Making Memphis My Second Home

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I have lived in the United States for 10 years. If you’ve been following my posts, you already know that my hometown is across the ocean, in the Netherlands. Because of the pandemic, I hadn’t been back home until this past summer. That has been hard. People ask me all the time “Why Memphis?” and “Don’t you miss home?”

So let me tell you….

Why Memphis?

I was a student-athlete at the University of Memphis. I threw shot put and discus while on full scholarship at the University. I was recruited by a Belgian company called Overboarder.
They mediate between European athletes and American Universities, and try to make the best match between athlete and school. When I was contacted by them, I had never considered the opportunity to come to the United States and study over here while pursuing athletics full-time. In the Netherlands, combining university studies with high level sports is almost impossible, unless you have an international status with the federation, which I didn’t yet have at the time. So when I was contacted by them, I started considering the opportunity and they tried to match me to various schools. I had a running list of about 30 universities I could pick from. I had never been to the United States, and didn’t know anything about conferences (such as the Big Ten etc.), schools, places to live, etc. All that to say, I had a lot to select from.

Here was my search criteria:

  • Did the University have a well navigable website?
  • Did they have exercise and sport science at the school (because I thought that was what I wanted to study)?
  • And my most important criteria: Did they have a good throws coach? Was he friendly and welcoming while talking to him by email and phone? Would he/she be able to make me better at my sport?

I discussed these questions with my parents and the Dutch national coach, but ultimately I was the one having to make the decision. Memphis was the school to give me my first offer. They made a good offer, but because I had so many schools that were interested in me, we negotiated so that we could get the best opportunity possible. The coach agreed, and I ended in Memphis.

Discus throwing
Throwing discus for Memphis

When I came to Memphis, I realized how little I knew about America and the city of Memphis. It was different. The people, the way people get around town, the food, the way education works, everything.

So the next question I get asked a lot:

“Don’t you miss home?”

Of course I do. Some days more than others. I miss my family most of all. I miss getting around on bikes, and eating the food that I love. I miss the small farming towns, and the big, but still small, cities. Two and a half years is a long time to not get to go where you come from. As I am writing this, I am thankful to say that I am finally getting to go home again soon! In the meantime, I wanted to share a few tips with you on how to deal with homesickness.

  1. Build your ‘second home’ 
    Memphis is truly a home away from home for me right now. I have made it into my second home. I am permanently staying in the United States now, so I kind of had to. Yet, I have found ways to make my second home a happy home. I have placed little tidbits of the Netherlands around my home. There are two clocks, one with the current local time and one with the current Dutch time. I have Dutch decorations around my house, such as a painting of a Dutch landscape with cows, wooden blocks with Dutch sayings on them, old greeting cards from Dutch cities (funny thing, I actually found these in an antique shop in Memphis!), and a perpetual birthday calendar (which is found in nearly every Dutch house’s bathroom). Because I hung tidbits of my home in my second home, I feel happy when I look at them, whenever I feel homesick.

    clocks
    The clocks that hang in my home
  2. Build a community
    I have found it extremely helpful to build a community around you. I am friends with a lot of other internationals in Memphis, who know what it is like to live far away from home. We share each other’s struggles, and we comfort one another. If you’re lucky, you may even find people from the same city or country where you came from. For example, I have found a small group of about 15 Dutch people that are also in Memphis, and we meet about once a year. At our last gathering, we had Dutch music (someone had brought their accordion and played all sorts of Dutch songs), Dutch food (someone made authentic Dutch food), and of course the Dutch language! So I highly recommend finding other people, who, like you, are transplants to Memphis.

    Community
    The Dutch group in Memphis
  3. Find Food
    Of course you miss the authentic food! If I am away from Memphis, I sometimes miss the Memphis BBQ, too. Wherever you are from, try to find the food that represents where you come from. A lot of Dutch foods are hard to come by, but I can find them in some online shops. When I get them or eat them, it instantly makes me happy. If you can’t find the foods online, find people who make them! For example, a lady in the Dutch group I talked about earlier, had made Dutch ‘frikandellen’ and Dutch fries with peanut sauce. It was amazing! I was very happy that day.
  4. Dutch food
    Typical Dutch food
  5. Do something authentic
    When I am homesick, doing something that I would do while I was in the Netherlands makes me happy. For example, I used to go iceskating a lot in the winter time. So when I go to an iceskating rink now it makes me happy! We also bike everywhere in the Netherlands. So, when I step on my Dutch bike, it can also spark a little joy in me. If you’re not sure about an activity, then maybe listen to a song that you used to listen to when you were back home. That also helps me a lot! I highly recommend doing something you used to do where you first lived.
Bike ride
Riding bikes reminds me of home

I have been in Memphis 10 years now, but the homesickness doesn’t subside. If you ever feel homesick, be intentional about making your new home a second home, build a community, find the food you used to eat, and do something authentic! 

 

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Originally from the Netherlands, Vivian moved to Memphis in 2011. She received a full athletic scholarship to combine her studies with athletics, throwing shot put, discus, and hammer for the University of Memphis. Vivian graduated with a Bachelor’s in Sport & Leisure Management in 2014 and a Master’s in Communication in 2016. After graduating, she started working in education and became a Physical Education Teacher in 2017. She taught at a private school for 3 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom to a sweet little girl, Nora (September 2019). Vivian met her husband Travis at the University of Memphis, hit it off in Europe, and married on a leap year (February 29, 2016). Together they own a quadplex in the Binghampton community. Vivian loves traveling and exploring new places with her husband and child. She enjoys hanging out with her fellow international friends, trying new exercise classes, and being creative by coloring, painting, or writing.