My 6th Dutch birthday – 6 points of gratefulness

Jeetje! Already six years in the Netherlands.
It is difficult to realize it, to make it concrete. But can you think about a child that is 6 years old?! That’s almost not a child anymore!

The truth is that I am so absorbed in the daily life and goals, that it looks always today, thinking about what needs to be done, by when and how. I always look forward. But today, I have decided to stay still for a moment and take the time to look back.

Thus, in occasion of my (belated) 6th Dutch birthday, I want to write down six things I am grateful for of these past six years.

Complete two academic paths

I came for a degree, and I ended up with two. In this framework, the titles are not the main reason why I am thankful. I am mostly grateful for the growth path I was offered, for the people I’ve encountered who greatly helped and challenged me along that way, and for the opportunities and difficulties that happened along.
Although at that moment I could probably not see them this way, they helped complete that puzzle that my life now is.

Learn Dutch

It has been my dream and my goal since when I first landed in NL. I got started with Dutch courses in the second academic quartile, just three months after moving, with no idea of how long I’d stayed here – or better with the idea of staying one year max.
Crazy eh!? What was pushing me? Definitely not a polyglot dream. The desire of understanding what’s going on and the pleasure in taking on a new challenge I think best summarize my drive. I would just melt in front of people able to speak fluently Dutch – and now, far from being perfect, I am so grateful for the opportunities I got.

Integrate

Wait – that word is strong. Let’s say I am grateful for the progress I couldn’t even have imagined six years ago. The language helps, because I can walk in a group of people without forcing them to switch (how-much-I-love-this!). But people also help, because if everybody turns the back to you, the language makes little difference. And I am not saying it is easy, it is easy for nobody. But it is possible. And these few good close friends I have, and neighbors who organize the street BBQ, or the other offering a zucchini grown in the backyard, or colleagues that make heart-melting speeches and do the impossible for you. Well. Those are the people that help feeling in the right place.

Family

Family (in the large sense) that awaits you ‘home’. Time is passing, and we are accumulating years of distance, but some bounds just don’t cease to exist – they even become stronger.
Family that puts you always in first place, that makes time exclusively for your return, and finds the way to stay close when far.
Friends that mark up in the agenda your return date, that jump in between meetings just for a coffee “at least I’ve seen you”, friends that can’t make it for a dinner, so they just propose a lunch, or a day hiking.
Friends that are not there that week, but that are present in other ways.
Somehow, this life abroad made my horizons stretch, in geographical terms, and in temporal terms. Also the definition of friendship and family is changing, and I am slowly learning to love it.

Love

The leaving-my-country thing hasn’t been always that easy, and under all aspects. I was leaving my family, my country, my friends and my love behind.
For how much the new experience is exciting, all this is heart-breaking. And long distance relationships overly heavy. And challenging. And demanding.
But I am immensely grateful for that lovely person who “pushed me to come Eindhoven in first instance, well aware of risks and difficulties, who held my hand for far and then even made that distance disappear”.
That’s part of “how it is now”, but I am well aware it does not work the same way for everybody, and I can’t express in word how much I am grateful and I love to have that person by my side.

Feel home

Home. Family. Friends. All helps in feeling home. And I couldn’t ask for more.

But now, of course I am already standing and ready for what’s next…
Let’s do our best for the year to come!

And you, what are you grateful for?

Doei!
Marta

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