Imogen Liu: leaving New Zealand behind

Imogen Liu, PhD Candidate on the SWFsEUROPE project, is very close to finishing her PhD.

The incentive to wrap things up as soon as possible? She’s pregnant and wants to go on maternity leave stress free. Imogen is excited to welcome her baby girl and is happy to be raising her in the Netherlands instead of in New Zealand, where she is originally from. “I love that everything here is so close by. In New Zealand, you need to take the car to go everywhere, and I hate the idea of being stuck in traffic.”

Imogen’s move to the Netherlands was meant to be temporary but it has turned into something much more permanent. “For Kiwis, doing your OE (overseas experience) is a big deal,” Imogen says. “Most Kiwis go to Europe on a two-year working holiday visa, use London as a base to travel intensively in the region, and eventually return home. I wanted to travel in Europe but I also wanted to continue my education. In the end I decided to combine both. After my BA in New Zealand, I first moved to Beijing to work for Penguin Random House. I did that for five years and had saved enough money so I could afford to come to Europe.”

After doing a masters degree at Leiden University, she came to Maastricht to pursue a PhD. Will Imogen be staying in the Netherlands or will she at some point return to New Zealand? “Never say never, but I don’t think I’ll be going back to New Zealand anytime soon.

I have had a very mobile upbringing and have always felt that my sense of belonging comes from making connections with people and places that ironically don’t feel like they belong. New Zealand is a pretty small country located far from the rest of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love how diverse it can be. But since the country is located in Oceania, it is much more connected to cultures of the Asia Pacific, on top of European colonial history.

What I love about Europe is how connected the region is with parts of the world I didn’t have much exposure to growing up, such as the Middle East and North Africa. I have learned more about European history as well as its regional neighbours to the east and to the south. I get to meet people with a different heritage from my own and from the one I grew up with. I love that my child will grow up among so many different cultural influences.”

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