An International Mom’s Story

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I am an international mom. I am originally from the Netherlands and came to Memphis in 2011. Let me tell you my story and share some helpful resources with you.

I came to the United States on a track & field scholarship. I threw shot put and discus for the University of Memphis and competed at the NCAA Division 1 level. But let me tell you, I had no idea that nearly 10 years later, I would still be in Memphis.

So, what made me stay?

One, the friendliest people on the planet.

Two, I found love.

Three, Memphis is a growing city with lots of opportunities!

My husband is originally from the Chicago area but has been in Memphis since he was in middle school. He and I met at an interfaith dinner at the Jewish Community Center on campus. We saw each other a few times on campus after that but did not keep in touch until later in the year. Then he messaged me on social media, as he was in Germany about to visit my home country. This was in the fall of 2012. He asked me, through social media for some suggestions on what to do in the capital, Amsterdam. We stayed in touch that way. Eventually, I asked him if he would be interested in visiting my hometown when I would be home for Christmas Break. He did not answer right away, but when I asked again, he decided to visit for two days right before he went back to Memphis. That’s where we “hit it off,” and when I came back to Memphis, we started dating.

Nearly three years into our marriage, we found out we were pregnant. A daughter was on her way! This came with many unanswered questions and lots of anxiety. Having a child in general can be a bit scary, but having a child in another country while not knowing what to expect, added an extra layer of insecurity.

In my country, it is normal to have a home birth. Here, it is most likely that you will have a hospital birth. Back home, you have help for a standard 2 weeks inside the home, while here that is something you have to hire a postpartum doula for (we were fortunate enough to have been able to hire one!). So fortunately for us, there were many great resources out there that helped us get through birth, postpartum, and parenthood. My community of international friends was also very happy to support us and help us in any way they can.

international family
Our international family

By becoming and being an international mom, having a strong sense of community was very important to me. I was fortunate enough to have found community through several organizations and social media accounts that I am listing below.

Visitor and International Student Alliance (VISA)

This organization welcomes international students and their families. They host events like parties, movie nights, sightseeing, and culture nights. They want students to connect and develop friendships while learning more about each others’ cultures.

This was the first organization I became involved with when I first got to Memphis. I talked with their staff at the international student orientation, and they invited me to their events. Their events helped me make my first friends in Memphis, and helped me in my first years at the University, while I had no transportation and limited resources available. I met some of the nicest people there. I am still friends with many of the people I met those first few years. Student’s families also came to the parties, and they are now a great resource, as I can now ask them questions on how to raise children in a foreign country, and how they teach their children about their languages and cultures while overseas.

Global Friends

Global Friends is an organization in which international students and their families share their journeys in faith and friendship. The organization is part of a larger ministry called Intervarsity. Global Friends came into existence in 2015, while I was in graduate school, and helped me have a great sense of community while far away from home. I have been, and currently still am, a volunteer with this organization, and I help fellow internationals find their way and sense of community in Memphis.

international mom
Global Friends Group Photo

International Families of Memphis

This is a community of international families in Memphis. They organize get togethers and playgroups, and share resources with each other through Facebook. It has been helpful to me, as I can use them as a resource in asking all of my international mom questions. They also post fun events to go to (where you can learn more about other cultures) including virtual events, which are more common now in COVID times.

International Memphis

This is a website (and Facebook page) of anything international in Memphis! I mainly use this page to find out about events. They also have a local international directory, where you can find any international organizations in Memphis (And there are many! This blog only has a short list).
I hope these resources are helpful to you, and I would love to hear from you! Please comment below if you are an international parent.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Vivian!!
    Your story is great!!! I’m so happy we met you when you first arrived and that you’re still here! Those were the good ‘ole days. I wonder what’s next around the corner? Great things I’m sure!

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