February 15, 2008

Let's talk details: honestly, how am I really going to do this?

With just sixty-five days left (not that I'm counting down or anything) until I'm back in Europe, it really is time to start thinking very seriously about exactly how I'm going to do this.

I know I want to establish myself there. And while I talk a lot about Amsterdam on this blog, I do want it to be known that I'm not married to the idea of living there for the rest of my life. I don't have a very good track record of sticking around, so as much as I'd like to think that me and Amsterdam belong together - that has yet to be seen. But I am sure that I want to be in Europe. First and foremost, because I am committed to the idea of making a documentary in the former Yugoslavia. I want to put filmmaking/videomaking first, everything else second. I want to combine my insatiable curiosity and passion for European history and politics with my love for documentary work, and hopefully find a community of people who share similar interests.

So I'm clear on my passions. I know I love Amsterdam and I can't wait to try and make my life there. And yes, I am very, very, very nervous and anxious about doing all of this on my own. I think I get a lot of undeserved credit for deciding to make this move, but the thing that just outright confuses me is when people say "you're so lucky!" I don't get that. Anyone - certainly any American - could do exactly what I'm doing. It's easier because I don't have kids, a house, or a family to support. But otherwise... luck? I decided to quit a really great job in New York City and leave most of my friends and family to move to a country that is already too crowded, where I hardly know anyone, I don't know the language, and the weather sucks. If I succeed in making Amsterdam my home, then maybe one can say I'm lucky ... but if I do succeed it will be because I worked my ass off on making it happen.

I'm trying to think in terms of a five-year plan. If I really, really want to make this documentary the way it should be made, I need at least five years in Europe. If I want to establish any kind of professional life, I'm going to need a lot of time to meet people and make connections - way more time than I would need if I moved to some random city in the US. As much as I wish that I could just live anywhere in the world that I want simply because I like it, that's just not the way the world works, and I need to accept that reality. So how does a 28-year-old American go about re-establishing a life in Europe?

There's still a shot at a job in Amsterdam, working in post-production for an American-owned company. If that doesn't work, then there's the Binger Filmlab. If I don't get accepted into Binger, I need to think of other ways to fill my time and eventually make some money... savings are only going to last so long. Well, I started dusting off an old idea, which is going for a Masters degree at a European university. I'm the first one to say that for just about everything I'm interested in (film, history, current European politics), I don't need a school to give me a degree in order to learn about the subject. To learn about filmmaking, I can make films on my own. To learn about history, I can read books. If I want to talk politics, there's a zillion places for that. So is it really worth it, o spend a bunch of money to get a degree in something just because I like it? Someone who gets a Masters in Law, or Business, or some kind of Computer Science... they'll likely go on to make a lot of money and be able to justify the expense. Me, I want to make documentaries and try to change the world. Last time I checked, that is not exactly a lucrative business.

But perhaps - if the job and the Binger filmlab don't work out - thinking about grad school in Europe isn't such a bad idea. It gives me a valid reason to be where I want to be. It may make me more appealing to future European employers ... I don't think it could hurt. I've been doing a lot of research on this lately and opened up my search to just about anywhere in Europe that isn't the UK or Ireland (nothing again those countries, they're wonderful places to visit but I wouldn't want to live there). Of course, because I seem to enjoy making life difficult for myself, I eliminated every native-English-speaking country from the list of places I would want to live - even though English is the only language I can speak fluently (I can get by with conversational, informal French and have some high school Spanish, but that's about it). So what other country offers an impressive list of graduate programs that are all taught in English?

The Netherlands, of course. "The Dutch higher education institutions together offer about 1,300 international study programmes and courses which are taught entirely in English. This makes Holland the front-runner in continental Europe." Even when I open my mind up to going somewhere that isn't in the Netherlands, I get pulled back. There are plenty of English-language programs in Germany, and even in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Estonia - but nothing quite compares to the options offered at the various universities in Holland.

Not to worry (in case you were worried, you, the random person reading my blog), this is not something I'm rushing into. It's just an idea, and I'm in the information-gathering stage. Even thinking in the long-term is a pretty scary idea for me, but I acknowledge that it might be nice to live somewhere for more than two years. Who knows, maybe Amsterdam will be that place.

When I check in on the visitor stats to this blog, it excites me to see that more than half of the people are from European countries. I really hope to use this blog as a way to meet people once I'm back in Europe, and maybe even help someone else who is considering moving abroad. When I first moved to Paris a few years ago, I didn't know anyone there. I honestly attribute most of the reason I ended up living in Paris to one woman named Fran, who without knowing me in person (we met in a move-to-Paris online community), agreed to host me and my then-boyfriend at her apartment for a few nights back in 2004. Beyond just giving me a roof over my head, she also introduced me to some of her friends - so by the time I moved there, I had a few people I could call up for a cup of coffee or glass of wine. I have met so many incredible people from Hospitality Club, social networking sites, blogs, travel forums, and message boards - this way of connecting is really very important to me. Nothing beats just going out to a party or a bar and striking up random conversation in person, but it sure does help to know of one friendly person who will invite you out to that party or bar to help get you started.

Comments are always welcome, and I'm also very reachable by email or through my website, which is in pretty desperate need of an overhaul and update. So much to do....

1 comment:

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