Hi, my name is Sophie and I come from a small place in Northern Ireland called Whitehead. It's on the coast and quite pretty but I decided that after finishing school I wanted to take a gap year and move to a different country to experience a new culture, meet new people and challenge myself. So now I live in De Vierslag in another small town called Kruiningen where I work with Atlantic Bridge. I've only been here for a couple of days but already I've talked to lots of new people, explored the town and planned talks for when we go to speak in schools amongst other fun activities.
Immediately I noticed how different Dutch life is compared to life back home. The language is completely different for a start. The Germanic language sounds alien to me hence in my first few days I've smiled through many a conversation I didn't understand a word of, so the sooner I learn some Dutch the better! Another observation is how flat the country is compared to Northern Ireland where there is a hill everywhere you look. Since the land is so flat the Dutch cycle everywhere so you can't walk down the street without being passed by a cyclist. Also the Dutch have an obsession with coffee. They will take any and every opportunity they get to socialize over a cup of the stuff as it is seen as an integral part of every day life. This is a somewhat awkward custom for a girl like me who doesn't like any form of hot drink, but still, I can appreciate the concept behind it.
Furthermore I can tell it's going to be a year of new experience for me. On my second day here I had mussels, which I've never had before but was told I must try since they are the speciality of a neighbouring town. I've also been adjusting to living away from home for the first time and all the cooking and cleaning I have to do, as well as learning to live with new people who have different upbringings, beliefs and ways of life to my own.
But before I get too settled in the Netherlands we're heading off to the Czech Republic and East Germany with New York musician Jason Harrod. We will be going into schools, churches and events speaking about Atlantic Bridge, our home country as well as the topic of building bridges internationally. It will be an exciting way to begin our year together and I'm looking forward to meeting new people, talking to lots of students in schools and seeing more of Europe.