I connected with a family. I did all of my paperwork. I bought my flight ticket. I’d be moving to a foreign country.
But I’d be living with a family. That was a comforting part of this adventure: I wouldn’t be lonely. And I wasn’t. I had six people around me including four kids who were excited to teach me new things and for me to teach them new things. We were playing football in the street with a warning system of yelling, “Au-to!” We were singing and dancing and baking cakes. We were going to expositions at the trade center and enjoying a warme chocomel (met slagroom!) at the Douwe Egberts.
I was happy. I wasn’t lonely. But I was feeling something else; I was feeling isolated. I didn’t have connections with people my own age and I wasn’t sure where to make them. I was exploring new cities on the weekends, but I always went alone. I was often on Skype with people back home. I felt strangely stagnant in a space where I wanted to live my life here in the Netherlands but found I was relying on my life back home, albeit virtually. That’s not to say I wasn’t going into my city or trying to find other au pairs in the area, but I was still feeling more comfortable talking with my family and friends from home. I’d been living in Holland about three months the first time I truly felt connected with other people my age and with living here. I was in another Dutch city three and an half hours away by train on a whim to meet a friend of a friend for lunch. But that was enough, I knew it was going to get better, because if I could connect with one person, I surely could find others. Shortly after, I enrolled in a Dutch course at the local university. And there I met people in my city who were around my age and what began as grabbing coffee before class became meeting for drinks every couple of weeks and travelling to Switzerland together in November.
I think part of building a new life somewhere is patience. Don’t wait for situations to come to you, but also don’t expect that every time you encounter a new situation, your life is going to change and you are going to find those connections you are looking for. If you go on the free walking tour in the city or a music event in another city close by, your life might very well keep going on just the same. But one of those events, one of those times, with one or some of those people, it will change. So go, and watch, and communicate, and wait, because once your life here truly begins, the months will pass before your eyes and you will be packing to go home again. But you’ll be taking more than your Amsterdam hat and selfies with the kids home with you, you’ll be taking the skills to be able to start your life anywhere, wherever your next adventures take you.