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I, Tessa, never imagined quitting my job, buying a motorbike, selling my stuff and taking off like this. Actually, I never imagined I would ride a motorbike at all!
Many, many years ago I went on an Erasmus exchange to Sweden. I was green as grass. I didn’t know much besides my life back home. In Sweden I met wonderful people from all over the world. To live and study in a different country was - you guessed it - life changing.
After my graduation I started working in internationalisation in Higher Education. It was exciting to work in a field that facilitates personal growth and stimulates international cooperation. Before I knew it, eight years passed by.
As a student you learn to question and challenge the status quo. But what happens when you start working? Whether I liked it or not, I felt a bit as if I needed to conform. And although I was encouraging people to broaden their horizons, I didn’t do the same for myself. So I wondered: can you go on an Erasmus exchange as a grown-up? Take a break from your life as you know it? To get out of your bubble and meet new people with different lifestyles and ideas? Let's find out!
I, Thomas, wanted to trip already for quite a while. But cutting the strings of our daily puppet show requires some commitment and dedication. We have our work, family, friends, sport, and all good things in life. We have, to be honest, a good and comfortable life. Why risk it all, as some think and others ask, by burning your ships and leaving it behind?
The best illustration of my feelings is by describing it via one of my favorite movies.‘What is the world? … The answer is out there, Thomas. It’s looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to … this is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill…’ and I really do not know what will happen, only that I am looking forward to the effect of it!
Now, some dialectical events of my life, highlighting a few memorable moments. Born (1989) and raised in Utrecht, I started working as dishwasher in a restaurant at the age of fifteen. I liked the work, and after a couple of years, I became a cook in a high-end private dining restaurant. In hindsight, working in that restaurant was a very enriching experience. It thought me to shut my mouth when I had zero clue on the topic – which was new for me – and it showed me the value and tenderness of various products, and how to cut and cook it. The idea of opening a restaurant once in life has ever been a serious thought on my mind.
Five years later I moved to Rotterdam for my study Business Administration at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. This was the moment the real value of cooking became clear: I could actually make something decent to eat – man, what I have seen being cooked by some of my fellow students still gives me the creeps. This is also the moment where Tessa and my life starts to cross. She was living in the student house and I was a freshman hoping to become her flatmate. And so it happened, I moved in and two years later our platonic friendship turned into something more. Now, almost eight years later, we are doing this great thing together, how cool is that!
After a couple of years at the university I felt an emptiness in my study Business Administration. One particular event still sticks to my mind. It was during a finance lecture, on the topic of financial risk assessments, based on a methodology invented by the Lehman Brothers, a bank who notoriously went bankrupt due to mismanagement of its investment portfolio. Most of us were surprised: how could we learn financial risk management when that bank was corrupt and collapsed? It became clear I had to do something else. That something else became Philosophy, and it was like taking the red pill. Again, in hindsight, this was a life-changing decision, which really opened my eyes.
During my master Philosophy I wanted, as many do, experience living abroad via an Erasmus Exchange. And so, a few months later, I stood in Wroclaw (Poland), -15 degrees Celsius, without proper clothing and broke as a student. What a country, and what an enriching experience it was! The people, the food, the bars and drinks, I embraced all of it. One anecdotal moment I would like to highlight here. During the first lecture, in the private office of the professor, we took our seat (we were only with four students) waiting to kick it off. The professor started by saying the following: everyone in this room gets straight tens (out of ten) without doing anything. No papers or essays nor joining any of the classes. We were struck by surprise and celebrated the fact that our coming 6 months would be a life of leisure and party. But just before we left his office, he passed along one simple message: just remember for who you are studying. This simple, though strong statement made us realize we were the ones shaping our life. Decisions about what adds value to your life, and what not.
When I was about to finish my master I did what most of us do: you start looking for a job. So after applying for an internship I was hired at Philips in Eindhoven, in the Procurement department. Now, five years later, I did project and process management, Lean and Game Theory and currently I am (or more correct, was) a Procurement Engineer for a business unit which focuses on illuminating large surfaces.
This has ended. I quit my job to try to find some answers. Did I make conscious decisions to be where I currently am? Or was I carried away by what we, society, see as the normal thing to do? Maybe, I do not know. I think this question I can only answer by taking a step back. By undergoing a proper psychological experience. A moment to change perspective, to update my view of the world, a moment to reflect on my rusted truths. If it all truly happens, honestly, I have no clue. I guess there is only one way to find it out: we just need to do it.