When I came here to the Netherlands I quickly realized that this was a whole new and very different experience then what it felt like to be an expat as a child. I was born in Hungary, I lived with my parents in Budapest, started elementary school there, I struggled to learn English, made friends (friends for life) and was living the average life of a 6-7-year-old child.
My First Time Abroad
One day my father got an opportunity to live and work abroad and soon it was clear that my mother wants to follow him so the whole family moved. At first, we moved to Warsaw, Poland, rented a nice house and I started school at the British School of Warsaw. Back then I only knew two English words: Yes, and No. I remember my mother taught me how to ask where the toilets are in English, which soon came handy on my first day, the only problem was that I couldn’t understand the reply to that very question. Luckily I had an amazing teacher who helped me through the rough stages of being in a new environment where I don’t speak the language. Thanks to my young and fresh brain I quickly picked up the language and after a month I spoke it fluently and started to make friends. As soon as I got really comfortable (I even fell in love, ok, I was only 9 years old but at the time it was a big deal, not to mention the lucky guy was Dutch.) we had to move back to Hungary.
Getting back to ‘normal’
Going back wasn’t hard. I missed some classes like literature and grammar but with the help of my parents, I got back on track in no time. My friends welcomed me back, like those two years when I was away never happened, my life went on like before. A few years passed by in this comfort in my birth town when my father got another job and we were about to move again. I think I was 11 years old at the time. We were going to live near Rome. I was very upset, I didn’t want to leave my friends behind, again. I was not interested in going to a new school, meet new people, get to know a new culture, I just didn’t want any of it. (Well, I was pretty excited about the Colosseum, to be honest.)
Little did I know that one of the best and most exciting period of my life was about to begin.
Experience of a lifetime
Italy is great. It really is. The food, the culture, the architecture how history is still vibrating into the present, everyone who has ever visited this amazing country should know what I am talking about. However, it wasn’t the delicious food or the pretty landscape that made these 3 years the most memorable ones of my childhood.
When I started to go to school I spoke English pretty well so that wasn’t the issue, but I was weird and an outsider among the kids who have been going to school together for a long time. For a very long time, they were not willing to speak to me, I remember at one point I even went up to one of my classmates to ask if she wanted to be my friend. The answer was no. I really didn’t enjoy my first few months there. I was angry with my parents that they made me come here, where people don’t like me, I feel lonely. I missed my home, my friends. Then from one day to another something has changed. One of the girls started to talk to me and slowly we became friends. At least I had one person on my side which made things better.
As I was starting to be okay with how things were, I was concentrating on my studies (since I didn’t have anything better to do.) One day when I was studying at home after school, our phone rang. My mom picked up and after of a few minutes talking she came up to me and said that it was the mother of the most popular girl in my class and that they wanted to know if I would be interested in taking dance classes with her. I had no interest in dancing, but I loved the idea of spending time with this girl. After we became friends somehow a whole new world opened up to me. I made, even more, friends, everybody realized I wasn’t as weird as I seemed to be, or at least they started to appreciate and like my weirdness. That was when an amazing 2 years of my life began. The whole class was like a huge group of best friends, doing everything together. And I had two best friends. The three of us also hung out quite often and soon our dancing duo became a triplet. I remember one afternoon we watched Shrek 3 times in a row at the cinema.
I still have contact with these people that I have met there and the best friends I have met there are still my best friends. Now everybody is living an adult life, they are living all around the world, but the friendships that were made back then are still thriving today. This is very special. There were kids from different countries, different backgrounds. This experience opened up the whole world to me, literally and I am so grateful for my parents that they gave me this opportunity.
To all the parents who are expats with their kids and have doubts and worries: for me this is something I would never exchange for anything else in life. I learned another language, I got familiar with other cultures and had the best time of my life. At the end of the day I have to say: It was awesome to be an expat as a child!