Sunday, 6 November 2016

Returning to NZ, living in NZ and then returning to NL

So long story short (the quick version of the long story is what this post is about) , I'm in the Netherlands again. And since I am, a number of people have started asking me if I'll start my blog again. And after a while (now) I have.
So here is a quick summary of what I've done over the last 10 months of my life. It has been 10 months and a lot has happened but bear with me, I've condensed 10 months in to 1 page!

After I got back from my exchange, it was summer in NZ! I got off the plane in Auckland (and Wellington) completely not prepared for the heat which hit me. But as soon as I got in to proper clothing for February (shorts, t-shirt, sunglasses) the heat wasn't a problem anymore. But I had to learn to be in NZ again after all that time away from it.

The hardest feeling I had to get use to when I was back in New Zealand was trying to understand where the last half a year of my life had gone. I struggled to comprehend and accept that I was in New Zealand again after half a year, having had the time of my life overseas in a place which had come to mean so much to me. In a way I never left the Netherlands. But I'll get to that soon.

So as I had been away for 6 months and naturally I had a number of people I had to see! And being New Zealand, that usually means you need to drive somewhere. I was able to drive again quite quickly. The time I had spent in NL on the WRONG side of the road ;) couldn't make me forget the 17 years of drive/being on the left side of the road. So along with Mum I drove up to Hawkes Bay to visit some family members. I had forgotten how nice it is is to go swimming and kayaking in the sea! The difference in scenery couldn't be more profound at times either. It was amazing to have a few weeks of summer holidays after having almost a year of Winter/Autumn. Here are some photos of Hawkes Bay region and Wellington

I also caught up with friends in Wellington from high school but really I didn't have much time in Wellington. 3 weeks in total but even those 3 weeks were enough. I needed to move on. I didn't like being in Wellington because it felt like nothing had changed while I had changed a lot and so I felt like the last 6 months hadn't meant much. I didn't feel quite at home. Luckily I had the next step already planned out!

Before I left on my exchange I planned to study Engineering (I was never sure what type though) at The University of Canterbury in Christchurch when I got back. However while on my exchange, I had learnt a lot about myself,  what I wanted to do and that I had fallen in love with The Netherlands, the people, culture and the life there.So I guess it won't be surprising to you that I wanted to stay/go back.
So well before I left to return to New Zealand, I applied to study Aerospace Engineering at The Technical University of Delft (TU Delft) in the Netherlands starting in September 2016. So in this way I never let go fully as I planned to go back.

However the problem was that getting in to Engineering in NL is a lot harder than getting in to Engineering in NZ. TU Delft only accepts 480 new first year Aerospace Engineers each academic year (starting in September 2016) so to get a place I had to do some entrance exams in March and I would  find out the results in mid April. Knowing this I still decided to go to University in NZ in case I didn't get in to TU Delft.

So my next part of my life would be going and living in Christchurch and attending the University of Canterbury, and this is what I did! It was great to be in a different city and living a new life. I really enjoyed my time in Christchurch and I made some really good friends there! Being in Christchurch really helped me settle back in to life in NZ and it helped me miss NL less.

After I had done my entrance tests and waited the most suspenseful 2 weeks waiting for the results, I was accepted in to Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft. This was probably the most amazing news ever. I couldn't believe it and I was so elated. I didn't think things could get any better...but they did

My girlfriend came to visit me

Now that probably doesn't sound that special but we had been doing a long distance relationship for about 3 months at this point as she lives in The Netherlands.
We met on my exchange and after a while we just got together. In hindsight we were crazy to do a long distant relationship given the situation we were in (be honest, it isn't the smartest idea dating someone who literally lives/will live on the other side of the world) but we made it work and we've been together for about a year now.

Her visit was the most amazing surprise and biggest 'I love you' anyone could ever hope for. I will  never forget the moment I saw her walk through the door of my house. And she never lets me forget the look on my face :)

The 10 days she spent with me in NZ were amazing. I showed her places from my past, my university and we also went to Tekapo for a few days. On a side note, star gazing in Tekapo is mind blowing. You can see meteoroids, satellites and even our satellite galaxies from there. If you ever visit New Zealand, it is worth a visit to see the Milkyway as you probably haven't before (especially if you are from the Northern Hemisphere. )You can see scenery like this:

The next few months passed quickly. I had exams, preparations for living in The Netherlands to make and just not enough time to do it all. But thanks to a lot of people, I got my insurance, flights, housing, student loan, enrollment, passports all sorted for the Netherlands whilst getting a overall GPA of 7.5 for my first semester at Uni in NZ!

After finishing at University in NZ and doing a volunteering 10 trip on The Spirit of New Zealand as a Leading Hand, I had about 5 weeks in New Zealand before I was going to leave for the Netherlands. So I worked for 4 of those weeks and said my 'see you soon' to many people who mean so much to me and I left New Zealand on the 13th of August for the Netherlands.

 So almost 1 year after I left on my exchange I was going back. It was hard to leave Wellington then. My parents saw me off at the airport and I do look forward when they can welcome me back (whenever that is). It was around this time I realized how much I had come to appreciate and love New Zealand in a way which I never did before I left on my exchange and indeed while I was on my exchange. So like I never fully left The Netherlands, a part of  my will never fully leave New Zealand.

So fast forward almost 3 months and I am living in Delft, currently studying for exams. I've already had 1 (exam) and I have another 2 next week. And after that I  get straight back in to lectures. TU Delft doesn't give its students many holidays (sadly).

I'll talk more about Delft in a future post (I'll try to post often ish about my study, life in Delft/NL and what I'm up to as an international student at TU Delft). But until then here are some pictures of Delft!

Have a good one


Sunday, 31 January 2016

Thank you

Hey everyone

I'm writing this (last) blog post while I am sitting in the transit area of HK international airport. So I guess the name of this blog isn't really appropriate anymore but anyway, here I go for one last time!

The big thing I want to say in this post is thank you. A lot of people have help made these last 6 months of my life what it has been and for that I can't say thank you enough. The people in NZ (family, school, exchange organization), The Nederlands (amazing host family, amazing friends, exchange organization) and all those people in between (airplanes/airports personal etc), you have all really shaped my life to how it is now and I wouldn't want it any other way.
My time in The Netherlands has really been profound for me. I have learned a lot, personally and in relation to others and the wider world. What I have gained is something I really don't believe I would have gained by staying in NZ as the experiences I have had, have challenged me in ways New Zealand couldn't have because of the languages, different culture and just a different a different way of life. These experiences will stay with me for my whole life and I do believe that my future will be significantly changed because of what I have done over these last 6 months.

I really need to give a special thanks to my parents in NZ for supporting me on this Adventure of a Lifetime. My host family has also been amazing. They helped me so so much with everything from how public transport systems in The Netherlands work to life lessons. If you are (or will be) an exchange student reading this, I hope you know/realize how important your host family is to your exchange, it really wouldn't be the same with out them.

To my Dutch Friends, you guys are all amazing and I will/do really miss you all. You together made my exchange very unique as it is in a big part to our friendships which I will remember for the rest of my life. What you all did for me was so special and I am very lucky to have friends like you. I will see you all soon <3

If you are a future exchange student, I'd like to offer some wisdom which I'd got from this experience:

Your exchange will challenge you in ways you can't and wont realize. But embrace these challenges and you will get a lot of experience/knowledge out of them

Make the most of EVERYTHING. Your time in your host country WILL slip away from you and before you realize it, you'll be back in the country you left from. So do things with friends, your family and if someone offers you to do something with them, go for it. Who knows going to that party with the guy from your English class, it could completely change your life.

Don't regret anything you do, only regret what you didn't do. An exchange year or half year is a really short time in reality. So do things which make you happy and don't regret doing them because if they made you happy, they were good. Of course you need to be sensible with what you do but this is a time for you to try and discover who 'you' are a bit more and to work on the things you want to work on.

Leaving will be hard if you loved your life and there is nothing anyone can do to help. No one will probably say it to you, but leaving your host country will be the hardest thing you ever do on your exchange for the simple reason that it harder to leave the life you spent 6/10/12 months making, for an unknown amount of time than to leave the life you spent your life making for 6/10/12 months. Just try to look on the positive side of it all and don't think you are going 'back' to your country but rather going 'to' your country. The life you left 6/10/12 months ago won't be the life you arrive to after that time. Friends could have moved on, you may not understand some people anymore. This is life. Things always change and nothing stays still. Take it in your stride.

That's all. I hope this blog has given some people insight to how my exchange was and how this sort of experience can really change your life if you let it. Take care everyone and thanks for sticking by me. Love you all <3

p.s. I wrote this after not sleeping for about 20 hours so I apologize for possibly not making sense and all the spelling/punctuation mistakes

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Still no snow + upadte on life

Hi everyone :)

I write this post as I am listening to Coldplay's new album (A Head Full Of Dreams) and as I am thinking of all the amazing memories I have made in the time I have been over here. There has been a lot which has happened to me over these last (almost) 5 months, some good, some bad. But all the experiences I have had, I've enjoyed. Not only because I got to experience them in a place which I have fallen in love with but also because I know these experience will change me forever and I think only in a good way. I think most exchange students realize that what happens to them while they are on their exchange will really change their outlook on; life, people they know, how they perceive the 'normals' in the country they first called home and potentially everything about them.
For me the way in which I now see friends and family, the world, New Zealand, The Netherlands, right and wrong and all those critical aspects of my life, I think has become more mature, developed and in general more aware in regards to others and life in general. If anyone reading this is planning on going on an exchange, your exchange will challenge you in a way which your home could never do and you will become a different person with experiences some of your friends won't understand and you won't be able to go back to the same life you had before hand, You'll be a lot more independent, aware of yourself, culturally knowledgeable and maybe even bilingual (like me now). Make the most of it, it's the time of your life :)

But all that deep and meaningful stuff aside, these last 2 weeks have been great! Had Kerst (Christmas) and it was great! I was with my host family and other members of their (and now my) family and we had great fun on Christmas, Boxing day and all the days leading up to New Years! Sadly however we had no snow but maybe in the next few weeks! It has been getting a BIT colder so maybe soon!

Last week I also went to Afsluitdijk and Friesland in the north of the country. To say the least it was amazing trip. Afsluitdijk is a very impressive piece of engineering, it basically is a dam across the sea to create a lake (Ijsomer) and help prevent flooding of the country. It was built in the 1930s and is really cool. Friesland isthe part of the country to the right of Ijsomer and it is a really stunning place. I didn't really know what to expect from it. Photos can explain it better than I can

 above: my host family when we were in Friesland

I have also had my first week of the new term! It hasn't been a particularly hard week. I've got a few marks back from some of the tests I had last test week. In general, they aren't bad I and my teachers don't think so I'm pretty happy!

I don't have much time left for my exchange now. Time flies when you are having fun. And I am glad of this, because if it hadn't, I know I wouldn't have had the time of my life over here. But I will be over here again soon because I feel so at home here and I the people here are really amazing and genuine. Unquestionably, these people will always mean a lot to me <3 Some photos of them below (by no means is this everyone! Sorry if I missed you, it means I don't have a good enough photo of you)

Anyway that's all for now. Till next time! :)

Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas world!

This won't be a particularly long post because not so much has happened these past few weeks. I had my birthday on the 10th and officially became an adult. It didn't feel so special even though its a big number, I sort of felt 18 before I was on paper. It was a great birthday with lots of awesome birthday wishes from my family and friends in The Netherlands and in New Zealand. Thank you to everyone who wised me well! Luckily it was the last day of classes at school for the year so it was a pretty cruisey day!

I had my second test week at school, it went pretty well and I understood A LOT more of the tests (which are in Dutch) than I did first time around, so I'm pretty happy. The Dutch has definitely improved I think (despite all my friends correcting my word order all the time...Thank guys <3 ).

Today is Christmas Day! A few people have asked me what Christmas is like over here. From what I have seen so far, its pretty similar to NZ except it is a bit colder, 13 degrees instead of a swim worthy 25 ish. However it is meant to be about 3-4 odd degrees at this time of year so this is a very warm Christmas for the people in Den Haag! But it is still very much a family time and lots of food and it is very nice :)

This time of the year is also a bit sad for me as I know I have 5 weeks left of my 5 month adventure of a lifetime. I know leaving this amazing country will be hard because I am very much at home here, but it'll be good to see everyone from my New Zealand life again. Bittersweet will be a word I'll use lots these next few weeks to describe the emotions I am having now. But I am glad I have 1 and a bit months left to make amazing memories and have a lot of fun with some of the most amazing people I've ever met. I will honestly miss a lot of people and I hope I'll be able to come back soon and see you all! <3

I hope every one is having a great holiday and making the most of it! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone :) Also, pictures!

1. Church in Delft
2. Me and my host brother out for my birthday dinner (note, I am eating a Kiwi Fruit, NOT a Kiwi ;) )
3. View of the outside of the upper house of the Dutch Parliament
4. A little lake in a park close to where I live

Monday, 7 December 2015

Sinterklaas came to town

Hello world!

These last 3 weeks a lot has happened. My school moved to a new building, I went to Kinderdijk with my family, went to Almere with some exchange students and Sinterklass came to town!

Starting with Kinderdijk, it is the biggest tourist trap in The Netherlands (I think). It's where you go to see a few thing the Dutch are famous for, windmills (19 of them), dikes and tulips in the spring (probably). It was really amazing to see how some Dutch people use to live. One of the mills we went in to and I was really astounded to learn that 15 people lived inside that mill. For a place which really wasn't that big, it would have been a pretty cramped life!It does make me glad to live in the 21st century. Picture below

Now for the last 2 or so years, my school here has been building a new building (so basically a new school as it is a one building school) and last week we had our first day in the new building! Everyone was excited to move as the 'temporary' building wasn't designed to be a school and was a bit small for 700 students. I wasn't as pumped however so I was a bit lost on all the hype, but I can understand now as this new building is really big and I think it is pretty nice compared to the old place which was a bit worse for wear after 2 years of students in it. In saying that, the bell in the new school is VERY loud and the inside is VERY white and has a slight 'office/hospital' feel to it. But apart from that, I think everyone is happy to have moved! Photos below. I'll add some more later

Almere was an excursion that I went on with other exchange students (from my organization) who live in Den Haag, Gouda and from a few other towns surrounding the near The Hauge (which I don't know the names of. My Dutch geography is still a work in progress). What we did was something that wasn't very active but still quite enjoyable. We went outside this artsy place to a nature park of sorts. There we all picked a plant and then took it inside to paint. I actually took this seriously and tried to make a good image of the plant I had. Below is the photo, the only thing which I think that went bad to a degree was the was the stem. But I had a great day and it was good to see lots of people again!

On the 5th of December, Sinterklaas came to my home to bring presents (similar to Santa Claus but Sinterklaas is the original). Sadly we didn't get to see him, but he has a lot of houses to go to ;) ! This is a tradition which many Dutch families celebrate and I found it really gezellig and leuk to experience! It didn't feel like presents are the highlight of the day (which I sort of feel is a big bit about x mas in NZ) but rather for the story behind Sinterklaas's coming to the Netherlands from Spain and the troubles he and the Zwarte Piet have before the 5th and the family atmosphere at home make it really enjoyable and mean a lot more to the people involved. However, maybe that is because I am growing up. Regardless, I really enjoyed that bit of the Dutch culture! The Sint gave me chocolate, and a few Dutch souvenirs which I found really nice!

Coming up next week I have another test week at school! Every exam/test over here really matter for students and I can feel the stress some people have when it comes to the ones coming up. It was noticeable last time we had a week like this as well but I didn't understand it as much. But I understand it a lot better now so I don't take it personally (some people seem to get more edgy as well around this time but I can completely get it). While these don't tests don't matter for me as my grades don't count for anything, I have the self given challenge of getting better marks this time round than last time. Which will hopefully tell me if I have improved my dutch or not! (I think it has improved a lot).

Anyway that is all for now. This will be my last post while I am 17 years old as this Thursday is my 18th birthday. If I am honest, I'm not completely hyped for this one (even though it is a big number both here and in NZ)...I'm not sure why but I hope it is a great day anyway!

But that isn't so important :) Tot later!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

This is probably the most boring post


Well it's been another 2 weeks and I feel like my time here is accelerating to an end. The days are melting together. I've been here for almost 3 months now and I am feeling a bit sad knowing I'll have to come home. While it will be great to see my  New Zealand friends again, I am going to miss all my dutch friends and this country. I have really come to feel at home here in this country with these people. Host family, friends at school, other exchange students. I will look back on this part of my life and remember the amazing life I had here with no regrets.

It is easier to leave the life I spent 17 years making for 5 and a half months than to leave the life I made in 5 and a half months forever

But I'm trying to put those thoughts aside because I still have another 2 and a half months here!

So anyway, deep and meaningful stuff over, I have had a few complaints from people saying I don't post enough about what I'm doing, show enough photos of what I'm doing or not talk to people enough. And fair enough. I don't post that many photos on this blog (and none on facebook, I should change that), I only do 1 post every 2 weeks if I remember and I don't talk to many people in NZ because of the time difference and there is so much else that fills my day up here and I am too tired to talk to Nzers in the evening because I need the sleep. So to kinda solve these problems, I'm thinking I should make a vlog every week just quickly going over and showing what I have done what I have done that week? Any ideas please let me know :)

Moving on again, these last 2 weeks, I haven't done to to much! Been ice skating, went for a bike ride to Amsterdam, hanging out with mates and not getting getting enough sleep!

Ice Skating was great. I managed to not fall over whilst moving on the ice or cause a huge hazard to other skaters who can skate well. I went with a couple of other exchange students and had a great time. Hopefully it gets really cold this winter and the canals and lakes will freeze so I can go skating on them, because that would be cool!

The bike ride I went n was with my host dad. We went from Den Haag to Amsterdam port along the coast, then back south to Haarlem. Then we went back to Den Haag on the train. I really enjoyed the day. We biked about a total of 60 odd km and I got to see lots of the dutch western coast which was 'heel mooi'. It also gave my host dad and I to have a good bonding time with each other, and a chance to talk about life and anything that interested us.

School has been school. Learning Dutch, doing maths a lot and enjoying time with friends. We are moving in to the new building soon though (2 weeks I think) so that is exciting most people here. I must admit, I am looking forward to it but I can't completely feel the same as everyone else with the new building. But I haven't waited 2 years for it. When we move I'll take lots of photos and post them. From what I can see from the outside, it looks amazing

New post in a few weeks. Till then, hope your life is going good :)

p.s. I know I need to take more photos

Monday, 2 November 2015

The last 4 weeks (sorry for that)

Hi all!!

Firstly I need to apologize for not making this post earlier, a few people have commented on my lack of a new post so sorry for that!
I've done a lot this past month. I have been to Amsterdam for the day with a bunch of other exchange students, had a couple of tests at school and a week of holidays which I spent down in Limburg with my host family and been to Zeeland! But firstly, Amsterdam

Amsterdam was amazing. It's such a big city with lots of traffic/congestion which gave it a really awesome atmosphere. We went on a canal cruise and despite that sounding boring, it really wasn't. It was great to see the capital for a non-ordinary angle. Those cannels have a lot of history which was great to learn about (because history is cool). We also had a chance to walk around the city and see some of the sites. All the buildings there are very impressive and lots of them are from the 'Golden Age' of the Netherlands which was about 17th Century. I thought that they were very large, which is non that normal for Dutch buildings as there isn't much space in this country per person. So to see these really old, massive buildings was a bit of a shock. Now a number of people will be wondering if I went to a Coffee Shop . The answer is yes I did. We had to actually go looking for one because I had really no idea where they all are. But I didn't actually go inside said Coffee Shop so sorry to all those who are now disappointed

It would be good to note now that due to me not checking something quite as thoroughly as I thought I had, I lost all my photos from Amsterdam. I only had a few videos which I took, so here is one

The test week I had at school was pretty cruisey in terms of tests I had to do. I had 2 Maths tests, an English test and a Physics test. Now as you'd expect, the tests were in Dutch. So that pretty much made everything (except the English test) really hard. But I got a 5.1 for one of my Maths tests, and I didn't understand about half the test so I'm pretty happy with my mark. I got a 8.4 (I think) and a 9 for English which gave me overall mark of 8.6 which is really good. My other maths and physics marks are best left unsaid. But I can't really complain about them because I didn't understand the majority of the tests

My holiday in Limburg was amazing. Limburg (for those of you who don't know) is the southern most region of the Netherlands. It boarders both Germany and Belgium. It is a really old part of the country (in terms of history) and it has wanted at times to be part of Germany and Belgium instead of the Netherlands. But that is a different story (my history on the subject is also pretty bad). While in Limburg I went to Maastrict. It is a really cool city, lots of old buildings in the city which have really nice architectures. I'm not 100% sure but some may date back to Roman times. I also saw parts of an old castle which once was Maastrict in the middle ages. It's impressive what those people were able to do back in the day without hydraulics and modern machinery! They also have lots of old churches down there which are really impressive and one I went in to had been converted in to a book store which I thought was a great use of an old building. Something else I was able to do on my holiday was go biking underground. Basically in Limburg there has been large scale mining in years gone by (and still some now) and as a result there is a huge network of tunnels underground and you can go biking there. I'm glad I was wearing a helmet otherwise I would have a lot of bruise on my head
While I was down near the rest of continental Europe, I also went to Belgium and Germany! I didn't get to see much of Belgium because we just drove through it but we went to Aachen in Germany for one evening to have dinner and have a look around. I love that about Europe, everything is so close and you can go to another country easily. We actually got lost going to Germany on the start of our holiday, but anyway ;) That's Europe though

Photos of the trip are below. The last 2 ones are from Aachen. The rest are from the Limburg area of The Netherlands, in no particular order

More recently, last weekend I went to Zeeland. Now as I'm sure all Kiwis know, New Zealand was first  discovered by Europeans in the 17th century and the discoverer was Abel Tasman (a Dutch guy). He named the entire country after a province in the Netherlands (Zeeland). After going to both places, I can see the resemblance somewhat. The sea is everywhere and the plants on the coast are similar to the ones at Golden Bay (where Tasman first went in NZ). Anyway history lesson over as you already know it all (unless you are someone from my school reading this then you probably didn't even know who Abel Tasman was until now. Feel free to ask me more about NZ history if you see me around :) ). Some photos of Zeeland are below

Anyway that's all from me for the moment. I will try a lot harder to post every 2 weeks, I'm sorry I haven't been doing that very well recently

To everyone in NZ, hope you all had great last days at school and I hope exams go well

To everyone in the Netherlands, I hope you are getting use to my accent and to me. I am loving my time in this country and thanks everyone for being so great to me (holistically). Also please speak more dutch to me, but speak slower! It sounds like you mush 3 or so words together so I think it is just one word I don't know! I want to learn your language but it is one of the hardest things I have ever done, so it takes a lot of time and effort

To all my other friends in other countries, Hi! Hope you are all going well and life in your countries is good!

Tot later!

Andrew - A kiwi in The Netherlands