Some may have heard of the ghost story of the “Flying Dutchman,” or the Dutch ship that sailed on and never reached shore. Ever since I was a child, my father always referred to himself as the flying dutchman because his job required him to travel across the world and never anchor himself in any single place. Because he was Dutch himself, the joke always worked out pretty well for him.
After having lived in six different countries during my life, I have also come to think of myself as a flying Dutchwoman.
As you may have guessed by now, I am an international student. I am half Swiss and half Dutch but I have never lived in either of my native countries. Home has always been somewhere different. Although it can get tiring to never settle down in a single place, I would never trade the experiences I have gathered throughout my life. In fact, now that I have settled down in New Jersey for two years, I am already feeling ready to move on and discover someplace new. Traveling has become a lifestyle.
Every country I have lived in has formed part of the person I am today. My journey as a Flying Dutchwoman all began when I was “made in China” (one of my father’s Dutch jokes) and then delivered in Switzerland. My parents worked for another year and a half in Beijing where I apparently became almost fluent in Mandarin.
After China, we moved to Mamaroneck, New York. During our five-year stay there, my sister Laura was born. I quickly acquired the American accent and became enthralled with all the American customs. Trick-or-Treating during Halloween was one of my favorites. In fact, during my Freshman year at Rutgers, I asked one of my American classmates in New Brunswick to take me Trick-or-Treating with her children!
When I was five years old, we moved down across the world to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Moving to Africa was a huge change for my entire family and we had no idea what to expect. I can truly say today that the eight years we lived in Ethiopia were the best of my life. The country was rich in culture and the people made it easy to feel at home. Addis was always full of new things to discover. In fact, even our very own house provided us with endless adventures. I will never forget the time that a wildcat or lynx (we never found out which one) decided to live above our roof. At night we would hear heavy footsteps on the roof and had to keep our puppy indoors to make sure she stayed safe. One night my mother sent our guard to inspect the beast; the next morning we found him locked inside his quarters refusing to confront the “yellow eyes.” We shared our home with the cat for a few weeks before it finally decided to leave and inhabit our neighbor’s house. But the best part, though, was being in an international school with kids that came from all over the world.
After spending eight years in Ethiopia, I will always carry a part of it with me in my heart. In fact, the first thing I did when I arrived to New Brunswick was try out the Ethiopian restaurant on George Street.
After living in Ethiopia, we moved to the opposite hemisphere in Minsk, Belarus. We had never really heard of the country before so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Although it only had 12 students, the small international high school eventually became like a second home for us. I spent nearly my entire high school career in Minsk before moving halfway through senior year to Baku, Azerbaijan. Although I ended up having to take almost all my courses online in Baku, I was happy that the high school there had at least 30 people (you can imagine my shock when I arrived at Rutgers!!)
Nevertheless, after 18 years in five different countries, I finally graduated and chose to move once again to the United States.
People often ask me why I chose to come all the way to New Jersey, and by now, I hope the answer has become clear. I am an international student who has grown up moving around, so it has become a lifestyle that is hard to shake off. America was a place I had enjoyed as a child and could not wait to see again.
Traveling can offer you a sense of freedom; there is no end to the places you can go. If you are looking for something to do during the summer, and do not want to have to take a plane to do it, just rent a car, grab some friends, and go out and explore. I cannot wait to see where else my travels will take me.