The Art of Living Abroad: Michele Appello ’98, Amsterdam
After five successful years in the online advertising business in New York City, moving to the Netherlands was not easy for Michele Appello ’98.
Appello had been steadily gaining experience and responsibility since starting in online classified sales. By 2003, she supervised a staff of three and managed online campaigns for nearly 150 websites and newsletters.
Then, she moved to Amsterdam to be with her partner of almost two years. “It was difficult for me, career-wise,” she says. “I was not a fluent Dutch speaker and thus had to start at the bottom of the totem pole, so to speak.”
She initially worked in subscriptions for a start-up English-language newspaper. But her New York City work ethic combined with her cultural adaptability led her back to the online advertising business. Today, she is director of trading for Omnicom Media Group Netherlands, overseeing the purchasing of online, mobile, and video media placements for clients like Pepsi and Renault. She now has permanent residency status and has bought a home with her fiancée, Lee Boonstra, who is Dutch.
A psychology major and journalism minor at Wagner, Appello says that her psychology background helped her adapt to a new culture. She also credits Professor Meta Townsend, who started the international affairs major at Wagner, for opening her eyes to the world. “She just had a way of making me see things from a different perspective,” says Appello.
Although her employer is part of an international conglomerate, Appello says that the corporate culture where she works is “98 percent Dutch,” which brings some interesting differences from U.S. culture. “From my experience, in the Dutch work culture you work to live, instead of living to work,” she says.
One example of Holland’s more liberal worker protections include unlimited sick days — and a more generous interpretation of reasons to take them. “To me, taking time off due to stress is very strange,” she notes by way of example. “It’s not something I would ever do, but this, I think, is because I come from New York City, where work stress is considered normal.”
At the same time, she appreciates benefits such as greater vacation time, which she uses to travel. (Berlin, Brighton, and Rome are her favorite European destinations.) “Living overseas for me has been and continues to be an amazing experience,” she adds.
What does it take to be successful in living abroad? “Being open-minded, self-motivated, independent, smart, adventurous, and possessing a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone — and the strength to be able to stick it out and make that place your home, no matter how foreign it may be,” Appello says.
Cafés & Restuarants
- Nevy (seafood)
- Ristorante Lo Stivale d’Ora (Italian)
- Tjing Tjing (South African)
- Amstel Haven
- Café de Jaren (drinks and people-watching outdoors by the water)
Museums & Tourist Sites
- Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day national holiday, April 30)
- Amsterdam Gay Pride boat parade (first weekend of August)
READ MORE about the evolution of study abroad programs at Wagner College in our feature story, “Expanded Horizons.”