Explore, learn and grow abroad: Camille's thirst for adventure

Expat interviews
  • Camille in Amsterdam
Published on 2023-08-09 at 11:00 by Estelle
Originally from Picardy, France, Camille is an adventurer at heart. Attracted to travel from an early age, she had the opportunity to visit several European countries as part of the Erasmus program, and Asia before settling in Amsterdam, where she now enjoys a fulfilling personal and professional life. But one thing's for sure: this isn't her last adventure! Camille talks to us about her journey, her challenges, but also her successes with a head full of dreams and projects.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?

My name's Camille, I'm 31, and I come from Picardy in France. Ever since I was a little girl, I've been attracted to traveling, foreign languages, meeting new people and discovering new cultures.

As early as high school, I started studying languages. I did a literary baccalaureate and chose a 3rd language option. So I was already learning English, Spanish and Italian. Then I decided to go to university for 5 years to study LEA (Langues Étrangères Appliquées). These are advanced language studies; I chose English, Spanish and Italian. What's great about this course is that it's really focused on translation from French into other languages and vice versa, but it's also about studying the culture and economy of each country you study. During these 5 years of study, I did several internships abroad and an Erasmus trip.

I got such a taste for living abroad that I decided to stay on after my studies. I've been living abroad for just over 9 years now. I've lived in Rome for 2.5 years, Barcelona for 4.5 years, and now I've been in Amsterdam for 2.5 years.

What brought you to these different countries? Which one did you prefer the most?

First of all, Italy: as I studied Italian at university, it was obvious to me that I was going to live abroad because, in my opinion, you have to live in the country to improve your language skills and discover more about it. So I spent 6 months on Erasmus in Rome, and it went so well that during my stay, I called my family and my university to ask them if I could stay another 6 months. So, in the end, I did one year of Erasmus in total. I fell in love with this city, this way of life; I could see myself living there. I didn't want to leave, but I had to finish my studies. So I had to go back, but as soon as I finished and graduated (after about a year and a half), I went back to Italy to start my professional life and my life.

Regarding Barcelona, by the time I returned to France to finish my studies, I already had travel fever. I had to get moving and do something before returning to Italy. So I decided to spend a season in Barcelona. I took a summer job there and said to myself: "I've never been there before, it's a good destination, it's like a party, the weather's good, we're going to have fun, no stress, let's go! And during that summer in Barcelona, I asked my university whether I could do a part-time Erasmus Plus internship in a tourist company, just in the mornings. In the evenings, I worked in a tourist bar crawl, selling parties, inviting tourists to party, working on La Rambla and on the beach. It was a really fun summer, and I really loved the city. And so, even though I absolutely wanted to go back to Italy, there was already a little seed in my head that was sprouting and saying, "Ah, Barcelona, why not?" And after doing my time in Italy, I still had this city in my head, so I decided to leave Rome for Barcelona. I worked as a travel agent there.

Finally, what brought me to Amsterdam was my partner at the time, who was Dutch, and I also had a lot of friends of that nationality in Barcelona, so I was already in a bit of a Dutch bubble. I was attracted to the country and thought to myself, "The people are really nice, and I can understand a bit of the language". In the meantime, there was also the Covid period, when I only worked part-time. The restrictions in Spain were very strict, and I needed a change, a new adventure, a new chapter, and this was the ideal moment. I've been here for two and a half years now, and so far, I'm doing really well.

All the countries made an impression on me for different reasons, but Barcelona and Amsterdam did something extra for me. In Barcelona, even though I worked a lot, I always felt like I was on vacation, and I did for four and a half years, even though I did my job seriously and went to the office every day. That vacation feeling, the weather's nice, people are relaxed, there is life after the working day: people don't go home; they enjoy the outdoors, life goes on, you eat late, you go to bed late every day of the week and not just at weekends. In Barcelona, I grew and opened up. As for Amsterdam, it's a bit the same; there's a great mentality. There are misconceptions about northern countries that people are cold, but that's not true! People here are very warm, kind and helpful. Without trying to blame Italy and Spain, which I adore, everything works very, very well here; it's transparent in terms of administration, housing and work. If you have a problem, people are there to assist you and help you through the process. You don't feel left out. It's also a very safe country. I feel safe, I can go home at any time, there's no street harassment, I feel really at peace and at ease.

Tell us about your Erasmus experience. What did it bring you?

My Erasmus year was clearly one of the best years of my life. It was a really intense period, and I feel I experienced 1,000 things in one year.

We're not going to lie; we're talking about Erasmus, so yes, we study, but we also party a lot. We spend a lot more time outside than at university, but the experience has changed my life.

I even got a tattoo of it because it's where I really learned how to live. For me, it's like a second birth. I've opened up, I've grown, so I tattooed "Vivere" (to live in Italian) on my arm. I come from a small town in Picardy where there's not much going on. The mentality is pretty closed. Before this experience, I didn't travel a lot, so Erasmus was a slap in the face. It opened my mind. Looking back, I realize that I, too, was closed-minded. I hadn't known anything until then. I also learned to be independent, live independently, and make my own decisions, because it was the first time I'd left the family cocoon. I learned to live and enjoy life's little pleasures because in Italy, as in many southern countries, people are relaxed. They take the time to live and put things into perspective a lot more.

You currently live in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. How did the job search go? Have you had any difficulties finding one?

I'd say it's very easy to find work in the Netherlands; supply even exceeds demand. Unemployment is virtually non-existent here, and everyone has a job. People have the luxury of being able to change jobs if they wish. It's the companies that have trouble finding employees. There are lots and lots of vacancies, even for foreigners. In fact, it's harder to find accommodation than a job!

Of course, when you arrive in a new country, it's always a bit stressful and can take a while, but I found it very easy compared to my previous experiences. When I arrived here, I still had my job in Barcelona, which I was able to continue remotely for a while, and I found my first job in Amsterdam in less than a month. And then, after a year, I found another job very easily too, 2-3 weeks, and it was settled. And during that time, I had 8 interviews, so 8 possibilities! It's really dynamic. There's a lot going on, regardless of the sector or even the city you choose.

What about your social life in Amsterdam? Did you find it challenging to integrate and make new friends?

Social life in Amsterdam is very special. That, too, was a bit of a culture shock. I have to admit that it wasn't easy at first, and being in the Covid period didn't help matters. I arrived in February 2021, and everything was still closed in the Netherlands. People could go out and about, but bars, restaurants and nightclubs were closed, so it was very hard to meet people. At first, I hardly went out, I had no one to see except my partner, and as someone who loves going out, partying and always has plans for the weekend, it was hard at first to say to myself: "It's Friday, I'm on my sofa, what am I doing? Nothing's happening, no one's contacting me, and I've got no one to contact". But once the restrictions were lifted, things changed and unblocked.

I did something I'd never experienced before: I signed up on a dating app (it's called Hey! Vina) to meet friends. This app is for girls only, it's purely platonic, it's really about making new friends, and I've met a few people like that who are now really good friends with whom I share lots of things. And then I also started going out more and more with my colleagues like me, foreigners, young people, who wanted to go out. In short, one thing led to another!

I also convinced myself to do something to meet even more people, so I started volunteering once a week, and thanks to that, I met some superb people who also became very good friends.

One of the things that's peculiar and hinders a lot in social life is that people here work to an agenda. Today, I work like that too, but at first, it was complicated because having spontaneous plans does exist, but it's rare. People are very "busy"; they need to plan weeks or even months in advance. So if I want to have a drink with someone, the person will say: "Let me check my diary", "Ah, I'm available in 5 weeks! Shall we confirm that date? That's how it works here; it's impossible to ask someone to meet tonight or tomorrow night. For me, this lack of spontaneity is a kind of brake.

Do you have any advice for people interested in moving to Amsterdam?

I don't know if I have any really good advice, but I'll try.

Career-wise: it's always better to apply for a job when you're there. It makes interviews easier, and employers are reassured because they know you're already there.

For accommodation: hang on and don't give up, look as quickly as possible and be patient, because it's very hard to find (more so than a job!). The real estate market is crazy because so many people want to live there, and it's very expensive. Unfortunately, you sometimes have to spend days to get what you want.

Another tip: prepare yourself mentally for the weather! It's not easy here: it rains a lot for a long time, the winters are very long and the summers very short. You have to be prepared for anything and ride your bike to work in the morning wearing a raincoat.

You enjoy traveling and discovering new places. What was your best trip?

I love walking, nature, and, above all, getting out of my comfort zone. And that's exactly what I did; I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela for a month. One of my proudest achievements!

In 2018, I did a 4-month low-budget backpacking trip in Asia. I visited 8 countries in Southeast Asia (Nepal, India, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore). It's been quite an experience, and it's been a real eye-opener because you're really at the end of the world. Things are really different, people have a lot less than we do, but they're just as happy, if not happier. Not to mention the magnificent scenery!

What are your plans for the future?

Only travel projects! It's still vague because for the moment I'm happy where I am at the moment, but I still have ambitions to change countries and travel even more.

I'm trying to make the most of the moment, of course, because I love my life here in Amsterdam, but I've got a few ideas in the back of my head. I'd love to live in other countries, like Portugal because I really love southern Europe and I'd like to learn Portuguese. I've always been attracted to London since I was a teenager, so it's on my list of places I'd like to live. I really liked Asia too (which I visited a few years ago). I don't know where yet, but maybe Thailand. I don't know if one day I'll be able to live in those 3 countries, but they're in my head. For the moment, nothing's certain. I don't have any short-term plans, so we'll see!

I still feel like dabbling here and there, and I'm not ready to settle down! But I do hope to find a balance and a home of my own later on.

Have you ever considered returning to France?

Anything is possible! But for me right now, returning to France hasn't been an option. At the start of my experience abroad, I thought I'd spend a few years there and then come back to France. But the more the years go by, the less I want to return. I feel so good abroad, I have this feeling of living an adventure every day, so I'm delighted there. In fact, I still feel French, but I feel more European.

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