© Sven Menschel
1. Eating with chopsticks
Let’s be clear: I’m Italian. In Italy, we have a long culinary tradition that you guys are all well aware of. And that’s what I grew up with. My father even had a traditional Italian restaurant. Not many exotic foods from anywhere in the world in my childhood. Gastronomy, here in the Netherlands, is all about imported unusual cuisines, ranging from Asia to Africa and passing by whatever other place you can imagine. In my student house, my housemates cook middle eastern and Asian dishes on a regular basis. And we have more chopsticks than forks. Could I miss the chance? I learnt to eat rice and noodles with chopsticks – and quite fast. (But long live the fork).
2. Hands-free biking
I am generally a not-taking-too-much-risk person, the sort of safety-first type. But how to resist? I’m still practising, hey; I’m not even close to mastering a bike with two beer crates on the back while holding two shopping bags in my hands. But I manage to bike with my hands in my pockets, sometimes. I am very proud of myself for this.
3. Taking care of unusual pets
This has very likely nothing to do with the Netherlands. Maybe just with Droevendaal, or even with my house. No furry animals allowed? Reptiles and amphibians are the way. That’s how I ended up feeding axolotls weekly and taking rat snakes escaping from their terrariums with my hands. No, I was not expecting to do this. My housemates either, I guess, cause we gave our pets away…
But I manage to bike with my hands in my pockets, sometimes. I am very proud of myself for this.
4. Deal with a multilingual brain
I’ve always been a picky Italian speaker. I’ve written and read poetry for years, horrifying at the sight of grammar mistakes, loving elaborated and elegant sentence constructions. Since when I started my English speaking life, my language skills have been shuffled all over the place and I feel like I cannot properly speak any language anymore. But, you know what? That’s fine. Language is a tool, a technology. It has a lot of limitations anyways. I learnt to live with functional imperfection – and to laugh about funny mistakes.
Yes, okay, fine, I should have expected that. But it still surprises me. I left my parents’ home and started living on my own one year and a half ago, here, in Wageningen. Therefore, I had to learn to deal with daily household management, food foraging (a.k.a advanced supermarket/market/farm-shop orienteering), storage and preparation, self-care in case of sickness, the use of drills and screwdrivers, furniture transport on bikes, and so on and so forth, alongside a busy student life and another thousand things I of course end up involved with. And, I noticed, I survived. That’s pretty cool.
Donatella Gasparro is a master’s student in Organic Agriculture; she hails from Italy.