Amsterdam has been a part of my life since I was a 16-year-old student arriving for a year’s exchange. Though I was to live on a dairy farm 50km to the north, the first week was spent with four other Aussies on induction in Amsterdam’s inner-west.

Immediately, I was smitten. The city shimmered through the wintery February weather, showing itself to be quiet yet dynamic, cozy yet international, grey yet somehow magical.

We walked the cobbled streets and little bridges, inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke, observing interactions in a language I did not yet speak. Bikes sped by, carrying people who in turn carried all kinds of stuff, from bed frames to puppies. We drank Heineken and danced to the Cure.

After a year on the dairy farm and a couple of university degrees back in Australia, I returned and I haven’t really left since. Amsterdam has always called me back. I’ve travelled extensively, but my heart remained here.

Over the years I have lived in a plethora of Amsterdam areas (Westerpark, de Pijp, de Baarsjes, Centrum, Oud West, Oud Zuid) and have biked, run and walked thousands of kilometres along its streets and canals. Work has varied from minimum wage to associate at a top flight law firm. I have made incredible, lifelong friends.

I have fallen in love, had my heart broken, cried countless tears and laughed until my stomach hurt. Seen Paradiso concerts, attended festivals and savoured brilliant house parties. Been through therapy and a major career change. Laid in the Vondelpark for hours during warm summer evenings, and biked through the snow – careful to avoid the ubiquitous tram lines – in the winter.

I became Dutch in 2012 and wept for joy.

Now I’m in the process of leaving – properly this time. I sold my car, cancelled everything I can, and soon I’ll deregister and emigrate. These last few days have been steeped in emotion. I’ve wept as I wander the autumn-hued sidewalks, grieving the end of this phase of my life.

These years have been incredibly warm, stable and fun. I’m so grateful to Amsterdam and my Dutch family. And as I wipe away the tears, I remind myself that I wouldn’t be leaving if I wasn’t confident that what lies ahead will be even better.