Brigitte: From Saku to San Jose – all because of Holland

Hola! I’m Brigitte. I’m from that small village-almost-turning-town in Estonia but now I’m living in San Jose, the unofficial capital of Silicon Valley. Here’s the rollercoaster of a story of how I got here. Now, sidenote before I start: I’m not one of those overly positive people who’ll tell you to “keep dreaming, believe in yourself and then the universe will align itself to make your dreams come true.” No. Pushing yourself against the natural flow of things is rough, and I’ve managed to get incredibly lucky. However, it is really important to keep your head up, grind your teeth and push through of whatever you set your mind to. For me, that was moving “as far away from my home village as possible.”

In 11th grade of high school, a German exchange student joined our class and we became friends really quickly. She encouraged me to convince my parents to host an exchange student. So, on my senior year, I had a sister from Thailand! These experiences (as well as binge-watching every single teen-drama series ever) helped me improve my English to the extent where I felt confident enough to go study abroad. So I reached out to Dream Foundation and asked for their help with finding a university where I could study business.

I applied to four rather prestigious UK universities (dream big, haha), because that was the farthest I thought I could get from Estonia without going bankrupt (incredibly over-dramatic, I know), and to one applied sciences university in Holland, which I heard as: “less textbooks, more fun projects!”
Fast forward: I was put into the waiting list of UK universities because I didn’t do really well on the maths exam. As I didn’t feel like waiting and praying, I decided to go to Rotterdam, the Netherlands instead.

I was going to move there with a friend of a friend who was going to work there and share an apartment with me. We spent the entire summer looking for housing together but then a week before our planned departure.. He bailed on me. So, I drove to the Netherlands with my mom and spent the first night sleeping in my car on a street (which I later found out to be a sketchy neighbourhood!). I felt so hopeless, I was almost ready to drive back and kiss my higher education plans goodbye. However, we managed to score an apartment on the second day. The previous people had been super late, so the landlord said that he’d prefer me (and two other people I met on a facebook group) since we were more responsible. We got to move into the apartment a week later.

My university – Rotterdam Business School (RBS), operates on a 4-block system, instead of a 2-semester one. The first one was the toughest period in my life at the time. Being away from family, having to learn how to do everything on your own, and having your first proper university exams coming up were difficult to say the least. I remember calling my mom and crying to her that I wanted to fly back home and stay there instead. She told me to “at least just take your exams, and if you fail, we’ll see.” I didn’t fail, so I went on to the next block, and the next one, and so on.

I was in the fast track class which meant that I did the first two years within one year which I am really appreciative of: I’d do anything to shorten my studies. But then soon came the time where RBS required us to go on an internship: for the first two blocks of our second year. We had to find the internship company on my own and I knew that I didn’t want to stay in the Netherlands for that.

Around the time of my high school graduation, I had made a friend from a random chatting app who lived in the Silicon Valley and we had been talking every day for a year. He told me to find an internship there, and because I felt like there would be no other way we would meet soon otherwise, I said “heck it,” and started looking for internships in California.

I got awfully lucky: I sent my barely finished resume to one company just to see what would happen, and they got back to me and asked me to schedule an interview. Three interviews later, I was sent the welcome documents.

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I landed in LA, spent a week with my childhood best friend who was working as an Au Pair there and then soon came the time to meet my online friend. The whole trip to this side of the pond was a mess – no transport to the airport, delayed flight, no transport from LA airport to my friend’s place, not being allowed to rent a car to drive to Vegas, etc etc etc – you can read a blog about just focusing on my internship here (spoiler alert: it was fantastic).

I went back to Rotterdam after half a year and instantly had an interview about studying abroad. My first choice was San Jose State University because my online friend who had turned into my boyfriend, lived in a city close by. He happened to be visiting Rotterdam for 2 days, one of which was the day of my interview. (What a crazy coincidence!) My exchange coordinators got to meet him and I’m positive he’s the one who charmed them to the point of letting me come back here for another half a year.

So now I’m here, living my best life, missing Estonia like I never thought I would, but also enjoying every moment of living abroad. Studying abroad has helped me to grow tremendously and I encourage everyone to do the same while keeping in mind that when you read blogs about other people’s experiences, they tend to forget the hard parts and romanticize the past. Actually pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is intimidating. Of course, the good parts feel much better, but the bad parts are amplified as well. If you take anything out of this writing– just remember that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, helpless and scared. It’s okay to seek help. Just remember keep your head up and push through. It’s worth it! You grow so much as a person, make so many friends with so many different backgrounds and end up with multiple places to call home.

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If you want to know more about my experiences, discuss your fears, or just chat you can either read my blog (it’s going to become more personal as soon as I get graded for its exchange promotion purposes) or connect with me through one of the socials I have linked there. I’m serious – going abroad alone is taunting and if there’s anything I can do to help ease the fear, I’m gonna do it. And then… “The universe is going to align and make your dreams come true.”

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