When I think about the Fair I get simultaneously nostalgic and excited: attending the first ever edition – in 2006 at the Carlton Ambassador Hotel – was like a breath of fresh air: so much to discover, so many people to meet. This then quasi ‘repat’, struggling with the re-entry issues, found her ‘like-minded home’.

The following year, though, The Fair came to mean so much more, when Billy Allwood, owner of TheHagueOnLine and co-founder of the Fair, approached me to be the Project Manager of the 2nd edition. I gave it more than some thought, but before I could agree, I needed to set myself up as a business. And so, that fateful meeting saw me not only accepting the challenge, but also embarking on a path of self-employment! Little did I know back then what THE Fair would mean for me!

I had the pleasure of Managing the 2007 and 2008 editions before hanging up my hat to focus on other activities that this unintended route of self-employment had set before me. However, I have attended every Fair since and, following my involvement with ACCESS, have been more intimately engaged with organising the participation of the Sports, Social Clubs and Community organisations: the heart of the Fair, if you ask me.
What would my message be to those who have yet to attend, or are wondering if they should attend again? In order to feel at home anywhere you need people, activities and a sense of belonging. At the Feel at Home Fair you WILL meet people, you WILL discover something you did not know about, and by virtue of knowing the lay of the land a little better you WILL feel you belong. Besides, who knows what future foundations being at the Fair can lay for you?

Deborah Valentine is Canadian by birth, Expat by upbringing, and for the last 6 years Director of ACCESS, which is dedicated to helping internationals settle, and well, feel a little more at home in the Netherlands.

ACCESS is a not-for-profit organisation supporting the international community in the Netherlands. It is run entirely by a team of highly skilled, motivated and professional volunteers who have themselves been expats.

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Deborah Valentine and Billy Alwood

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