Jeanelle Rabadam is originally from the USA and has recently relocated to The Netherlands. In between she spent one year studying in Barcelona. When Jeanelle wrote to us we asked if she would share some of her experiences here on People of the World. Here she talks to us about living far from home and the realities of getting to grips with a new culture.
You’ve moved a couple of times in the last few years, from California first to Barcelona and recently to Amsterdam. What were your reasons for moving abroad? Do you recommend the experience?
I am originally from Northern California, specifically from a very safe suburbia town. I decided that I wanted to try the city life so moved to Los Angeles for college, where I pursued my undergraduate business degree. While studying, I spent a six months in Florence, Italy and absolutely fell in love with Europe. The people, the food, the romance, I loved it all! I always knew I would be back here someday.
So, after two years working as a marketing professional I decided to make another major life change and obtain an International Master’s degree abroad. I chose Barcelona because of its intoxicating energy and laidback Spanish way of life. It was in Spain where I met and fell in love with my boyfriend, who happens to be from the Netherlands. So now after graduation, here I am in Amsterdam! If you told me five years ago that I would have lived in lived and studied in three different countries I would have never believed you. But I must say, if life turned out the way I thought it would then it would have been boring and predictable – something that your twenties should never be!
What do your friends and family back home think of your decision?
I have very close ties to my friends and family back home. A few months ago, an extreme bout of homesickness hit me once the honeymoon stage was over in Barcelona. But despite missing each other incredibly, my loved ones back home strongly supported me and picked me back up. It’s this overwhelming amount of love and words of encouragement that have helped immensely each time I’ve wavered on my decision to be abroad.
Has living abroad changed you as a person?
I think the more appropriate question is how HASN’T it changed me. Living abroad has opened my eyes to all the beautiful things life has to offer. It’s made me a more curious and independent young woman.
But perhaps more importantly, it has also grounded me, because when you travel the world you come to find some of the sweetest things can only be found at home.
How long did you live in Barcelona? Did your impression of the city change during that time?
I lived in Barcelona for exactly one year. In fact, I left for the Netherlands nearly the same day I started my Master’s program. My impression of the city changed immensely especially in my last remaining months. Coming from the States everything is very fast and efficient, something that I took for granted. In Spain everything moves much slower and also much later. I grew impatient of this after many months in Barcelona. Also, I struggled with not learning the language as much as I wanted to. Being out of the classroom, where English was spoken, and completely submersed in the Catalan way of life made it difficult to get things done. Needless to say, I was ready to be in the Netherlands where the culture is a bit closer to the US.
I guess you’re still making first impressions of the Netherlands, but what are the main differences you notice so far between life in California and life in the Netherlands?
Besides the weather, which has been gloomy and COLD the main difference for me would have to be the mode of transportation. Amsterdam is a charming little town, filled with canals and bicycles and active people. For six years I lived in Los Angeles, where drivers circle the parking lot forever to find the spot closest to the doors. Here, people ride bikes seemingly as routinely as they breathe. I love it.
After your experience moving to Barcelona and making a life there is there anything you’ll be doing differently this time around?
I’m going to make it a point to try and completely learn the Dutch language. I find that even though I will never be fluid as English, people do appreciate the effort. I also will try and make more local Dutch friends. While studying in Barcelona my peers and new friends came from everywhere around the world: Germany, Austria, the States, Russia, Egypt, Brazil, Cambodia, etc. But now reflecting on it, I didn’t have many encounters with native Spanish people.
Jeanelle Rabadam currently resides in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Since moving from California, she has documented her travels from the South to North of Europe through her blog “Glocal Girl” which offers a genuine but light-hearted perspective on her new expat experiences.
About the authorLucy