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Read His Work!

Ilya Kneppelhout

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When I came to America at age 18, I told people I was born and raised in a village in the Netherlands. They would laugh at me because I used the word “village,” which apparently here in the United States sounds like I was raised in a tribal family. I was not, but I did grow up with cows, sheep, and horses around me, and cycled 30 minutes to and from school every day. I’ve said the word “respectless,” called my history professor “Miss,” and asked people “How late is it?” And I still use a translating website to translate words from Dutch to English and the other way around.

Starting my ASME internship at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine felt the same as moving to the United States. During my first meeting with an online investment writer, he asked me: “I do hope you know the difference between stocks and bonds?” I hoped (and thought) so too, but as I confidently started explaining the difference, he cut me off — an embarrassing moment in my life, especially since my major is business. The financial terms, abbreviations and financial slang were completely foreign to me (and of no interest). However, the summer has shown me that ignorance and close-mindedness are no good, and that learning comes naturally. Although I am still casually fake laughing about finance jokes I don’t get, I am now able to write a story about mutual funds and credit cards. And however boring that may sound, I wish I had known earlier that my credit card gives me free access to many sports events, and that some stocks pay you to own them.

While to you this “bio” does not seem to say much about me, I think it does. My background, age and place of birth do give some insight into my life, but do not define who I am. I believe that the things people have done and aspire to do really are what defines them. With regard to me, this means that my non-fluency in English and cluelessness about the finance industry did not matter. You can make it work if you want to; where there’s a will there’s way. And if there is no way, there is always an editor to fix your mistakes.

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