International School Utrecht

‘It wasn’t our first international move, as we lived in Germany (Bremen) before moving to the Netherlands’, says Jackson. ‘This meant we knew how important it was to find the right school for the girls, before deciding on where to live.’ Although her husband was offered a job in Utrecht – he works for Jacobs Douwe Egberts – the family decided to look at schools in both Almere and Utrecht. ‘We felt Almere was close enough to Utrecht for my husband to travel to work.’ As soon as they set foot in the International School Utrecht, though, they were sold. Jackson: ’It was the feeling of the school, more than anything else that drew us in. Everyone we met in the school during that first visit was so friendly, relaxed and welcoming.’

As the Jacksons decided to try and buy a house in Utrecht, rather than renting one, they contacted a local agent whilst still living in Germany. ‘We looked at loads of houses with the agent who was recommended to us by my husband’s company’, Jackson recalls. In the end they managed to find a house not too far from the school that really suited the family. ‘We couldn’t believe how easy it is to buy a house in the Netherlands compared to the UK and as soon as we moved in our Dutch neighbours all made an effort to say hello. They were also very helpful, readily lending us ladders, bin bags and tools.’

The International School Utrecht has more than lived up to Jackson’s positive first impression. ‘The girls educationally have both flourished at the International School Utrecht, due to inspirational teachers’, enthuses Jackson. ‘The other day I went to meet some of their current teachers at the parent teacher conferences and I was again bowled over by their enthusiasm and passion for teaching.’ Although moving to another school is never easy, both girls quickly found their feet. ‘It really helped that the ISUtrecht is so used to new students; both teachers and staff know exactly how to support children who are new.’

For Jackson the school community really helped her to feel at home in Utrecht. ‘Sending your children to an international school, means you have a really good place to start finding some like-minded expat parents to socialise with. There are plenty of opportunities to help at the school too’, she says. ‘I joined the Parent Support Group and quickly got involved in helping to organise all kinds of school events, such as the film evening, the winter dinner and ArtBurts; events that have such a great community spirit, making me feel like I belonged.’

Although there were plenty of other opportunities to socialise with internationals by joining the International Women’s Contact Utrecht, or one of the Facebook groups, Jackson made a conscious decision to take her time finding a job, as after four years out of the workplace, she was desperate to get back to work. Something she accomplished in due course!

Jackson absolutely adores Utrecht. ‘It is such a pretty city with its wharves and medieval warehouses, nice café’s, lovely restaurants and great concert hall TivoliVredenburg. The Jackson family have fully embraced life in the Netherlands. ‘My youngest daughter has had ice skating lessons at the Vechtse Banen for three winters now and a couple of months ago we skated through Utrecht on the frozen canals! That was a real highlight.’ The family also love being able to go everywhere on their bikes. Jackson: ‘The girls cycle to school by themselves and I never use the car to go anywhere in Utrecht. It’s also been a real novelty to be able to go out to dinner and cycle home.’

One of the wonderful things of the International School Utrecht for Jackson’s older daughter has been the school Drama Troupe, which she attends once a week after school for improvising, rehearsals and fun. Guided by the secondary performing arts team, this year the theatre group made their own musical theatre production based on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. ‘Together with the secondary ensemble and supported by the student tech and make-up team they performed at Theater Kikker, a local theatre in the center of Utrecht and it was magnificent’, Jackson says. ‘My parents came over from the UK to see their granddaughter perform and they were so proud of her, but also very impressed with the other actors, singers and production crew. And my daughter, of course, will cherish this experience forever.’

Asked what advice she would give to families who are new to Utrecht, or consider moving to Utrecht, Jackson doesn’t need to think for more than a few seconds. ‘Get yourself a bike and embrace the Dutch way of life’, she says. ‘It is so relaxing to be able to get around on your bicycle and not having to sit in traffic or worry about finding a parking place. We just love it!’