American in Europe

Going Back to School as an Expat

I didn't finish University in the States. I won't bore you with the details, just know that I escaped with less than 3,000 dollars in debt, and found a job that allowed me to make enough money to save for my move here in 6 months. I always intended to go back one day, but I couldn't justify spending the money until I was sure of what I wanted. I have never regretted my decision.

Until I moved to The Netherlands. Because going on to higher education is so inexpensive here, tuition is generally less than 2,000 Euros a year, and the government gives away tons of grants. Almost everyone goes. I soon found out that even though I had experience in a rapidly growing field, because I didn´t have a degree I couldn´t so much as land an interview. This gave me a lot of time for self reflection. I realized, I moved across the ocean, why I am trying to get a job in the field I was just using as a place holder, and actually really hated. So, I began looking into colleges here to pursue my ultimate dream job, I want to have my own tour company. 

The Higher Education System here in The Netherlands is different than that at home. For example, there are different levels. There is the MBO level, which I confess I don´t know much about, but it is the lowest level. Then there are the Hogeschools or HBO programs, these can´t really be compared to something in The States, they are very hands on learning. Think anything from Journalism, Marketing, and Midwifery. Universities here are more for things that are very research intensive. Think Science, Literature, Medicine, thinks of that nature. Confused yet? 

Since I want to study Tourism, that is a HBO program. I then had to look for Hogeschools with International Programs that offered International Tourism Management.International, so I can go to school in English. I found three. Two are over a two hour one way trip from Utrecht, and one is in Amsterdam. Due to the fact that Loek´s job and our life are in Utrecht, and that Amsterdam is where the tourists are, I choose the one in Amsterdam. Now, I just had to figure out how to apply and pay for it. 

Luckily, because I am under 30 and on the Visa I am on I will receive some aid. To apply for the program, I had to go on Studielinks and fill out the application. I then had to send in a certified copy of my high school transcripts and diploma. Which means I had to fax in a request to my old school district and have my parents go pick them up and send them to me. I then heard from my school, there was a questionnaire that was required. It was confusing for a few months, because I was being sent all this paper like I was accepted into the school, without an official acceptance letter. 

Yesterday, I had to go in and do an interview and entrance exam. It turns out these things are not a part of the are you in the program or not, but are more of a diagnostic exercise for when we will later be replaced for group projects. One thing that I do like better about the HBO program in comparison to my experience in The States is that every class I take has to do with tourism in some capacity. No core classes for this girl! 

It turns out, I am in to the program! For the next four years, I will be a full/time student. I couldn´t be happier! Look forward to a bunch of posts about this. 

Anyone have any advice on going back to school, or better study habits? They are more than welcome!


An Ode to My Mother

Yes, yesterday was Mother's Day, but my mom was traveling, so I figured I would write this to her when she would see it. Probably one of the last things that any mother wants to hear is that her daughter is moving across an ocean and is doubtful that she will ever return. Which is what my mother had to deal with when I moved to The Netherlands in October. That being said, she has been amazingly supportive! We have always been incredibly close, but I think moving away from home might have made is even closer. I am so lucky to have her in my life! 

Mom and me at my going away party! Look at the amazing cake!

Me, Nana, Mom, and my Godson Logan

Love you Mom! 




This Week In Instagram Vol.3

It was a super busy week for me, I left Utrecht for interviews on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday! Luckily, I managed to get a job from one of them, so it wasn't entirely time/money wasted. Even though I was busy, I did manage to take some photos with my phone. 

I have a book club meeting on Monday, so the beginning of the week I spent a lot of time reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I have some mixed feelings about the novel, but since I have been getting more and more books from the library, instead of buying them for my kindle. Because of this, I was in serious need of a bookmark. I decided to make my own after something I saw on pinterest. Although, I forgot to pin it! Isn't it cute, it slips right over the page! 

Atticus thinks he is the master of our home! He's probably right. There was no more reading for mom!

Leidsche Rijn is an up and coming area. Last year, when we visited the construction site that would be our new apartment, this area was virtually uninhabited and this park was meticulously groomed, with planted lilies. Fast forward a year later, when people are actually living here and it is overgrown and they lilies are gone. What gives?

It wasn't all work and no play on my interview day. Before my appointment in Amsterdam I got to check out the Rembrandt House Museum. (Rembrandthuis) This is where Rembrandt lived before he lost all of his money. If you have a spare afternoon, go there, it's on the Museumkaart! 

When riding my bike to the Jumbo, I discovered there was a thrift store on my way. I finally went and I found a pretty decent selection of English books and this antique speculaas mold. For those of you not in the know, think of speculaas kind of like gingerbread cookies. You place the dough in a wooden mold. This one is huge, more like a speculaas cake and really old. I don't plan on using it for baking but for decoration. It is two sided, there is this one. 

But this is the side I will be displaying, aren't the carvings amazingly intricate?

Last but not least, here is the calzone that The Verlo- made for dinner last night. Mine had cheese and black olives. So lekker! 


Tell me about your week! 


Work, School, and Inburgering Updates

May is shaping up to be my busiest month since moving abroad! I have a lot going on, which is sort of a relief from the nothing I have been doing with a lot of my time since coming to The Netherlands. I like to think of this month as my preparation month, as that pretty much is what it is shaping up to be. There are some big things to prepare before September comes and my days will be anything but my own. This is what is going on right now in three major areas of my life. 

Work- After not having so much as an interview for months, I had three in the past week. All of them went well, but a few just would not work out for me in the long term. I am happy to say that I seemed to have found the perfect part time job working with kids one day a week, starting at the end of this month. That being said, if anyone in the Utrecht or Amsterdam Area knows of anyone who needs a babysitter or tutor, please pass along my name. 

School- I plan on writing a post next Tuesday about the application process to go to school in your new country. I have the last little bit to do before I am officially enrolled in a HBO program come September. On Monday, I have to take a test that seems to be a little bit like the SAT and have an interview before I am officially accepted into my program. I'm not too worried about it, but there is a math portion and I haven't thought about SAT math in about 7 years! Wish me luck!

Inburgering- I go in on the 22nd to find out how I did on the placement tests, and when I will start my classes! I am really excited about this, even though I have heard and read all the horror stories! I am just ready to get serious about learning Nederlands. 

As you can see, there is a lot going on this month! But it is nothing compared to how busy I will be come September, when I'll be trying to balance a full class schedule, inburgering, a job, spending time with The Verlo- and friends! It will be stressful, but I know I can do it, because I have to! 

What is going on in your life? And if anyone has any balancing act tips, they are more than welcome! 

Image: dan /


10 Books for 8 Euros

I have a well documented love affair with books. Just check out this post and this one! While I love the Utrecht Library System and my kindle, sometimes you just want to own books. They are great for decorating and as conversational starters. But, books printed in English are counted as imports here which can be very expensive, especially for an expat with no job and about to go back to school. 

Which is why I was so excited when in Amsterdam for an interview this week, I had time to meet up with my bud Lily. We ended up meeting at the Waterlooplein Markt, where she had already found a great deal on used English books. We shopped around, I ended up getting 10 books for 8 Euros. Pretty good deal if I say so myself. The Waterlooplein Markt is one of my favorite markets here in The Netherlands, you never know what you will find there. 

Another cool market in Amsterdam is the Boeken Markt (Book Market) which takes place every Friday at Beguinage, about a15 minute walk from the Amsterdam Centraal Station. I have only been there once, but I hope to go more often when I start attending school in September.

Are you an expat? If so, where do you get your books?


This Week In Instagram Vol.2

It's that time again! Welcome to Volume 2 of This Week in Instagram! 

Dawn breaking on Queen's Day! I was so excited that I didn't sleep at all! Actually, this is not that unusual an occurrence! Insomniac, thy name is Kaitlin!

The awesome headband I made for Queen's Day! Yes, that is Atticus in the background!

There were ducklings being hatched in some half sunk boat on Queen's Day! Why are there so many half sunk boats in Amsterdam?

The crowd on Queen's Day!

The boats looked fun, I would say next year. But I have an irrational totally rational fear of boats!

I find it funny that these people wanted a deck so bad that they built a raft that is only accessible from  crawling out their window and down the ladder. 

This is my the bookmark I made. Isn't it cute!

What did your week look like? 


1/3 of the Way Through My 2012 GoodReads Challenge, 100 Books!

I am obsessed with goodreads, it helps me to keep track of what I have read, what I want to read, and what my friends are reading! This year, I decided to sign up for the goodreads challenge. Basically, you pick how many books you are going to try and read in 2012, and goodreads will keep track of it. Most people seem to have goals anywhere from 12 books to 50. But not me. I figured since I am currently  unemployed, I should set a lofty goal of 100 books in 2012. Or about two books a week, this whole year. I have finally made it through the first 1/3 of the books for this challenge. According to goodreads I am ahead of where I need to be to finish my goal, but my inburgering is going to start soon and in September, I have every intention of going back to college. I think I should step it up this summer! 

When one is trying to read approximately two books every week, you get some crap thrown into the pile to keep up the quota. That being said, I have read some decent titles this year. Here are some of the gems of the 35, I have read so far. 

Harry Potter 1-7, plus The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K Rowling

  • Of course, I read each of these when they first came out, and 4-7 again before their respective movies, but I had never read all of them back to back. It was a good experience and I HIGHLY recommend it! 

The Giver, by Lois Lowery

  • Number the Stars was required reading in school. But, I had never read The Giver, which  was my friend Sarah's favorite book when we were little. It was a fast read and  it begged to question is Utopia ever really reachable or would we have to give up too much?

Persuasion, by Jane Austen

  • You can't go wrong with Ms. Austen.

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

  • A mystery about a book, with a twist that I didn't expect. I was hooked!

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

  • This was a book club selection, that I wasn't looking forward to, but ended up really liking!

Clash of Kings, Book Two of A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin

  • I started this book right after Game of Thrones, Book One of A Song of Ice and Fire, but after accidently seeing a spoiler, so I stopped until I could force myself to forget it. This whole series just pulls you in!

What was the last good book you read? Right now I am a 1/4 of the way through with Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. 

This week I am linking up with fellow expat blogger Ellen from  Company of Clever. Her blog title comes from one of the books listed above. Can you guess which one? 

Don't forget to find me on goodreads



My First Queen's Day!

Monday was my first Queen's Day! For those of you who haven't experienced it, think of it like a giant block party, only every block in the entire country is having a party and a garage sale at the same time. Now combine that with boats, and the color orange, and epic levels of intoxication. Then you'll get the general idea. 

Since this year was my first Queen's Day experience, we decided to go up to Amsterdam to really experience it! My friend Amanda and her husband came with us, and we met up with my girl Lily, some of her friends, and our new blogging bud Sherisa

We mostly hung out in the grassy knoll of the weteringcircuit-

Then an entire parade of Hare Krishna's passed. Their outfits were so beautiful to go along with the orange theme-

Eventually, the newbies decided to go explore the city.-

Then we found this, we didn't eat there, but it is on my to do list-

And at the Museumplein-

I thought it was nice that they had some volunteers to pick up trash-

Eventually, The Verlo and I had enough of walking around, so we went back and found Lily, who I totally jacked this photo from- 

As you can see, it was an awesome day! Start planning your visit now kids! 


I Could Go to The Olympics, With Your Help!

Hello dear ones!
I have entered the Samsung and Zooppa Blogging Challenge for a chance to win a trip for the 2012 London Olympic Games. It would really mean a lot if you would vote for my video
I'm feeling very Olympic today! Quick, what movie is that from? 



5 Things I'm Looking Forward To!

Alright, yesterday's post left me in a bad mood. To make up for it, here's another one of my famous list's of happiness! This is what I am looking forward to in the near future:

1. Queen's Day: In celebration of the Queen's Birthday, although it is actually the date the current queen's mother's birthday, people take to the street in Orange, the national color and my favorite! To drink beer, buy random crap, and dance. I haven't been before, but in my mind I imagine it to look like the scene in Chasing Liberty when Mandy Moore finally makes it to the Love Parade. The Verlo and I are heading up to Amsterdam to hangout with one of my favorite's!

2. I look forward to hopefully finding out when and where I will start my Inburgering Classes. I have a feeling this will happen in May.

3. Book Clubs in May! Which means I will meet some new peeps!

4. The trial study day for a school I am in the middle of the application process for is in May. I got  the good news yesterday that I passed a major step of the admissions process, I've got a few more to go, but I have confidence. 

5. I have made some awesome friends here, I can't wait to see what we will get up to next month!

What's happening in your life that makes you sunny side up?

flickr image by: jerrroen



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