That Dam Girl: Ashlee in Amsterdam

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After studying abroad in Western Europe for three months, I was so determined to move abroad and was so sure that my dream would come to light at some point.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in a place where wine is only 2 euro, art museums are galore and PRIMARK EXISTS (Look it up. Take my word for it, Primark is the GOAT).  Not to mention the bomb Insta pics. Too good to be true.
Well, a friend of mine made her own dream a reality.

Meet Ashlee, an official Amsterdam-er or however you call someone who is a resident of the beautiful city of Amsterdam.

Read all about Ashlee’s experience in Amsterdam, and how she was able to make her dream a reality.

How long have you lived abroad?

I’ve lived in Amsterdam since late August of 2015.

What inspired you to move to Europe? Why Amsterdam?

To be honest, it happened pretty spontaneously.  At the time I was getting ready for graduation and planning to move to Portland. I’d always dreamed of living abroad, but didn’t see that happening any time soon.  A week after my partner and I started looking for apartments in Portland, we found out that he got into grad school in Amsterdam.  I knew right away that it wasn’t an opportunity we could walk away from.  I’m really glad that I ended up here in Amsterdam because it’s a great “starter” country to live in if you have little to no abroad experience and there’s so much to do!

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 What’s life like for a young, black female living in Amsterdam?

Life is great! Amsterdam is much more diverse than I thought, and day-to-day tasks are pretty easy since everyone speaks English.  My biggest concern before moving was being able to find hair products and a salon.  Turns out there is a ton of salons and beauty supply stores with all the same brands that I would use back home (and they’re a lot cheaper!) Also, natural hair is really popular here so it’s been great to see lots of beautiful kinks, coils and curls.

What’s your favorite part about living there?

There’s so much diversity! There are so many different neighborhoods that all have their own character so it’s neat to be able to experience that.

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What are you currently doing to stay afloat abroad?

(I need to preface all of this by saying that I got really lucky to be able to leave so quickly and be able to stay here).

I recently got hired by a US company working remotely, but before that I just lived off of savings.  I’ve gotten really lucky to have a partner to split costs with and live in student housing since the housing market is so high in Amsterdam.  Aside from that, food and basic necessities are fairly cheap here, so we’re able to get by and still do fun things like go out and travel.

Where have you traveled since living in Europe?

I’ve been to Nice, Monaco and Paris but I’m planning trips to Berlin and Portugal. Also, I’ll be going back to Paris this summer.

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That Dam Girl: Pano view of Monte Carlo
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That Dam Girl: Selfie on Promenade des Anglais

What do you think are the biggest challenges to living so far from home?

For me, the biggest challenge is connecting with family and friends.  I keep in touch via video-calling and social media but it is hard to see all the people I care about move on without me.

What advice do you have for people considering a similar path?

Do your research.  It’s a whole other monster actually moving to another country versus just visiting, so it’s important to know about the immigration laws and have a plan about how you’ll live before moving.  Also, try to talk to as many people that live there (or have lived there) about their experience as you can.  Especially since I was looking for a job when I moved, this not only helped me get a sense of everyday life but also enabled me to connect professionally and cast a wider net for my job search.

Looking forward, what are your plans? Do you plan to stay in Europe, or are you thinking of returning to the States?

Ryan’s program is two years long so after graduation, we’ll head to Portland (for real this time!) but I’m loving this experience so far. In the eight months that I’ve been here I’ve matured and grown a lot; I’ll forever be grateful for the chance to fulfill a dream.

Tourist trap or not, I just couldn't resist. #london #traveloften

A post shared by Ashlee Brown (@ashleemxo) on

If you learned anything from Ashlee’s story, it should be that anything’s possible! Moving to another country, far from friends and family, can seem like just a dream when you have student loan debt and barely any contacts.  Make the dream a reality and make the move!

In the meantime, check out Ashlee’s blog That Dam Girl to hear more about her experiences in the wonderful city of Amsterdam.  Also, check out Las Morenas de Espana – one of my favorite blogs that features women of color who moved from the States to Spain.

For an extra dose of black European-ness, watch this funny/interesting video from the iamOTHER StereoTypes crew.

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