Off to see the world

Alya fell in love with a Dutch guy and moved to the Netherlands to start a family. Eight years later she is a happy mother of two kids and she works as a volunteer at a refugee center. She also organised a local community for ambitious migrants who support each other in finding new opportunities in the Dutch society.


The decision to move here was not easy. In Indonesia, I had a good job and bright career prospects. I still miss my job. I was earning good money, I had savings, I was independent. And here, I’ve worked at the post office, sorting out mail in the evenings. But in Indonesia I was also feeling lonely. When we grow older, we need our own family. I used to imagine what would’ve happened if I’d made a different decision. Maybe I would’ve had a good job, but no family. Or, if had a family, I would’ve stopped working. But now I realise that I don’t really know what would’ve happened to me if I stayed in Indonesia. You don’t need to imagine the life that would never happen. You have to live now, at this moment.

Now I think: actually, my life is quite nice. Why should I complain? I am grateful for what I have. At a certain moment I decided: if I don’t get a job, fine. I can just enjoy my life. But, of course, I am not sitting at home. I work as a volunteer, I’ve organized a local migrant community, and I am looking for a professional job. And I believe deep inside that my life will be better. I will get there one day. But it only becomes possible when we decide not to sit at home. You have to go outside, to see the world.

I work with refugees. I like them a lot, but what I don’t like about some of them is being ungrateful. When they abuse the system, I don’t like it. But sometimes the problem is not the refugees, it is mutual misunderstanding. For instance, I worked with a pregnant refugee who was about to have a baby. We wanted to help her and we collected some second-hand stuff for the baby. But when we offered these things to the woman, she refused. She said: ‘No, thank you, I will buy new stuff for the baby’. Some of my colleagues were offended, they saw it as ungrateful. But the thing is that refugees get quite a big amount of money from the municipality. These people are coming from poor countries, where they could not provide for their children. And now, maybe for the first time in their life, they have money. They can buy something nice for their kids. They have a power to decide what they want to buy. So I did not see it as pride, I understand why she refused.

The thing I admire about the Dutch is that they respect other cultures. They are fine with people deciding what they want. Even if they don’t understand your decision, they are still OK with it.

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