Partly because of a little project I am working on and partly because I would like to start featuring friends who travel, here is a little piece written by Emma Hernandez, a friend of mine. She came from Spain to Delft to Study Aerospace Engineering and is currently in Singapore to continue studying there for half a year, after which she will do a volunteering project in Taiwan. Whether it is working, volunteering or studying abroad, a long-term stay in another country will definetly teach you a lot about life, the world and yourself. This is how Emma found out what there was more to life during her time in the Netherlands.
Study abroad and discover yourself – Emma Hernandez
My name is Emma and I moved to Delft (the Netherlands) to start University far away from home. I am half English half Spanish and two years ago I left my parents and smaller sister to go abroad.
Before I left, my Spanish friends kept telling me I was crazy and I did not even want to start explaining to my very traditional Spanish grandmother that I was going a bit further away than the 1h distance that used to separate our homes. Anyways, I ended up deciding I had to do it for myself, to grow up, leave everything that I knew and start my own adventure!
Leaving home for the first time, going to a new country where you do not know anybody and you do not even understand the language… it has not been easy! Regardless, it has been the most enriching experience I have ever had. I have transformed myself from being this shy little teenager to a young independent woman. I used to give so much value to my career and my future job and now, it is kind of funny how going to TUDelft, studying Aerospace Engineering which is a very demanding career, made me realise life is all about living.
Now I am that crazy girl singing in the train, dancing in the train station like no one is looking because it makes me happy. Believe it or not, me singing in the train started so many conversations with strangers, that said goodbye with a “I wish you a very happy life.” I am not religious, but these attitudes make me believe in people. And the thing is, we should be more open to start new conversations. How? It is very simple. Start by asking them what are they passionate about. Their faces will lighten up and their biggest smile will pop up. Such a beautiful way of starting your day in the rainy Netherlands.
Last year something changed, I started feeling more lonely and missing my parents a bit more. My mum was not healthy, which also worried me. Learning how to be on your own and face loneliness with all your courage and strength is not an easy task. I know so many people that struggle when they are left alone with their thoughts. It is very sad.
Anyhow, I decided to take control of the situation and to go meet people. This brought me to knock on my neighbor’s door, a group of handsome young men, who I had never met before. And guess what happened; they were delighted to finally meet someone else in the block and invited me to join them for dinner. Followed by a few more walks by the lake, I can now say they are very important to me and I look out for them, as well as they look out for me.
Another funny encounter happened at the park. I was walking in the park and asked an older lady what was she feeding the ducks in the pond. Shortly after she told me she was Polish and that she had once been an immigrant in the Netherlands. I kept running into her a few more times after that and she invited me to join her and her family for Christmas lunch. Such a warming feeling, being welcome into a family tradition, when we did not even know each other a month before. I can now say I have met her beautiful family and she is always looking out for me, as if she were my mum.
So what can I say? I feel so grateful to have met all these people that have become my Dutch “family”. If you have the chance, go travel and be brave!
This blog was originally published on 'Ambitious Wanderer'