In April 2021, we are reflecting on the past years the EAC has spent collecting and preserving life stories of expatriates worldwide and celebrating people who have played an important role in making the EAC what it is now. Photo by Carmen Morlon.
How did you get your start at the Expatriate Archive Centre and how long have you been working there?
I started volunteering at the EAC in January 2015 to work on the exhibition “Expat Impressions of The Hague”. After that I got involved in different archiving projects and started supporting the PR Manager with writing and translating Dutch articles and other material for PR use. I became a staff member in early 2019, when the current Archivist went on leave and I was asked to replace her during her absence. After she returned from her time away, I stayed on as Assistant Archivist.
What originally got you interested in your current field of work?
I sort of stumbled into archiving. I have two Masters degree, one in Russian Studies and one in Public International Law. Before I landed at the EAC, I lived abroad for a long time and worked in online media, as a Dutch language teacher, text editor and proofreader, translator, project manager at a data-entry company, and consultant for non-profit organisations – to name just a few of the things I’ve done in the past. The longer I volunteered at the EAC and the more involved I got in different kinds of projects, the more I realized that this was an organisation and archiving a field where I could use and develop a lot of my skills and interests: my language and writing skills, training and educating people, research, my interest in history, my eye for detail and organisational skills.
What are you most proud of during your career at the EAC?
Definitely the two exhibitions that I helped put together. First, the exhibition “Expat Impressions of The Hague” in 2015, for which I did research, helped collect and select the material we used, supported the curator in designing and putting together the exhibition, and did translations and PR work. I also enjoyed working on the Saudade exhibition in 2018, doing research into our own collections, editing and proofreading the book, supporting the PR manager and do other things. It was so cool to be able to see and touch the result of all the work we put in!
What do you enjoy the most about living in the Netherlands?
After I moved back to the Netherlands in 2013, I had a hard time settling in. I started to go for long walks, first in and around The Hague, but as I got in better physical and mental shape, the walks became longer and I started traveling further away to other parts of the country. By now, I've hiked in most parts of the country and crossed the country on foot from the North Sea coast to the German border several times.
Before the pandemic started, I would go on 25-30km hikes twice a week. I don’t drive, so I travel everywhere by public transportation. I love that the public transportation network in the Netherlands gets me pretty much wherever I want to go. My hikes have also given me a new appreciation for my home country: they took me to so many new and beautiful parts of the Netherlands and I love that there is such a big variety in landscapes in this small country.
Have you ever been an expatriate yourself? Tell us your expat life story.
I was born and grew up in the Netherlands, but as soon as I finished high school, I left for the U.S.: I studied for a year at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. There, I started learning Russian. This tiny decision would have a ripple effect throughout my life. I had to go west to be pulled east. I started traveling to Central and Eastern Europe a lot and ended up with an M.A. in Russian Studies. In 2000, I went to Armenia for the first time to volunteer in a small town. Because I spoke Russian, it was easy to find my way around the country and to make friends. I kept coming back to the same town to work as a volunteer at a local NGO. For about four years I divided my time between Armenia and the Netherlands. I was in the Netherlands to study and to earn money doing so I could return to Armenia again as soon as I could. At the end of 2004, I decided to take the leap and move to Armenia permanently. If it worked out, I’d stay; if not, I’d think of something else. Something obviously did work out, because I ended up living there for almost eight years! I learned to speak Armenian fluently (unfortunately, I’ve forgotten much of it because I hardly ever use it actively anymore). In 2012, I moved north to Tbilisi in Georgia. I lived there for year and a half, but I never felt as at home there as I did in Armenia. In the end, personal reasons made me return to the Netherlands permanently in 2013.