Impossible Is Nothing: I Am Buying a House in Nijmegen!

August 21st, 2015

 

Ideas, Productivity

This text was fully written by humans.
  • In this post, I reflect on the events of 2015, a year filled with unexpected challenges and accomplishments.
  • I successfully completed programming courses and achieved peace of mind in my craft, faced illness, traveled to various locations, attended conferences overseas, moved to a new room, and encountered many challenges while adapting to Dutch society.
  • I also embarked on a house search, faced difficulties with conventional means, and resorted to distributing leaflets in their desired neighborhood.
  • Ultimately, I found their dream house, and successfully bought the house with the help of my mother’s negotiation skills.

2015 — A Crazy Year… That Led Me To Buying a House!

I knew that 2015 would be crazy, but that it would be that crazy — I guess no one could have predicted that. The year is passing by month by month and although I am happy, I can barely make it through!

It started the year by completing programming tasks from two courses that I ambitiously took in the winter semester 2014/2015. I promised to myself that by the time I turn 29, I would finish all the courses and never take regular lessons again. How much can you study after all?

Well, in September 2014, I ambitiously took two ultra heavy courses, which burdened me like hell. But in the end, I got what I wanted — my courses are now over and I have peace of mind, and the feeling that I know my craft.

Then … I got terribly sick and I was lying in bed on my own for almost two weeks. I was still trying to work within that time, which probably only made it worse, well… Then I went back to the university, and the rest of February, as well as March, flew by very quickly. My daily supervisor had some ideas on what to try for the project. I also had some ideas. And, the project started to grow and fork into a few lines of research.

Besides, I tried hard to keep the resolutions I made for the New Year and adapt to the Dutch society more. I started attending the college pub on a regular basis on Friday evenings, and then dining at the restaurant, spending time with the same group of people from my grad school week after week.

However, at one point I was a bit discouraged by the fact that all these people don’t seem to see the difference between real life and the internet, and spend their free time hanging out on websites like Tinder. And then, I somewhat stopped going for Friday drinks. But, I kept in the loop at my institute. I wrote two posts for our institute’s blog, Donders Wonders. In one of them, I wrote about the differences in expressing emotions between Dutch and Poles.

…And I Need To Go —- Throw Out to the Street.

Then, just before Easter, my landlady suddenly decided to sell the house and throw all the tenants out. So, I had to find a new room quickly before going home for Easter. I rented an empty garage and I put all my things in there.

Eh, I hate moving… Every time I move, I feel that it wastes me, physically and emotionally, and yet, there’s no progress in my life. Interestingly, I noticed that despite 90% of my stuff landed in the garage, I didn’t really need any of that…

At the beginning of April, I went home for Easter and spent almost two weeks there, visiting Warsaw along the way and meeting good old friends there. As there was still snow in Poland, I went hiking in the Beskidy Mountains with my lifelong friend, Iwona.

It was fabulously beautiful: snow shone in the sun, and the sky was bright. We visited our wonderful high school teacher, Mrs. Kula, together. I must say that my high school mentor is doing great — after thirteen years, she looks exactly the same!

Upon my return to Nijmegen, I had only three and a half weeks to work before embarking on yet another trip. Namely, I had previously received an invitation from a friend living in Argentina, and I quite spontaneously bought a ticket to visit him for mid-May.

My New Strategy for a Successful House Search.

In addition, I had been trying to buy a house in Nijmegen for a long time — using conventional means, namely bidding for houses online. It was really hard, as I was easily outbid for any attractive houses in good locations.

Frustrated with the lack of success, I finally decided to print out a pile of leaflets with my image and the information that I was looking for a house in a neighborhood. It was a bit of an act of desperation on my side…

After that, I spent about two weeks walking around the neighborhood every evening, putting my flyer in every mailbox in the neighborhood where I wanted to find a home. I distributed over 900 leaflets in total! And since April was a very hot month that year, it was quite a sacrifice.

My house search was not easy, as I wanted my dream house to meet multiple conditions at once:

(1) Proximity to the Radboud University,

(2) Large volume and as many bedrooms possible,

(3) A bit run down and under refurbishment, but not too much refurbishment,

(4) Quite charming and with a soul,

(5) Of course, it’s affordable.

The other day, on one memorable Friday evening, I was standing at a bus stop near the university. I was just trying to get home after a long and busy working week, while the bus driver just passed me. I had to wait for another half an hour for the next bus. Irritated, I dragged myself to the nearest street and continued distributing leaflets, even though this street seemed simply too expensive for me as it was full of villas.

Then, I flew to Argentina and stayed there for a week. When I was traveling, the owner of one of the houses on this street wrote to me. He told me that he had a house that his mother had left after she had passed away. I was intrigued.

And as soon as I got back to the Netherlands, I ran straight to that house to check it out — straight from the plane, smelly, and with a huge backpack on my back. Luckily, it seemed that the owner, Rudi, also enjoyed traveling and he had a nice chat about travels and traveling. He started considering selling me the house, and we stayed in touch.

Derren Brown.

Then, I had to get back to work again. An important annual OHBM conference was approaching at a fast pace — and this time, it was taking place in the most exotic and exciting place possible, namely Hawaii. So, I went on a bonkers mode to prepare as well as I could.

In the meantime, I flew to Malta for three more days as I had already bought a ticket before and it was hard to give up. …and then to Cambridge for the weekend, visit my sister again and go to the show by my favorite mentalist, Derren Brown — a type of event I had been dreaming about for a long time.

The show was indeed magnificent. I am used to the fact that usually, once you go to an on-stage show like a concert or so, the quality is worse than what you are used to while watching TV. The artist’s voice does not sound as good as the recordings, the gig is not as perfect, the stage is not as spectacular. So, if you count for more than 70-80% of the maximum performance quality, you will be disappointed.

But in this case, the performance was even better than what I had seen online. It was ingenious, surprising, funny, provocative, engaging, and it had a message… It had everything in one, and Derren was the same ADHD-like as always. He didn’t let go even for a second.

I can clearly see that he loves what he does, and he is fantastic at it — the gigs that you can see online are not his “best of” but his everyday performances. He was on stage for over two hours in total and I am impressed with how energetic he was given that he comes to the stage almost every day. “Wow, what a working ethic!” — I thought to myself. “This is how passion looks.”

The show ended with a 10-minute meditation session when we were instructed by Derren to imagine the best version of ourselves, meet that person on the beach, and hug. It was a very powerful visualization. It filled me with so much strength and optimism! He also told us, truthfully, that there is no point in worrying and being afraid of life. I have to admit that Derren and his show were something of a small “life-changing” event to me.

The Annual OHBM Conference.

My sister was doing great too, as she was just preparing for her PhD defence and moving to Stanford, California. After returning from Cambridge, I only had three days left to prepare my conference poster. Even though I had great research results, I didn’t have much energy left to compose the actual poster. But I persisted, and worked non-stop for perhaps 70 hours. Then, I packed as soon as possible and ran to the plane.

On the way to the conference in Hawaii, I was not only tired but also nervous because my boss was not too happy with the fact that I submitted my work at the last minute. He even threatened to withdraw my poster from the conference if it was not brought to perfection quickly enough.

So, for the first two days in Hawaii, instead of going to the famous OHBM hackathon that I was registered for, I sat in the boiling air finishing my conference poster in a hurry. Then I sent the project of my poster to the printing office, trying to bear the tantrums of my daily supervisor while waiting for the results.

Then, I went to the poster session straight after the moralizing speech that my supervisor served me after all this hell. The poster session went very well because I love telling others about what I do… for which I was highly praised by my boss at a lab dinner a few hours later. Other students might have been offended by this public compliment because they went after the conference to the North of the island without me. Which was yet another source of stress to me.

Hiking Mauna Kea.

In the end, I calmed down and boarded a plane from Oahu to the Island of Hawaii where I planned to hike Mauna Kea, the tallest active volcano on Earth. And then the best possible thing happened. I woke up in the morning, checked my email on my phone and found out that the house I had visited in May had just been put on sale. Admittedly, I thought I couldn’t afford it, but it was close enough to try.

Meanwhile, I got a message from the owner of the house I was trying to buy, Rudi, who informed me that his nephew was seriously considering putting the house on sale at funda.nl. I wasn’t a big fan of this decision, as this would mean competing with other buyers. I was shivering thinking that I could lose this deal, but I had to fight for it and earn it.

If you think that buying a house in the Netherlands from Hawaii as a Polish expat PhD student is hard, you are absolutely right. I quickly wrote to my supportive mother and started thinking about how to fight for this house. I was alone in Hawaii, had 12 hours of spare time, and it was June 21, while the rules for granting mortgage loans were to change on July 1st — to a much more unfavorable rules. I bought my mother a plane ticket to fly to the Netherlands and negotiate while I was still stuck on Hawaii, and I went on to hike Mauna Kea.

The summit of Mauna Kea is over 4,200 m above sea level. Therefore the recommendation is not to leave the route later than 8:15 am… while I stormed onto the trail around 2:45 pm… I made fast progress, and until about 8 pm, I made it almost all the way to the peak.I felt the altitude as the amount of oxygen was clearly dropping along the way. At 8 pm, it was almost dark and very cold, so I walked out onto the road leading to the astronomical observatory on the summit and let some tourists take me down from the summit by car.

Even though it was not a fully successful hike, I am still proud of it. Hey, I was all alone, on high altitudes, at the end of the world, and after a nerve-wrecking conference. I did well, even though I had to return a few hundred meters before reaching the very top.

The Gods are on my Side…

And the next day, I came back to emails, telephones, emails, telephones .on my pursuit to get the house. And then embarked on a long, exhausting, several days’ return home via Warsaw. As my ticket was cheap, of course I had either too much or too little time while making stops on the way.

At LAX, I had to sit at the airport for 12 hours. During this time, I checked my stock market investments, because I had to start counting how much I now have in my pocket. I hadn’t done this in a long time, and I was worried to see what the situation was. I jumped in my chair when I realized my stock had jumped 85% in a year. More luck than brains, but still…

Back Home and Still Working on the Deal.

After returning home, I immediately had to take a quick shower and go to dinner with the owners of the house, the price of which my brave mother had meanwhile negotiated down. The agency has already applied to the bank for a loan, and this application has been accepted, so there was a lot to celebrate.

The application was accepted on the old, favorable terms, but we were one day late with the application to get the lowest installment (because these installments fluctuate like crazy overnight), which resulted in a loss of EUR 8,000. I thought it would make me sick. When Putin entered Ukraine in March 2014, I broke into the stock exchange of EUR 2,000 in a week and I thought it was a fortune, but now I think to myself: 2,000? Peanuts.

But still, the loan offer was much better than a few months ago. So, I tried to swallow the loss as soon as possible and forget it. And I went out to dinner with the owners. And the owners were very nice people … We laughed a lot for the whole evening.

The next day, my mother flew to Poland, and I was left alone in hot Nijmegen. I took up the fight against jetlag and I kept on completing the loan papers. Plus, inviting speakers and organizing sessions for Donders Discussions, a student conference to be held at our institute in November. And this is how the end of June passed for me.

And So It Happens! I Am Buying a House.

And in the end, after all the hassle, IT happened. On 21st August 2015, I signed the documents to become the formal owner of the family house with my dream garden and in my dream neighborhood. The house needed a lot of work, but fortunately, my Mum was there to help.

She came to the Netherlands for the whole two weeks and we were working hard on putting this house together. The house didn’t even have panels at the ground floor level. She made an incredible effort. Well, we both did. I lost a lot of weight in these two weeks, despite the fact that I was eating and drinking like a lumberjack.

On one of the last days of our makeover, we organized a housewarming party and invited both my lab mates and my neighbors. Almost 40 people made it, probably mostly driven by curiosity. It was a great night though and for me, it was a night of triumph as I felt I succeeded both in building my financial safety and in social life.

I was feeling so happy that in the end, I wrote down the tutorial for how to get a house as a PhD student, and I sent it out to friends and family. I entitled this tutorial “The House Story” and you can find it linked HERE.

Lastly, once in a while, you have that feeling that you are going through a period when lots of extraordinary things happen one after another. These are some truly career-defining moments that change your life and that you will never forget. It was certainly one of them.

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Please cite as:
Bielczyk, N. (August 21st, 2015) Impossible Is Nothing: I Am Buying a House in Nijmegen!. Retrieved from: https://nataliabielczyk.com/i-am-buying-a-house-in-nijmegen/

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