Change of Scenery
A change of scenery, moving to another country, or getting to know a new culture can be scary. You are forced to leave your dear ones and your routines are shaken up. It is like writing a white page of your life, a new adventure of which you do not know where it will bring you. It is a bit what happened to me. I felt the need at this time of my life to try something new, to take a break, to really move away for the first time in my life from my reality, my comfort zone, and my securities. Obviously, on the one hand, all this excited me but I cannot hide how much I was terribly frightened at the same time; scared by what and who I would find. It can be said that it was the first time in my life that I decided to do a similar experience alone and maybe that’s what scares me most, the awareness of having to rely on myself alone. Despite this I left, and in retrospect and with the utmost sincerity, I can say that it was definitely one of the best choices of my life!
But let’s start from the beginning. I’m Giulia, a 24-year-old Italian student at the last year of Master in Economics and Management. I decided to conduct my internship abroad in a start-up company located in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. I had never been in Holland before then, and I had never been away from home for months. I want to be honest: I cannot say the first days were easy, actually quite the opposite. I didn’t know the city, I didn’t have friends and I would enter a work place with unknown people. And let’s be honest: the weather in Holland cannot be considered the best in the word! Fortunately I can say this difficult initial moment lasted very shortly because I was very lucky. The company where I work in is a small start-up called Onmi B.V., a multicultural and multisciplinary firm that design products that focus on building and maintaining health and wellbeing.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived for the first day of work, was that not only in the office, but in the entire building there were a lot of young people. Engaging with peers or people a bit older than you is certainly easier because we share similar visions of life. Some of my colleagues come from different countries and had a study or work experience abroad so they could well understand my situation. All this gave me a huge help and so it has not been difficult to create new relationships in the environment. Here in the Netherlands these realities are very widespread, certainly much more than in Italy, in fact this impressed me a lot, obviously in a positive way. Young people are encouraged to propose new ideas to get involved in the world of work.
The Dutch are very open and friendly people in fact here it is common to exchange a few words with strangers in a pub and then, let’s say, Dutch people know how to have fun! I discovered it immediately when I arrived. It was the last evening of the carnival, and Eindhoven was full of people dressed with typical costumes. Here in the Netherlands the carnival is celebrated mainly in the southern part of the country. The provinces of Limburg and Noord-Brabant are the predominantly Catholic provinces of the Netherlands, where most people celebrate the carnival. But let’s talk about the Dutch cities. I have literally fallen in love with this country! The first thing I noticed is that in these cities you can breathe a “clean air”…few cars, thousands of bicycles running in every direction, the inevitable numerous canals that pass through the cities, the typical windmills and colourful tulips that in this period of the year dominate many Dutch cities.
I have listed many qualities of this country, that’s true, but I have to be honest, as a good Italian, there is something here in Holland that is a bit different from my country: the kitchen. Something distant from mine but despite this I think that when you live in a new country you have to “taste” all the aspects and in this case, in the true sense of the word, I tasted the kitchen. The first specialty I ate was the famous bitterballen, fried meatballs stuffed with meat to be smothered (as tradition) in mustard; In spite of my scepticism I must say that they are not bad at all, especially accompanied by a good Dutch beer. Another dish for which Dutch people go crazy, especially at 3 o’clock in the morning after a party, is the Kapsalon: it is a Dutch food consisting of fries, topped with döner or shawarma meat, grilled with a layer of gouda cheese until melted and then later covered with a layer of dressed salad greens. I tasted the vegetarian version, let’s say that it’s healthier!But my favourite specialty is definitely the Stroopwafel, two delicious waffles combined with a layer of sweet syrup. You can find it anywhere but my favourite place is to taste it freshly baked on a sunny Saturday morning in the Eindhoven market. A must try!
In the end, living in a foreign country is not always easy, there are positive and negative sides as for all things; certainly it takes courage and a good dose of adaptation. But it can be a wonderful experience, at least from my point of view. And as I wrote at the beginning, in retrospect I can say that it was definitely one of the best choices of my life!