When in Rome

All, Travel

I love crossing out countries on my travel wishlist and this month, I finally visited the home of (almost all) of my favourite foods – Italia!

The bestie and I spent our days strolling along cobbled Roman roads, besides quaint terracotta buildings and basking in the summer sun. It was the perfect break from UK life. We had pizza for breakfast, Nutella bruschetta, countless Aperol Spritz’s and gelato cups, and even managed to squeeze in some sightseeing at the Colosseum, Vatican City, the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. It’s safe to say that we did a lot of Rome-ing around!

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Have you visited Italy before? If so, let me know where I should visit next! I’ve got my eye on Naples, Venice, Pisa, Florence and the Amalfi Coast.

– Nikita

Why I’m reinventing my (online) self and you can too

All, life

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Five years ago, I created Making Apple Pie From Scratch in a haze of inspiration, wanderlust and longing for the previous summer. I was a 21 year old Biology graduate that had recently returned to the leafy suburbs of London after a whirlwind 3 months abroad in Florida (read my old-school first ever blog post here). It had been an unforgettable summer in the sunshine state, spent watching rocket launches at NASA Kennedy Space Center, taking classes on space exploration, meeting (and partying with) astronauts, and making lifelong friends with people sharing my vision of the world.

Brimming with stories of the summer that I spent studying the stars, I felt compelled to share my journey and this blog began as a way to do just that. I caught the travel bug and have lived in 6 countries in the past 5 years, communicating science along the way. I have written about how our bodies will react to living on Mars, described astonishing light displays on Saturn, personified spacecrafts, dissected the anatomy of an asteroid and explored how satellites can help us to protect our planet. Creating #scicomm content is what I love to do and  when sprinkled with a dusting of my travel posts, the combination was a great fit for Making Apple Pie From Scratch.

That was until recently however. My blog – created by 21 year old me – hasn’t quite caught up with the 26 year old me that is writing this article. I am convinced that our digital persona and real-life self almost always never match up. And, with every year spent abroad and every experience along the way, I’ve felt my blog drift further and further away from who I am today, towards who I was yesterday. I’ve changed – as I’m sure you have too with every passing year of your life. Ever feel like the you you’re putting out in the world could be a little more truer to the real you? Same. This feeling affects writer’s block too – I’ve found it often happens when what you’re trying to write about isn’t really what you want to write about at that moment in time. That’s exactly how I realised that my online self needed a digital makeover. My interests include science, space and travel, but are not limited to those things either. Realising that you don’t have to pick one thing when you care about many is a profound moment that I think many of us don’t allow ourselves the creative headspace to ever reach.

Going forward, I’m going to begin sharing more of myself on this blog. I’ll be posting more honest content that is relatable and hopefully, helpful. That doesn’t mean less science, or travel, but more posts on other topics that interest me – which may, or may not include science and travel. As a young British Indian women who has a global perspective, I care about things as diverse as ethnic minority representation, climate change solutions, social enterprises and startups, the diaspora of 2nd gen immigrants like myself, creating technologies for change and empowering people to be their best selves. I’ve already written an article on the unexpected realities of living abroad that I wish I had known before, and am vocal about my many interests on Twitter already. My blog, it seems was the last online platform to catch up with my modern-day self. But, as I have learnt, it’s never too late to reinvent your online self. After all, as astronomer Carl Sagan said, “if you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe”. Well, Making Apple Pie From Scratch, here’s to reinvention.

-Nikita

From London to Oxford

All, life, personal

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Just typing that title gave me déjà vu. Yes, I’ve moved again. This time though, I’ve stayed in the UK (despite the unfortunate Brexit timing) and have made the beautiful city of dreaming spires my new home. I’ve been in Oxford for the better part of half a year and so far, noticed a lot of similarities with the big smoke.

I’ll be real with you. Like London, it’s expensive. And, pretty polluted. But, I should add that as a Londoner these things, although real causes for concern, made me feel weirdly right at home.  I’ve fallen in love with the majestic tall spires which dot the Oxford skyline – the university buildings are a dream. The stars even shine brighter here in the green pastures of Oxfordshire and the noise levels are low enough to make me notice the quiet. The cobbled streets and sheer small size of the city remind me of my Dutch home of Leiden.

Since moving, life has gotten in the way of blogging. However, in true new year, new me style – I am determined to write more musings, share more travels and communicate fascinating science and the people behind it.

– Nikita

 

 

The City of Cambridge

All, Travel

Since moving back to London after living abroad, I’ve tried to make an effort to see more of the UK. After all, with its history and landscapes, there’s lots to see right here, without even setting foot in an airport.

And so, I recently visited the quaint, and very old city of Cambridge. It was the perfect combination of intricate college architecture, history and nature (note: spot the horse at the breakfast table), with a spot of punting sprinkled in for good measure!

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 – Nikita

New York, New York – Photo Diary

All, Travel

Earlier this month, I visited the Big Apple. The last time I was in New York was back when I was 10 years old – a time when I was far too young to really enjoy what the city had to offer. I loved returning with some close friends and spent the week exploring cute eateries and bars, rowing through Central Park and wandering amongst the towering skyscrapers downtown.

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New York is a city I’ve dreamt of moving to since a young age. This trip definitely reaffirmed that! Hopefully it won’t be long until I’m back in Manhattan. I’ve heard Christmas in New York is magical..

-Nikita

Kraków Photo Diary

All, Travel

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I love visiting new places, and Poland is one country that I have wanted to visit for a while. I spent the week in Kraków but also visited Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, which was deeply moving.

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Kraków itself is a beautiful blend of old, traditional buildings and more modern architecture. I like that there’s more old than new, the city is incredibly well-preserved and there’s a story behind every street corner. Hopefully I’ll visit Poland again sometime soon!

– Nikita

 

Pad Thai and Jazz

All, Travel

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This blog post includes a few of my favourite things. Pad thai, being one of them. Pretty blue china plates with rose gold cutlery being the second. And, jazz by the canal being the third.

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Jazz in de Gracht – or Jazz in the canal is an annual jazz festival here in Holland. Recently, I went along to check it out after work. It was a warm summers evening and a perfect mid-week musical break.
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The cute food trucks, jazz playing from boats (only in Holland!) and the balmy temperature made for a perfect end of summer atmosphere. The Netherlands has a lot to offer in terms of free, community events.

As Autumn (my favourite season) approaches, I’m excited to see the country in all it’s crisp, orange-leaved glory very soon!

-Nikita

10 Unexpected Realities Of Living Abroad I Wish I’d Prepared For

career, Travel

I’ve never really settled. I go from country to country, trying out different foods, jobs, climates and eventually, move on to the next one. Having never stayed in one place for more than 7 months in the past 3 years, the prospect of moving somewhere alone – and living there for a year or more – scares me a little bit. I’m not one to shy away from commitment when it comes to people but a country? Not quite yet. Having grown up in London, I’ve always wanted to use the better part of my 20s to see the world, learn who I am and what I want and eventually, yes, I’d settle down and choose a country to call home. My current country of choice, the Netherlands, may or may not be that, but I’ve learned plenty along the way.

I’m very happy with my decision to travel so much and have done so with a purpose and a way to support myself. However, there are certainly some things I would’ve loved to do differently, or wish I’d prepared for. Here are the 10 realities that I wish had known before I started traveling:

1. You’ll end up spending a lot of quality time with yourself.

You won’t be surrounded by your safety net of friends, family or your familiar neighborhood spots. You’ve got to start from scratch. That takes time and effort and you’re going to have a lot more “me” time than you might be used to. Never before have I realized how much I like my own company than when I was forced into a situation where it was all I had. At first, it will be an adjustment period. Eating alone, cooking alone and watching tv alone. I started out hating it. The loneliness was palpable. I missed having my best friends alongside me to mock trash TV with, and having a regular social schedule that used to get me through the week.

Appreciate the unlimited time you have to be by yourself. Be as creative, or not creative as you like. Binge watch that new Netflix series or try out that Pilates YouTube channel you’ve been putting off. I sometimes try out new recipes and it’s great, because there’s no one around to watch me mess them up.

2. You will almost always feel like a foreigner. (Not necessarily in a bad way, though.)

No matter how much you try to learn the local language or assimilate yourself into local life, you won’t fully feel like you belong. Maybe you’ll feel very much at home, but being from somewhere and feeling at home are two very different things. Maybe this is completely subjective, but for me, home will always be home. And wherever I go, I can never fully replicate that feeling.

3. People are nicer than you think.

Something that I have learned from all of my travels is that people are inherently nice. Whenever I have been in a situation where I felt lost or needed help with something, I was able to find someone to point me in the right direction.

Don’t be too shy or hesitant to ask those around you. Foreign languages can be intimidating but knowing the basics, “excuse me” and “thank you” can go a long way. I prefer not to rely solely on technology to get me around, it’s great as a back-up, but I’ve always found that if I’m unsure about something, asking works. Of course, you have to use your best judgement when approaching strangers and be aware of your surroundings.

4. Making friends as an adult will make you wish you were 10 again.

I never had to think about making friends. It just sort of happened. I’ve always moved to places with a group of people alongside me or worked in an environment that naturally bonded me with like-minded people who would, eventually, become my people. When I moved to the Netherlands, however, this was not the case. Making friends as an adult will make you wish you could go back to a simpler time.

Trying to make friends as a grown adult can feel forced and unnatural, especially in a new place. At first, I resisted it. I refused to go out alone and talk to strangers. Why should I? When I have all the friends I need back at home, and in other parts of the world. I’ve noticed that every country is different. Social circles can be closed in some places and you’ll need a mutual friend to join the rest of the group. I’ve had to play the waiting game on more than a few occasions. 

5. Your friend’s lives back home will go on without you.

It’s hard not to feel left out when you see photos of them having fun without you on social media, or when your phone is blowing up from the latest ‘you had to be there’ group chats on WhatsApp. But, just remember, that it’s not intentional. They’re just living their lives and you, yours. Being the one that leaves is always difficult. No matter how amazing the country and experience, missing out on birthdays, weddings and sometimes even funerals, is the toughest pill to swallow. This is the flip side of moving abroad. Your peers may envy you and your new life that looks glamorous on the outside, but it’s still okay to miss home. Being homesick will happen often, but how you deal with it is what matters. Staying involved and in touch is vital to keeping up to date with the latest from your hometown. Visiting friends and family will help to create new memories together that you can look back on. 

6. Maintaining relationships requires constant effort.

Losing friends is a part of growing up. I can safely say that after traveling for 3 years, I’ve realized who really matters. Those are the ones that stay. They care and they are there for you, even though they can’t physically be there for you. However, this is very much a two-way street. Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp and Facebook are your friends. I’ve grown so much closer to some people and completely lost contact with others.

The best friends are the ones who always make you feel like you picked up right where you left off, even if you don’t talk everyday. Hold on to those people, they will keep you grounded.

7. Navigating paperwork alone is a challenge.

I don’t know enough about taxes and the legal system as it is, let alone figuring it all out in another language. Once you’ve moved to your new country and hopefully started work, you’ll need to register at the city council, start paying taxes and generally do other frustrating, immigration-related tasks.

I’ve found there’s usually a person at work that speaks your language and is more than happy to help out. This person will be your savior when it comes sorting out your tax return, getting a phone plan and calling up the bank. If you don’t have someone like this, consider reaching out to neighbors or seeking advice from other expats on local Facebook groups. Join these groups prior to moving to your new location, since other people’s experiences will help you pack. Some of these sites are also dedicated to apartment searching and selling furniture as people come and go in the city.

8. You will learn a lot about who you actually are.

This year has been both the toughest and best year of my life. Before I made this leap, I really didn’t think through how big of a step it was. Because I was so used to bouncing around, the location didn’t phase me when I was applying for my current job. An exciting country and a great job awaited, and I assumed that was all that mattered.

In hindsight, I now see how much I’ve changed. Pushing myself way outside my comfort zone has allowed me to grow in ways that I never would have if I’d stayed put. Independence, self-sufficiency, confidence, assertiveness and mindfulness, are just a few of the qualities that I’ve strengthened and gained this year and am honestly proud of myself for it. 

9. Be aware of your bank account, but don’t be too hard on yourself.

For the first time, this year I’ve been truly self-sufficient in terms of finances. It feels amazing. I understand the value of money, and ensure that I’m saving alongside spending. But, I can also be too hard on myself. Moving abroad and supporting yourself financially will be overwhelming. Once the bills have been paid, the little that you’re left will be precious and you’ll want to save some of that. But, make sure that doesn’t entirely dissuade you from experiencing the country you’re in. Be frugal, don’t “treat yo self” too regularly, but make sure you aren’t just staying home. 

10. Learning to accept your new home as a “home” is something I may always struggle with.

Even though it may be temporary, it can be hard to truly accept that you, for the time being, live here. Try to set aside a few undisturbed weeknights or weekends in a row where it’s just you and your new city. Look it in the eye and take it on. Once you get to know it, it won’t feel so foreign. It can be easy to live your life on a constant loop, between work and home, in order to keep yourself busy. But you can’t accept the city as your own unless you stop to reflect, and allow yourself to be immersed.  

Written by Nikita Marwaha for The Financial Diet

Eetwinkel NICO

All, Lifestyle, Travel

Earlier this week, I popped into a place I’ve walked past several times in Leiden but hadn’t checked out yet. Eetwinkel NICO is quite centrally located, right beside the Oude Singel canal and just off the Beestenmarkt square in downtown Leiden at Morsstraat 25.

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My friend, and fellow Leiden blogger Molly went in to grab a couple of drinks before heading out to dinner. We were pleasantly surprised by the stylish, and very modern interior. I especially liked the neon sign inside the bar, a great contrast to the wooden elements.
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I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of Eetwinkel NICO. It had some lovely outdoor seating, friendly service (a rare find here) and next time, I’ll hopefully try some food too – I’ve heard great things!

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Molly and I have collectively lived in Leiden for almost 2 years and with the sun out more often now, we’ll be checking out some more new places in town that I’ll be sure to share with you guys!

– Nikita

A Week in Vienna: The European Geosciences Union General Assembly

All, science communication, Travel

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A few weeks ago, I travelled to the beautiful city of Vienna, Austria. Vienna is one of my favourite cities so I was really happy to be there again! 

My previous blog post gave a sneak preview of what the week was all about but now I can share the experience with you, illustrated by some photos along the way.

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My office for the week was the European Geosciences Union’s General Assembly (EGU15), one of the largest conferences in the world on Earth, planetary and space sciences. 

DSC_3283~2 egu1 I worked as a Press Assistant in the Press Centre of the conference. It’s is the place to be for all things media-related. The Press Centre also acts as a great workspace for journalists to report on the many Press Conferences scheduled during the week.

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I was lucky enough to work alongside this bunch of lovely ladies. Together, we formed the Press Team and ensured that all things press, media and outreach related was going well at the conference.IMG_0040

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Some EJR-Quartz colleagues attended as speakers, sharing insights and lessons learnt from ESA’s Rosetta Mission. Personifying spacecrafts using social media and engaging the public through competitions were discussed by them in outreach sessions. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) were also present, revealing the first large mosaic images of Mars ever at the conference! 

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The highlight of the week for me was going to the ESA Rosetta Mission Press Conference. Here, scientists from DLR and ESA – such as Project Scientist Matt Taylor (pictured above mid-selfie) shared the latest results from the comet-chasing mission. I wrote an article for the EGU blog about it so take a look if you want to see what the spacecraft duo are up to right now.

I also wrote two articles about other new findings that were announced at EGU15. The first, is on the influence of climate change and the second describes interesting new findings from the NASA Dawn mission. I really enjoyed blogging about both space and environmental subjects and writing about time-sensitive topics.  

This week in Vienna was a wonderful experience, one that I shared avidly online through my Twitter account – especially when there was cake involved!

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What can I say…food makes me happy 🙂

The next EGU General Assembly will be held in Vienna between 17 and 22 April 2016. I look forward to finding out what new science results are announced next year!

– Nikita

(Photo credits: EGU/Stephanie McClellan)