From Florida to Leiden: Maria's Experience

| Leiden International Centre

Where it Started

My journey to Leiden began when I spent a semester studying in Spain. With graduation coming up, there were no classes to go back to and I had the freedom to choose my next move. I decided to make the most of my time abroad before settling into my career.  

I explored my options to stay in Europe longer, leading me north as I landed in Germany to work as an au pair for 4 months. It was during these cold months that I learned how to navigate through my first winter, combating snow and adapting to frosty weather, some of this included shoveling snow. During my free time, I studied German and traveled to neighboring towns and countries. Being from Venezuela and the US, I grew up with both cultures, but I always had a curiosity and interest in other places around the world. It was no shock that I grew a love for travel and experiencing different cultures.  

The Netherlands always interested me as a country, because of its windmills, canals, and cycling culture. I thought of visiting sometime soon and when I had a holiday from my caretaking duties, I went on a spontaneous wind to visit. As soon as I arrived, I felt at home. There was something about being here that felt right to me. While I wasn't sure what this fully meant, I knew that I had to come back.   

Returning to Germany, I sought out opportunities abroad, through which I discovered the Netherland-American Foundation (NAF), a non-profit that supports exchange between the Netherlands and the United States. I applied to one of their programs, USA2Holland, which helps Americans by providing a grant and a network so that they can successfully pursue an internship in the Netherlands. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to build work experience for my career and push myself out of my comfort zone. Sometime after submitting my application, I was given the good news that I had been selected as one of their grantees. I was thrilled to be awarded this opportunity, as it meant I could explore this strong feeling bringing me back to this place. 

Once I accepted, I began to look for internships in the Netherlands where I came across Leiden International Centre, and I was impressed by their mission and goals. An organization striving to make internationals welcome and their transition to the Netherlands a smoother process, as well as offering guidance to employers who hire international talent. As someone who enjoys helping and bridging gaps between people, I knew that working at such a place would best suit me.   

Although they weren’t actively seeking out interns, I felt compelled to express my interest with my motivation letter and CV. Unsure of what to expect, I secured an interview, and by the turn of events I was offered an intern position for 6 months. I finished off my time as an au pair and went back to Florida, where I prepared to get things ready for my big move.   

The next thing was beginning the immigration process. Thankfully, I had help from the NAF with lawyers who handled paperwork on my behalf but everything else that I needed the Leiden International Centre came through for me. From planning my move, setting up my appointments for biometrics, and registering, to having resourceful information regarding the bureaucracy, language, culture, and lifestyle. Their information and services are what allowed me to have an easier time with the transition.

How it's Going

Within my first month of arrival, I dealt with unpredictable weather and watched as spring approached by going on endless strolls and learning to appreciate the seasons. In Florida, it feels like summer all year long, which can be nice, but there is something about the seasons changing that makes the days more special. My adventures also took me to Tilburg to celebrate my first carnival, there I witnessed Dutch people coming out of their shells more by wearing out-of-the-ordinary costumes. Some of the most memorable being a showerhead and an oat milk supremacy costume. I can only assume that the future outings I will go on will be just as great based on the amazing time I’ve had so far.  

What's Next

As I settle in the Netherlands, I’m filled with excitement to embark on this journey of living and working here alongside the Leiden International Centre. With their guidance, I’m certain that I’ll learn more about the Dutch working culture and business from an international perspective. I look forward to navigating my way through the Dutch way of living from cycling every day, going on many walks, mastering efficiency, and making my days more "gezellig."

Boaters tour along De Vliet leiden