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American in Europe

What Has That Girl Been Up To Anyway

I know, I know, it has been forever since I've sat down and blogged. Life got in the way! First, my mom came to visit, then we set off to Germany to visit some family friends. Actually, my mom's good friend of 35 years and her husband. That is an incredibly long time to be friends! Then about two weeks ago, I started back at my 3rd attempt to get my bachelors. This time in International Tourism Management. I like my  , but there are some shocking differences in Higher Education here vs. what I am used to in the States. I'll be sure to write a full expose later on.

I hope to get into a rhythm soon. It has been tough going from staying at home all the time to only having one day off a week. I haven't even added in Inburgering back into the mix, because I have been waiting to be sent my new schedule, and every time I call, they refuse to speak English to me.

I am resolved to get the situation handled this week. So, what have you been up to dear ones?

 

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The Oh So Brief Dutch Summer.

living in the netherlands, living in holland, expat in the netherlands, utrecht, summer in europe

This summer has been a tough adjustment for a girl who grew up in the Southern United States. Most of the time, it has been rainy, jacket weather. Last weekend however, it was in the 90's here. It was even too hot for me because very few places have AC here in The Netherlands. The sunshine would not last as it is supposed to be back to its normal rainy self here. Just in time for my mom to visit. But, I do have the photos to remind me of the beautiful, but oh so brief summer weather. Here are some snapshots I took around Utrecht.

 

I love exploring this city! How was your summer?

 

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27 Things Before I'm 27 Challenge!

Today, I am officially on the other side of my 20's. Yep, it is my 26th Birthday! Also known as, the first birthday I will celebrate whilst living in The Netherlands! I think we are going to keep things pretty low-key over here, But since it is now tradition, here are the 27 Things I want to accomplish by this day next year.

  1. Get Top Marks this year in my HBO Program. Instead of being letter grades, Dutch Students get  their grades out of 10's. So this year I want 9 and 10's. Apparently no one gets 10's...
  2. Pass the Staatsexamen or NT2, with this I will get a diploma stating that Nederlands is my official second language!
  3. Read more classics! I am trying hard until 2013 to meet my 100 Books in 2012 Good Reads Challenge, but a lot of Classics have had to be bypassed because they take me a bit longer to get through. What is your favorite?
  4. Try 3 New Sports. Yep, I have been Olympically inspired. I am thinking Running, Rowing, and Archery.
  5. Learn to love my bike. I'm not afraid of it anymore, but it is still not my favorite method of transport.
  6. Leave The Netherlands this year. Not for permanent or anything, I just haven't been outside of  The Netherlands since I moved here, and there is so much of this world to explore.
  7. Go to more Festivals. Maybe this year will be the return of my festival/ concert going days!
  8. Work Hard. With going to my degree classes fulltime, my dutch classes part time, my job part time, and wanting to start a more vigorous exercise program. My new motto is going to have to be Work Hard to Play Hard.
  9. Run in a race this year. Or several. I have my eye on the Den Haag Half Marathon in March.
  10. Write a novel. I plan on participating in November's National Novel Writing Month Challenge.
  11. Be more socialable. I have friends, but sometimes I am too much of a hermit, and I get really intimidated in large groups of other women.
  12. Stop Comparing my Life to Others. As FDR is quoted to say, Comparison is the Thief of Joy. And besides, my life is pretty incredible all on its own.
  13. Do more art. This used to be my life's greatest passion, I need to get back into it.
  14. Learn to Meditate. Quieting my mind is not something I am good at.
  15. Practice my cartwheels. It  is ridiculous that I can no longer do one.
  16. Furnish the Kitchen. I have dreams of a crockpot and immersion blender.
  17. Learn to sew.
  18. Join more clubs. Really, I should put attend more club meetings also.
  19. Be more organized.
  20. Make meal plans. I think this will help me eat better.
  21. Spend more time in the Southern and Eastern parts of The Netherlands. I haven't gone exploring there yet.
  22. Become a morning person. If you sleep all day, you can't get as much done as you would like.
  23. Continue to grow my blog.
  24. Continue to save for retirement.
  25. Eat more veggies!
  26. Keep better in touch with friends and family in The States.
  27. Do what I say I am going to do and honor my commitments. 

What do you hope to do before your next birthday?

 

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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How I Fared in My 26 Things Before I'm 26 Challenge!

It is a week until my 26th Birthday! Happy Birthday Alice! Since there is only a week to go before I am 26, I wanted to revisit my list of 26 Things Before I´m 26. I didn´t do as well, but to be fair, when you move to another country, all your plans go topsy/turvy. Hopefully, now that I know what life is like here, I can make a better list next week for 27 Things Before I´m 27.

 

1. Move to Utrecht.   Done and Done!

2. Be able to communicate in Dutch. I´m so much better than a year ago, but I am far from fluent.

3. Get married, I'm engaged so this isn't a huge jump. I feel married, does that count?

4. Take up ballet again. I finally have a job, maybe I can look into this. 

5. Find a core group of friends in my new country.  I am happy to say I have friends, and I am meeting new people all the time!

6. Develop a sense of personal style and dress accordingly.Maybe when I lose weight I will buy some new clothes!

7. Learn to bake and cook in my Nederlands kitchen  I cook almost everyday.

8. Start my tour guide business. I decided to go to Uni for first!

9. Learn to sew. Curtains count right? 

10. Go to Paris. (I went when I was 11, but the Louvre was on strike the whole time) Maybe this year...

11. Write letters to my friends back home. Christmas cards.

12. Get back to the weight that feels best on my frame. Not yet, but I have been re-inspired by the Olympics!

13. Read 100 new books, including some classics. Probably should have added some more classics, but I did alright. 

14. Start making metal jewelry again. I've made some designs.

15. Book my honeymoon, we probably wont go right after the wedding. Not relevant until we get married.

16. Learn how to share, I was practically an only child.  I've been a lot less selfish this year.

17. Become an expert bike rider. Still working on it.

18. Attend Amsterdam Fashion Week. Maybe this year?

19. Knit a sweater. I made half a scarf. 

20. Learn the art of light layers.

21. Eat better, I have a horrible diet.

22. Start bringing in money again.  Yay, new job!

23. Continue adding to the retirement fund. Yay, new job!

24. Laugh more.

25. Get over my fear of boats.

26. Stick to my plans.

Look for my new list on the 14th! 

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The Vacation That Changed My Life

This post was originally supposed to be posted as a guest post for the 20 Something Bloggers Blog Swap back in July, but after I sent it to my blog swap partner, I never heard from her again, so I have decided to just post it on my blog instead. The theme was Childhood Summer Vacations. Here was the post.

My family did not go on typical family vacations when I was younger. In fact, I vividly remember being insanely jealous every new school year when everyone would come back tan, and I would be my same old incredibly pale self who had spent the whole vacation in my room reading. I would even lie when people would ask me where I went. Yeah, I know probably not the best thing to do.  We did end up going camping at the beach every year, but I am a sunburn magnet so even then I spent the whole time in the tent reading a book. One year however, when I was 10, my family- (My mom, Uncle Jim, Nana, and cousin Alice) went on a trip that would forever change my raison détre (reason for living). We went abroad for the first time. To Paris.

In fifth grade, I was at the height of my Joan of Arc obsession. I like to think that this was the reason behind picking Paris, but it probably has nothing to do with why the adults chose to go there.We did every touristy thing you can think of to do in Paris, with the exception of the Louvre, as luck would have it, the staff went on strike the day we arrived and went off strike the morning we left. We attended a fashion show at a department store and my cousin and I were asked to come up and walk the catwalk after the show, by a model who in my mind looked exactly like Cindy Crawford. We went to Versailles, we ate hot dogs in baguettes, and drank hot chocolate out of bowls where you added your own sugar. I remember being in awe of everything, the architecture, the parks with the carousels, the food, and the fashion. I was in love!

Our last day there, I wanted to go back and see the building that to me best represented everything I feel in love with in Paris- Notre Dame Cathedral. As I stood outside the beautiful Gothic cathedral with its magnificent flying buttresses, I remember bursting into tears at the thought of having to leave the first place I ever felt I truly belonged. I felt at home amongst the ancient and historic, the glamorous and the tiny.  I knew right then and there that I would move to Europe someday.

I didn’t leave the United States again until I was 18. This time I went St. Petersburg, Russia. My college years, I was obsessed with getting back to where I belonged across the pond that I would skip whole semesters in order to spend a few weeks abroad. Finally, I quit school and found a decent full time job in order to bankroll my trips. I gave up on my dream to move abroad because I didn’t see how I could make it happen. Then something amazing happened, I met my soul mate, who just happens to be from The Netherlands. After doing the long distance thing, we got engaged and I moved to The Netherlands last year. I couldn’t be happier. I am even going back to finish my undergrad, this time in International Tourism Management. I believe that a trip can change your life, and I want to be part of giving that joy to others.

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New Job, Birthday, Parents, and School Orientation. August is Shaping Up to be a Great Month!

I started my first official job here in The Netherlands this week! I went in for my interview on Tuesday and was able to start on Wednesday! Right now, I am working five days a week, but that will change in September, when I start my HBO program and will probably go down to two. Words can not describe how great it feels to finally have work after being virtually unemployed the entire time I have been here.Plus I really like my office, the work itself, and my colleagues!

In addition to starting a new job, there are some other really exciting things happening for me this month! My birthday is on the 14th, but I'm kind of ignoring it in favor of other things. Plus, I don't really love the way the Dutch treat birthdays, but that is for another post. I have orientation on the 30th and 31st, and I am excited to meet my new classmates for the next four years, in my 3rd attempt at  But most important, my parents are going to be in town from the 23rd to September 1st. Luckily, my new boss is flexible enough to allow me to have that time off!

I am so excited for my parents to come. It will be my mom's 2nd time, she came in Jan, but this will be my stepdad's first time and I am excited to show him where I live! We are also going to Germany for the weekend when they are here to visit some family friends, and it will be the first time I have left The Netherlands since I moved here in October!

What does your month look like? 

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Rooting for Two Teams Equally?

It has been Olympic Central at the house ever since 10pm on Friday night. The Netherlands are an hour ahead of London time, so I got to watch it live. It actually was just ending when it started playing prime time in Atlanta. This year, watching the Olympics is totally different for me. Not only because I am not rooting for two teams, but also because I actually miss NBC's coverage of the Olympics. 

Right now, our cable has the Olympics on four different channels. Two Dutch and two BBC, while I am enjoying switching in between the two different countries channels, The BBC mostly shows the events that Team Great Britain are competing in and the Dutch are showing the events that are interesting to Nederlanders. It makes sense, but I miss hearing the stories of my native American athletes. Also, these are the first summer Olympics since my own hometown's hosting in 1996 that I have been in a time zone to watch all the events live, maybe this is the reason that I feel like there is not as much information on the screen during the events about the times, etc. 

People have been asking me who it is I am rooting for this time. Am I rooting for the USA more because I am an American, or The Netherlands because this is where I plan to take up permanent residence? I'm not sure why I would have to choose, so here is my answer. I cheer for both equally. I just want my two teams to win as many medals as possible. 

I will say though, when it comes to being stylish at the Opening Ceremony, Nederland has you beat America.

Who are you going for? What is your favorite Summer Olympics Event?

 

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Let The Sunshine In!

Sorry, I´ve been noticeably absent from the blog this week, I was working on a blog exchange for 20 Something Bloggers, but my swap partner disappeared off the face of the earth, plus the sunshine came back to The Netherlands. For those of you who didn´t live through it, this July was miserable. Like rain jacket, scarf, didn´t see sunlight for the whole month miserable. To be fair to the weather, I somewhat expected it. I mean, I did move to the same latitude as Edmonton, Canada and to possibly the rainiest place on the planet, but it is really weird to be cold in July! 

All that changed this last weekend however, when the sun came back with a vengeance. Not a cloud in the sky, nothing but blue skies. Since this is supposed to disappear tomorrow, I have become fully integrated and took advantage of the sunshine while it lasts. 

How was your week?

 

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Halfway There: 50 Books Read on my 100 Books GoodReads Challenge

At the end of last year, my prospects were slim. I hadn't yet done any research to go back to school here in The Netherlands, and I was receiving more than my fair share of rejection letters, I decided to sign up for the GoodReads Reading Challenge. I figured, if I was going to have all this free time on my hands, and limited funds, I might as well do something valuable with my time. In the GoodReads Challenge you are allowed to pick the number of books you want to read. Since I had all this time on my hands, and I am a freaky fast reader. Seriously, I am not even trying to gloat, everyone has some weird special talent and mine is reading faster than the speed of light.

Well, I finally did it, I made it halfway through the challenge. Officially, that makes me 4 books behind.Not exactly the position that you want to be in when you are about to go into what could be the busiest time in your entire life for the last 4 months of the year. But, I will catch up. I listed some of the best books I read when I was 1/3 of a way through the challenge, so here are the good one's I read from 34 to 50.

  • 1Q84 by Haruiki Murakami: This is probably the strangest book I have ever read. It should be said that I never read Science Fiction so maybe it isn't that weird for the genre. Some part of this book really turned me off, like the obsession with describing all the female character's breasts. But the story itself is interesting and beautifully written.
  • Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman: I knew almost nothing about Hasidic Jews except for what I learned by watching I Love New York. This book really opened my eyes to the fact of how generally lucky I feel to have been brought up in an extremely secular household. 
  • The Surgeon and The Apprentice both by Tess Gerritsen: I really like Rizzoli and Isles, the detective show based on these books. Normally, if I see the show or movie first,I don't bother with the books, because I get bored if I already know the story. In this case however, I enjoyed learning more about the strong female characters.
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: Interesting take on Zombies, I also read the follow up, but that one is just the same story retold. 
  • The Naming by Alison Croggon: I love love love well written epic fantasy. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: The story of one little German village during WW2, as told by the Grim Reaper. It is an interesting concept with great execution. 

You can keep up with everything I have read so far this year here. What is the best thing you have read this year? 

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Thoughts on Renewing My Visa

Saturday was an exciting day here, I unexpectedly received the paperwork to renew my residence permit. I know, it doesn't seem like enough time has passed for me to be thinking about renewal! I'll  be sending in the paperwork tomorrow, you need to have a black pen to fill out part of it, and even though I just had 60 black pens sent to my mom's house from Amazon so that she can bring me a ton of school supplies when she comes in August, we didn't have a single back pen in the house! So I had to go buy one today. The paperwork itself is so far considerably less than last time. 

For me, the decision to renew my visa, which should be for 5 years this time because I am on a partnership visa,was not something that required any thought on my part. I am happy with my partner, in the process of inburgering, starting an undergrad program in September, and I have great friends here. Sure, life is a lot different than what I imagined it would be when I was planning to move here, but I am not sure that I would change it back to my original plans, even if I could. It was tough there for awhile, trying to figure out where I fit in here after getting rejection after rejection on the career front, but I look back at that time, which coincidentally coincided with the darkest, coldest months of the year, and I never once thought about packing up and going back to Georgia. I think this had a lot to do with my attitude that this is my life, this is not temporary, so I better make it work! 

Not everyone renews though, I've heard that the first year in a new place is the hardest. Hopefully that is the case, this year was pretty tough. I would be really interested to see some data on how many expats return home during the first year, or decide not to renew. After all, according to several polls, The Netherlands is the least friendly place for expats. There is no shame in not making it. This life definitely is not for everyone. However, If you are currently a struggling expat, or you are about to become an expat, I have two pieces of advice. 

1. You have to really, really want to make it work. Nothing is going to turn out the way you thought, and you are going to have to be prepared to roll with the punches. 

2. Don't give yourself a timeline. If you say you are going to give it a year, your entire experience will be a countdown until the year is up. Instead, treat it as this is your life for the foreseeable future. If you are really unhappy you can always go back home. But as a very wise man on TV is known to say, "Make it work!"

Thanks for sticking out the rough months with me my dear readers! Your support means the world to me! 

 

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