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Carolina On My Mind

Well, after almost two years abroad, we are moving back to North Carolina!  Tom has accepted a position in a company he is really excited about, which requires us to live in the US. This has been in the works for a couple of months now, but I needed to keep it under wraps until it was official, and he let his current employer know.

There are a lot of mixed feelings around this move. Though we left the US in January of 2020, we got to Portugal in March. This was right when Europe shut down and we’ve been in and out of different levels of restrictions since we got here. We really haven’t had an opportunity to fall in love with Portugal. That’s not because there is anything wrong with Portugal, but because it’s hard to really get to know a place under these circumstances. Until this summer, restrictions made it difficult to enjoy the ease of European travel offered by living here as well.

We really haven’t had an opportunity to fall in love with Portugal. That’s not because there is anything wrong with Portugal, but because it’s hard to really get to know a place under these circumstances. Until this summer, restrictions made it difficult to enjoy the ease of European travel offered by living here as well.
Luckily, Ellie had in-person school most of the time and she has made wonderful friends who she will keep in touch with. Covid restrictions closed the school to parents, so Tom and I weren’t able to form the same community there. I have made some close friends, but the importance of community  became evident to me when I was back in North Carolina this summer.  For me, community is different than friendships (though there may be overlap).  It’s about having some sort of connection and regular interaction with people who have shared values or interests. Many of the farmers and regular customers at the Carrboro Farmers Market hold a significant part of my community and it felt so good to be back. Even going to Pilates and catching up with people I knew from before provided a sense of connection that I didn’t realize I was missing. I believe that we could have formed that community in Portugal if it weren’t for Covid lockdowns and such.
I’ve learned a lot about myself since we lived here, which has been very valuable.  Part of this relates to my identity as an American.  When we moved, it wasn’t to get away from North Carolina.  We really loved the area where we lived. That said, we had a lot of concerns about various matters/issues in the country and were also eager to remove ourselves from the hostile political environment. Here’s the thing though….whether I live in Portugal, the US, or Antarctica those same concerns affect me. I didn’t experience much of the hostile divide in my everyday life in the US. Social media was my main exposure to this divide which is something I experience no matter where I am living.  What I’ve learned is that I really do identify as an American, in addition to a global citizen. There are elements of the US that I’m proud of and others that I’m not. Moving back will allow me to be more active in causes that I feel strongly about.
There are a number of things I will miss about living here. Though I haven’t been able to spend much time with them due to lockdowns, my brother and his family live just 30 minutes away from us. I had looked forward to getting to watching my niece and nephew grow up. I love the pretty constant 70 degree weather with sunny skies, walking on the ocean every day, the incredible shellfish, and the extremely affordable health care!
There are also a number of things we’re looking forward to in the US.  My dad and stepmother are less than 15 minutes away from us and Ellie is looking forward to the weekly dinners they used to have. She’s also incredibly excited to be back with her long-time friends, get her driver’s license, and get a job. Ellie’s never been to Mexico, so we’re looking at a beach vacation sometime before she graduates. I can’t wait to get back to my friends, family, and also my community. I look forward to driving without anxiety, running more than one appliance at a time without blowing a fuse, not having to use a VPN, and grocery stores with so many options! Tom is most excited for the taco truck he has missed and the craft beer store where he meets his friends.
I’m also looking forward to language learning.  My Portuguese lessons challenged me in a way that I really enjoyed. Though I don’t plan to continue Portuguese, I am going to start learning Spanish.

The most significant things I’ve learned through this experience are more around how I want to approach life than anything else. When we first moved, our goal was to stay five years and apply for citizenship. Being open to possibilities allowed us to explore and pursue a path that was not aligned with that goal.  Since I’m a big planner and goal oriented, being open to different options is something that is difficult for me. Exploring, pursuing, and being excited about a path that is different from our original goal helped me learn the real value in being open to possibilities.

More than anything else, moving abroad has made me really see the world as a place that is open to us (well, except during a global pandemic). Moving abroad as a family is no joke. It’s a lot of work, logistics, and bureaucratic hoops. And we’ve done it now. Twice.  I have no doubt that if we want to do it again down the road that we can and we will.  It’s this confidence, this identification as a citizen of the world,  that our students living abroad obtain as well. And it’s really an incredible feeling!

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Studying and Playing Baseball in the Netherlands

Title Studying and Playing Baseball in the Netherlands Episode Summary In this week’s episode, Jenn discusses with Adam, a US student currently studying in Rotterdam. Our guest talks about a number of his experiences beyond the States, including the fact that he plays competitive baseball in the Netherlands. Learn more about Adam’s background, how it

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School Visit to Cork, Ireland

My weekends as a preteen in the mid-80s often involved trips to Blockbuster with friends.  If we weren’t renting Mask (with Cher) for the millionth time, then a National Lampoon movie was a likely pick. Say what you will, but European Vacation remains one of my favorites of the series.  I can’t even count how

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Podcast: The Return of the BTS Podcast

Title Return of the BTS Podcast Episode Summary The Beyond the States podcast is back! In this episode, recorded in August 2021, Jenn covers the basics of Beyond the States and overviews some of the biggest ideas around college in Europe. She talks about how and why she started BTS. She also talks about where

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Isabell in Maastricht

Hey guys, my name is Isabel Waszkiewicz. I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin which I will address as “MKE” for the rest of this blog post. In this blog I am going to tell you guys about my experience moving from MKE to a smaller Dutch city. In high school, when junior year rolled around in

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Geneva, Switzerland School Visit

Ellie and I just got back from a week in Geneva. It was my first time in Switzerland and, I have to tell you, Geneva is now at the very top of my “Favorite Cities in Europe” list.  It had everything I love about Paris (language, culture, incredible food, beautiful architecture) but cleaner, friendlier, and

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Andrea at UCU

by Andrea Pantazi A typical day at University College Utrecht starts with cooking breakfast in my unit’s shared kitchen. I live with eight other people, but most students only live with 4-6. This is organized differently than in the US, where this apartment-style living is not as popular.  After getting ready, class is only a

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Adam Housing

Adam submitted this video for us a few months ago and I immediately sent it to Sam in order to light a fire under his housing search-and it worked!  I’ve enjoyed getting to know Adam through our student ambassador program and recently interviewed him for our upcoming podcast relaunch.  He had really interesting experiences to

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Resilience

I recently let Sam go from his job with Beyond the States.  Since Covid limited job opportunities, I had given him a job helping Stefan with our database updates. Though Sam had developed a great work ethic working at a grocery store throughout high school, this didn’t transfer over to working for his mom and

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Anya Studying in 3 Countries

In this 6 minute video, Anya talks about her experience studying at ESCP, a French business school. Her program at ESCP has her studying in three different countries. She talks about realizing she needed to learn how to study during her first year as well as her many travels around Europe.

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