Help – My Bike Doesn’t Have Windshield Wipers!

Two weeks! It’s still hard to believe that we are living in Europe and it certainly doesn’t feel like we have been here for two weeks. To be honest, it feels like we have been here longer. Perhaps it’s just the whirlwind of moving and all the newness of the situation. Perhaps we have just haven’t really settled in yet. Whatever it is, it feels as if we have been in Groningen for a while now. Regardless, I feel we are starting to settle into a bit of a routine. We shopped at the market again this week, this time buying all the meats/veggies/nuts/spices/eggs while there (no butcher shop this week). It was even better than last time. We got a full week’s worth of food for less than we spent while living in Pittsburgh (we typically spend a lot as we buy fresh meat and veggies to have every day). To top it off, we even found a stand that had what we would consider normal bacon! Our bacon experience up to this point had been very disappointing, amounting to nothing more than salty paper. In case you haven’t noticed, food/shopping is paramount to our happiness and daily lives. Without bacon, all that happiness crumbles…

Outside of the market, we have been doing our best to get to know the city. We have both been pleasantly surprised at how nice it is to jump on the bikes and just ride. It really makes you wonder why biking isn’t more commonly used in the United States. Since Monday was yet another holiday (I’m really getting spoiled by these 4-day work weeks), we decided to check out a local lake I was told about at work (more on work in a bit). The lake is a 20-minute bike ride from our apartment and was surprisingly nice. While we saw only a small portion of it, it seems it’s the place to be on nice days. Lots of sailboats, paddle boarding, and swimming with numerous walking and biking paths going all around the lake. On warmer days, I can certainly see us spending time out there. For now, the 70-degree (and windy) days just aren’t conducive to swimming in the lake, although the Dutch don’t seem to mind. I guess we just have a different idea of proper swimming weather.

As I mentioned previously, I finally started work last week. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect going into it. Ever since we decided to move, the whole focus has been on the fact that we were moving to The Netherlands and we were going to be living in Europe for the next four years. Although everyone was very persistent remind me of it, I guess I had really overlooked the fact that I had come here to do a PhD. There were too many other things in the way; too many other responsibilities to take care of. The idea of a PhD and starting my own research project was pushed to the back of my mind. However, that reality hit me pretty hard on my way to work Tuesday. As is the case with any new position, the beginning was a whirlwind. Everything from the building, to the people, to the aquarium housing my fish, to simply commuting back and forth each day, it’s a lot. Despite all of this, I made the right decision. It’s hard to explain but it was almost a relief to be back in an academic setting, knowing that it was for my own project. The European system of graduate school is significantly different from the American system. Here, we work in groups and everyone is very involved with each other. I am in the Behavioural Biology Group (note the European spelling of ‘behavior’), consisting of multiple PI’s and their graduate students. Research varies from work with fruit flies, to birds, to fish, and even humans. Despite these differences, everyone is interested in and research very similar topics and therefore compose one group. Whereas the American system can keep you from interacting with other labs, the European system encourages it. I’m a fan of this. Another exciting story from my first week at work: I’m going to Africa! An opportunity has arisen for me to accompany some other researchers from Switzerland as they complete fieldwork at Lake Victoria in Africa (where my cichlid fish come from). Plans have not been finalized yet but all indications are that I will go in July or August, for at least a few weeks. Obviously this is not an ideal situation since we just moved here and I’m not a fan of leaving Whitney so early, but then again, it’s not something I can pass up. How often do you get asked on your first day of work if you want to go to Africa? I’ll update later as plans are finalized.

Had my first experience biking in the rain. Notice the wet-dry line extending down my leg. Waterproof biking pants will be a necessary investment.

In related news, Whitney had her first few interviews and has one more scheduled for this week. She has gotten very good indications so far but I’ll let her share details of how they went in another post. We are keeping our fingers crossed something works out! In the meantime, we’ll continue with our efforts to learn Dutch. A couple weeks in and we’ve picked up some basic phrases such as please, thank you, good morning, and so on.  Hopefully, we can take some formal classes soon to help things along.  Dutch (much like German) is just a completely different way of speaking and forming words/sounds. All part of the experience I guess!

Until next time,




  1. Rachel says:

    Wasn’t it Africa that you went to in undergrad? I can’t remember! It all still sounds wonderful so far! I’m jealous of your fresh markets….although we obviously have the Farmers Market here in Bburg, I’m sure it’s nothing compared to that! ………and I never go to the Farmers Market, hah. That’s half my problem. Thanks for keeping us stalker-friends updated! Fingers crossed for Whitney!

    1. theshwits says:

      You are correct! I went to South Africa before, whereas this time I will be in Tanzania. That was actually part of the reason I chose this PhD/project. I wanted an opportunity to go back to Africa.

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