everything.”
Long distance relationships are branded as a tricky thing, with most people believing that they simply do not work, but we had proved people wrong. Trust is the most important thing to have and without it, it would definitely not have worked out.