A Midnight Walk

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On a houseboat with Polina and Gabi.

I know I said that my previous blog post was my last post from the Netherlands, but I lied.

Something so amazing happened to me tonight and I had to share it with you all – even if that means writing this to you after a few glasses (or a bottle) of wine later, at 1 in the morning.

Let me set the scene.

My night started out at around 9 p.m. when my roommates and I decided to crack open a few beers and a bottle of wine to enjoy our last night together in Utrecht. Gabi, Zee, Polina and I sang a few songs in our garden (a tradition of ours) and decided to take one last walk along the canals together.

We packed a backpack with 6 beers and the rest of the bottle of Cabernet, and headed out for the closest canal to our apartment.

This canal happens to have a few bridges that are beautifully lit with Christmas lights and lined with houseboats.

In my previous blog post, A Tour of Utrecht, you may remember me mentioning Gabi’s plan to visit one of these spectacular houseboats.

Well folks, we finally did it!

As we were walking along this canal with the houseboats, we started hearing music in the distance. Since we just finished our karaoke session not too long ago, we figured we would follow the music. After all, we were still in a singing/dancing mood.

When we walked to the end of the canal, we pin-pointed the music to a houseboat and saw two people dancing in the living room.

We stood across the canal from this houseboat, dancing to the music and singing along with these strangers across from us. If you were around to witness this scene, you would have thought we looked crazy.

During a pause between songs, we shouted to the couple, “Hey! Do you mind if we join the party?” They invited us right in.

After running across the bridge and knocking on their door, we were greeted with open arms and loud music.

The two people who greeted us were a couple, Mieke and Herricke, in their late 40s. They reminded me of a young couple, carefree and in love.

We shared a dance, a few drinks, and Mieke shared some words of wisdom with all of us that I will never forget.

She said, “Go for [whatever you want out of life] totally. Don’t ever go for something half way.”

She also said a lot of other inspirational things, but my wine brain cannot remember them right now.

We shared an amazing 30 minutes together, sitting on their dock next to the lit up bridge, enjoying the beautiful view and each other’s company.

The four of us ended up leaving Mieke and Herricke’s houseboat after exchanging contact information and kind words. They were the sweetest Dutch people I have ever met and I will never forget this night.

A few months ago, when Gabi mentioned visiting a houseboat randomly with biscuits and tea, I kind of thought she was crazy. Yet here I was, with a six pack of beer and a bottle of wine, dancing on a houseboat with two strangers and my roommates, living life the way it was meant to be lived.

I love my crazy, beautiful life.

 

 

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A Letter to Everyone I Love – Part 2

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Less than one week from now, I will be trading cobble stoned streets, canals and Dutch fries for sandy beaches, margaritas and the Maltese heat.

Although I cannot wait to arrive in Malta, I’m also feeling very bittersweet about my departure. I’ve fallen in love with Utrecht and can’t imagine leaving this beautiful city and all of the beautiful people I’ve met here.

Before leaving Michigan I wrote A Letter to Everyone I Love, and I figured I wouldn’t be able to leave the Netherlands without writing another.

The words from my first post, “I’m mostly afraid of how much I’ll want to return back to my second home. I haven’t even arrived, and yet I already don’t want to leave,” have never rang more true.

If I didn’t book a flight to Malta for Tuesday, I would be going home this Saturday. TWO DAYS AWAY! I just can’t comprehend that I almost threw away a European summer for a Michigan one – no offense to my fellow Michiganders! 😉

I may not want to leave Utrecht, but I am definitely ready to open new doors and see what waits for me behind them.

Although I am sad to leave behind all of the amazing people I have met here, I find comfort in knowing I will see these people again one day.

To Gabi, Zee, Polina, Andrew, Sion, Jimena, Jacob, Sharon, Joram, Wim, Lola, and the hundreds of guests I’ve met: I will remember all of you forever and cherish the countless memories we’ve made.

I believe these people were put into my life for a reason and have all taught me something very valuable. I have learned what it means to establish maintain a strong friendship with others, how to fully love myself, how to always search for the good in others, and how to live life to the fullest. After all, we only get one shot.

I am so thankful for my time in the Netherlands and I wouldn’t trade one second of it. This country hasn’t seen the last of me!

Until we meet again, Utrecht.

 

 

 

 

5 Ways to Cut Down on Money While Traveling

There are many ways you can travel or study abroad and not break the bank. By being in the Netherlands for 6 months, I am actually saving money.

I came here with a budget of $6,000 USD, or  ‎€5,300 after being converted from dollars to euros. Five months ago that didn’t seem like much and I was right. That budget would have left me with a little under a thousand per month to afford rent, food, travel and extra expenses for six months. Despite knowing this, I was determined to make it work.

Since arriving back in January, I have been able to afford traveling to England, Wales, Germany, Belgium, Ireland and soon to be added to the list: Malta.

I have also been able to treat myself to the occasional dinner out with friends, movie tickets, concerts and day trips around the Netherlands.

Even with all of these nice extras, I’m going home with money in my savings!

I couldn’t believe it either, and I wouldn’t have been able to if it wasn’t for these money saving tips and tricks:

1. Workaway.info

I will forever be grateful for stumbling across workaway.info. More information about this useful website can be found in my previous blog post here, but this website has been my key to saving thousands of dollars.

In short, you pay approximately $30 for a two year membership on workaway.info, and with that membership comes endless opportunities around the world.

Whether you’re traveling for two weeks, two months, or two years, there’s a workaway position that’s perfect for you. Most of the volunteer options listed on the website are working in hostels (what I’m doing), working on a farm, or teaching English to a family and living in their home. While all of the positions vary slightly, they all promise free accommodation and food in exchange for your volunteer work!

Since room and board is the biggest expense in any trip, this website was a huge help and probably the only reason I was actually able to study abroad. Living in the Netherlands can be expensive!

2. Cheap airfare

Flying from the United States to anywhere in Europe is way overpriced.

Luckily for myself, being from Detroit means I’m really close to Canada, and flying from Canada to Europe means saving $500 on airfare. I wish I was kidding!

For a round trip ticket from Detroit to Amsterdam, I was looking at spending $1300 or more for the dates I was searching. When I purchased my ticket from Windsor to Amsterdam, I only paid $850. It’s still disgustingly expensive, but I’ve seen worse.

If you’re able to fly from Canada, seriously consider it.

If you’re flying from Europe to the U.S., consider flying into Boston and then to your final destination. For some reason Boston is really cheap and I’ve found tickets from Amsterdam to Boston for $250, depending on the dates. Although this means you won’t be flying direct, it can save you so much money in the long run.

One tip I wish I knew before arriving: do not book a return flight for such a long trip.

Plans change and I’m a walking example of that.

Instead of getting on my return flight June 11th, I am now getting on a flight to Malta instead!

Obviously when I booked my flights back in December, I had no idea I’d end up living in Malta. I would have saved myself some money by booking a one-way flight, but those things can’t be predicted and I was better safe than sorry.

I’ve learned my lesson, and I won’t be booking my flight back to the U.S. until I’ve arrived in Malta. Who knows what I’ll want to do once I’m there?

Also, when you’re flying from country to country across Europe, your best bet for cheap airfare is Ryanair or Aerlingus, depending on your destination.

3. Pack basic clothes and don’t bring accessories!

Clothes in Europe can be expensive – so expensive it hurts not only my wallet, but my heart as well.

My first month here I made the mistake of buying all of these fancy European clothes because I wanted to “fit into” this new European culture I was exposed to.

Except here’s the thing: most of these people wear basic colors (black, white, brown) and make their outfits unique through accessories. And the accessories can be cheap!

The H&M accessory section has become my new best friend. Whether I’m looking for jewelry, a scarf, or some shoes, I know I can go to H&M and find something that will be in my budget. This has proved to be helpful on more than one occasion, but specifically when I wear the same black shirt five days in a row and try to make it look like a new outfit every time. Not kidding, wish I was!

4. Cook your own food

As a part of my workaway agreement, I am able to order practically everything from the supermarket, apart from meat, and it’s all covered by my employers. Even wine!

Because of this, there is almost no reason for me to eat at restaurants or order take-out (although sometimes I have to splurge).

Food at the restaurants in the Netherlands can get really expensive, really fast. A simple burger and fries for €16 can turn into a $20 meal after the exchange rate and fees. No thanks!

5. Do as many free or discounted activities as possible

 

If the local bar offers drink specials on a Tuesday, don’t go there on a Thursday and pay double the price. That’s just silly.

If it’s a nice sunny day, go for a walk, ride a bike, or have a picnic in the park. Some of my best memories in the Netherlands have been on days where I didn’t spend more than €5, and that money went toward having beers on the canal.

When you’re surrounded by good company, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a great time. Sometimes all you need is each other.

Too cheesy? I think so.

 

 

 

On an Island in the Sun

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Original photo of Malta found here.

This has been a very exciting week for me!

Last Monday my mom and her friend Catherine arrived in the Netherlands to visit me for a week. We managed to get a lot in during the week, such as two canal boat rides, a day trip to Amsterdam, a weekend trip to Ireland, and more!

It was the best feeling ever to have some visitors from home with me. Especially my mom for mother’s day.

On the plane ride back from Dublin to Amsterdam, my mom asked me “do you think you’re ready to come home in a month?”

A month? 

Not a chance.

The question made me realize how in love I am with Utrecht and Europe in its entirety, and I realized there was no way I could go home in June.

But if I’ve learned one thing since I’ve been here, it’s that the universe always works the way it should –  usually in your favor.

After returning home from dropping my mom off at the airport, I discussed my disappointment returning home to Michigan with my roommate Gabi and a few of our friends. I said there must be a way I could stay in Europe, I just didn’t know how.

And then Gabi did what she always does best – she came up with a great solution.

She invited me to live in Malta with her for two months, and I’m going to!

Now you might be thinking to yourself, what? How is she going to afford that? What about her return flight home?

Well ladies and gentlemen, the beauty of being in Europe is that I can travel almost anywhere in Europe for under $100. My ticket to Malta just happened to be $25.

Yes, you read that right. I was just as shocked as you are.

I also found a return flight to Detroit in August for $350, so this trip is definitely going to be manageable.

And my return flight home in June? Losing out on that doesn’t even matter to me.

What matters to me is the fact that I get an extra 60 days to make more memories, try new things, live in a new country, and surround myself with the best people I’ve ever met in my life.

In 35 days, I’ll be drinking tequila on a secluded beach in Malta, soaking up the sun and living life the way it should be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tour of Utrecht

 

As a way to mark this significant milestone of my trip (the halfway point!), I figured I would share my favorite spots around Utrecht and maybe a memory or two from each of the places.

  • Utrecht has a lot of hidden gems, but I’ll start off with what Utrecht is most well known for: The Dom Tower.

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As the largest church tower in the Netherlands, you can see the Dom Tower from almost anywhere in the city center.

The Dom holds a special place in my heart because it helped me navigate around during my first few weeks in Utrecht. Whenever I was lost, I would come to the exact spot where I took this picture, and I instantly knew how to find my way home.

You can also take the opportunity to climb the Dom Tower for € 9 and the views will be breathtaking. Literally. You climb 465 steps and you’re so exhausted from the hike up there, you are actually out of breath. Unless if you’re in better shape than I am, which the chances of that are pretty likely.

Throughout the tour there are stops in the different levels, where a tour guide will provide you with some history on the church (or what remains of it). Once you reach the top, you can enjoy the views and admire the entire city of Utrecht.

  • Another one of my favorites: The Disco Tunnel.

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I have no idea if this tunnel is actually called the Disco Tunnel, but my roommate Gabi referred to it as that once and the name just kind of stuck.

This tunnel leads to absolutely no where but just connects one of the streets to a canal, but how cool does this place look?!

The colors in the tunnel change constantly (the green and yellow are my favorite) so it always looks like a rave is happening from the street. Sadly, every time I venture down here a rave is not taking place. Better luck next time.

  • Something you’ll find all over the Netherlands: The Canals.

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I am fortunate enough to live in a place that is surrounded by beautiful canals.

Every time I walk to work, I pass at least five canals. If I take “the pretty way home,” I walk along a canal that practically leads to my front door.

Right now it’s too cold to rent a boat, but on the first warm, sunny day I have off, I plan to grab a 6-pack and see where the canals take me.

As you can see in the picture above, there are also canals with houseboats. Whenever I walk past houseboats with Gabi, she tells me about her plans to buy some biscuits and knock on a few of the doors to ask for a cup of tea. Gabi is a very curious person. She has no idea how it will go, or if anyone will let her in, but I think I want to join her on that little adventure. The least it could do is give me something to write about, eh?

  • One of the coolest bars in Utrecht: ‘t Oude Pothuys.

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‘t Oude Pothyus is unique because it is situated in a cellar off of a canal. It’s the definition of a hidden gem.

Every night starting at 10 p.m. you can come here to listen to live music and have a drink. Before that, you can come here to enjoy great food at a decent price. I’ve only been here for the music, but from the little Dutch I know, that’s what I gathered from the menu.

Some nights the music is really intimate, so you can just sit at a table and play cards; other nights are more upbeat and draw in a large crowd.

  • The best bitterballen in town: Mick O’Connells Irish Pub.

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First off, excuse me for this unflattering picture. It was the only one I had that truly captured my favorite night at Mick O’Connells.

Let me set the scene for you:

I had just arrived back at the apartment from working a morning shift, and I was informed by my roommates that we would be going to Mick O’Connells to watch the Wales vs. Scotland rugby game. I was told to put on something red, because I’d be cheering on Wales, and that they had good beer and bitterballen. I was sold.

Once we arrived at Mick O’Connells, we soon realized we were the only people cheering for Wales. Everyone else was in blue and stared at us the second we walked in. We ordered beers, burgers and 16 pieces of bitterballen. We had a feast.

Wales ended up winning and we celebrated by having more beers and laughing with all of the Scotland fans. It was the first time I ever really paid attention to rugby, and I now have a new appreciation for it.

I was also surprised to realize the only Irish Pub in town served the best bitterballen (a Dutch specialty), but I was thankful that we ordered 16 pieces because I could not stop eating them.

Forget about stroopwaffel, raw herring, Dutch fries with mayonnaise, etc. If you come all the way to the Netherlands and don’t try savory bitterballen, something is seriously wrong with you.

Other places that deserve a mention:

  1. Stone Hostel & Hotel – my home away from home and also where I’m doing my workaway.
  2. Belgisch Bier Café Olivier – another great bar in town. It used to be an old church!
  3. The petting zoo – an angry peacock guards the animals, but if you can get past him there’s so many cute sheep to see! Plus it’s free.
  4. The Culture Boat – when I first heard that there was a coffeeshop on a boat, I was a little skeptical, but the decor and atmosphere really make this place great. It’s a little more touristy because of how cool it is, but for good reason.
  5. The Kebab Factory – The Kebab Factory has bailed me out on numerous occasions. From curing a hangover to an easy dinner when I’m feeling lazy, the doner box (fries, garlic sauce and sliced beef) will always be there to save the day, for only €3.90!
  6. The infamous teapot – keep a lookout for my next blog post about a recent night at the teapot! Preview: my night ended at the hospital.

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be an advertisement or promotion for any of the businesses mentioned above. 

 

 

 

Culture Shock: The Ugly Truth

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Photo was taken during my most recent weekend excursion at Castell Coch in Cardiff, Wales.

 

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m kind of bad at blogging. I forget to check my e-mail daily, so I’m having a hard time keeping up with this thing. Apologies.

Since my last post about Belgium I have traveled to The Hague, Germany, England, and Wales. I had so much fun in all of these cities/countries, and they each deserve their own blog post, but I have more important things to talk about.

I’ve started this post a handful of times, trying to figure out the best way to put my thoughts into words. I’m finding it hard to be honest with you all, but I started this blog to document my journey and it would be unfair if I didn’t paint the correct picture for you.

I’m dealing with serious culture shock.

While I briefly mentioned the culture shock I was feeling during my first few weeks in Utrecht in this post, the full effects didn’t sink in until two weeks ago.

If you have me on Facebook, you might have gotten the idea that I’m having the time of my life. And while that’s mostly true, I’ve also been dealing with the not so picturesque side of study abroad.

I was having a very hard time settling into my new home. I cannot read or speak in Dutch, most of the time I have no idea where I’m going, and people in the city can be less than pleasant on an average day (but that’s anywhere).

I also felt very trapped. Since I’m from America, the average one way ticket to go home would cost me approximately $700. It would also take a full day of traveling and a new time zone to get used to, so I wouldn’t be able to swing a weekend trip like most of my fellow European study-abroaders (new word, Webster?).

Two weeks ago, I was crying to my mom over the phone about how much I missed home. I didn’t think I could make until July in the Netherlands. I was googling cheap tickets home and panicking when I saw the prices. Thankfully, she convinced me to not be impulsive and to sleep on it before making any rash decisions. And I’m so happy she did, because staying is what’s best for me.

Throughout the past two months of this experience I have learned so much about myself:

I learned that it’s okay to be really uncomfortable in a new place. 

I went through a lot of changes by coming here and they all happened to me at once. From starting my job at the hostel to starting classes at Hogeschool, I was bound to feel extreme emotions of excitement, shock and anxiety. It’s okay to not always feel okay.

I learned that home is not necessarily a place, but a feeling.

I feel at home every time I talk to my mom on the phone. She tells me stories about her coworkers, my family members, and even the crazy Michigan weather. Talking to her reminds me that living in the Netherlands is only temporary and I cannot take this experience for granted.

I felt at home when I visited my friends Taylor and Jens in Kleve, Germany. Taylor was my roommate for six months when I was at Ferris last semester, so being around her always feels normal. It also helped that Jens’ mom made us dinner one night, because obviously a home cooked meal is comforting.

But I’m also learning to accept Utrecht as my home. I have three amazing roommates and a handful of coworkers that always bring a smile to my face. We often have karaoke and jam sessions in the living room, and they always make me the happiest. My apartment is surrounded by green grass, canals, tulips, and millions of Dutchies riding endless amounts of bikes – which is so great I almost take it for granted.

And lastly, I’m learning to try new things.

In the middle of writing this sentence, my roommate offered me to try Turkish pita bread topped with a “liver spread” and a funky smelling cheese. I loved it so much I am now eating it for dinner.

But on a more serious note, I work, live and interact with people from different cultures on a daily basis. When someone asks me to go somewhere with them, or even try a new food that’s unusual for me (raw herring thanks to Andrew), I have learned to always say yes. It could be the best raw herring in the world (it was), or it could have been the worst. But I never would have known if I didn’t try.

It has taken me so long to write this (much needed) blog post because I feared my readers would think I was crazy for not always enjoying myself during my study abroad. I don’t want you all to think I’m ungrateful for this experience, because I most certainly am not. I worked very hard to get to where I am, and I wouldn’t change a thing. But I want you to all understand that there can be other sides to studying abroad that aren’t always noticeable through smiling photos on Facebook.

Below you can see a few pictures from the trips I’ve taken since Belgium!

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The Belgian Boys

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Sorry for my two week hiatus! I’ve been keeping busy in Utrecht and planning my trips for the rest of the semester.

My first trip planned outside of the Netherlands was Gent, Belgium.

Gent was never on my radar, until two weeks ago when I answered the phone while working at the hostel. On the other end, I heard the Belgian Boys.

The Belgian Boys is not the name of an alternative band (it should be), but actually two dudes from Gent who decided to hitchhike to Utrecht two weeks ago.

They seemed really nice, so my coworkers and I decided to show them around Utrecht and we all had a blast. Within the week, they invited us to visit them in Gent, so we booked our bus tickets within the day.

After spending 3.5 hours on a bus, our first mission was to try some Belgian beer. I’m not typically a fan of beer, but the Kasteel Rouge was amazing. The taste was a perfect blend of cherry and malt. One half of the Belgian Boys gave me the suggestion, and I’m highly considering making that my new go-to drink.

I also tried at least 10 other brands of beers, but Kasteel Rouge was my favorite.

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My coworker and I drinking on the canal. 

We spent the day walking along the canals, admiring the castles, and visiting the churches. You could tell there’s so much history in Belgium, it was nothing like the cities I’ve visited in America.

We also made it a point to try Belgium waffles, fries and chocolate. The Belgian Boys took us to one of their favorite fry shops and it was amazing. I came to the conclusion that Belgium food is perfection. At least in Gent.

After filling up on an unhealthy amount of fries, we went to a bonfire party and drank even more beer.

The night was amazing, and I can’t thank the Belgian Boys enough for being our hosts. We’re so excited for you to come back to Utrecht in the next couple of weeks!

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The city center of Gent, Belgium.

Apart from my trip to Belgium, I have also planned a few others:

  • Germany within the next few weeks
  • Cardiff and London in March
  • Dublin in May
  • Figeac, France for the month of June

I’m sure the list will continue to grow, and I’ll make sure to keep you all updated on my next adventure.

Until next time!

 

 

 

 

A Day Trip to Amsterdam

When your new coworker invites you on a trip to Amsterdam, you don’t refuse the offer.

Just over a week ago I left the city of Utrecht with Steph to explore one of the most popular cities in the world.

I had no idea what to expect from my first time in Amsterdam,  but I definitely saw the Netherlands in a new light. A red light, to be exact.

Besides a constant hum of cannabis in the air, another staple of Amsterdam is its Red Light District.

In the center of Amsterdam, a few of the main streets make up the Red Light District. Here, you can see sex shops on every corner, peep shows, and legalized prostitution.

As you stroll along the cobble stone streets, or count the endless amounts of bikes you see, you always have this eerie sense that someone is watching you – because someone is!

Since I only spent time in Amsterdam during the day, the Red Light District didn’t have a huge crowd like I had anticipated. Instead, it was mostly tourists, like myself, walking past half naked women who were posing on a stool and giving me sex eyes.

Can you say uncomfortable?

Throughout the entire day, I saw many closed curtains (indicating people were getting it on) but only one transaction. I’m glad I was able to witness Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District, and I can say it definitely made me think twice about legalized prostitution. – But we’ll get into that some other time.

In addition to the Red Light District, I filled my entire day with the most touristy activities possible.

First stop of the day: The Bulldog Coffeeshop.

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The Bulldog is the first coffeeshop in Amsterdam, and also where my home university found their inspiration for a mascot 😉 Shout out to my fellow Ferris Bulldogs!

While I did not partake in any questionable activities here, I did buy a hoodie and a lighter from the gift shop.

Second stop of the day: Heineken Experience.

Since I am still not of legal age in the States (five months to go!), this was the first brewery I toured. I learned during the tour that they no longer brew beer at this location, but the experience was still great.

For 18 euros, I was able to participate in a few interactive games, like rugby and football, drink a couple of beers, and learn how to pour the perfect Heineken. The bartender said mine was “approximately 90 percent perfect,” but he would still drink it. Cheers!

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Third stop of the day: I Amsterdam Sign.

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Above, you can see my sub-par modeling skills as I pose in the “d.”

I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw I amsterdam, because it made me realize how crazy my life really is right now.

I’m thousands of miles away from home, living in the Netherlands, and exploring cities I grew up reading about. Every day I get out of bed, walk along the canals, and enjoy this new adventure.

So yes, during my first trip to Amsterdam I was a tourist. I even used a selfie-stick. But it was one of my favorite days so far.

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Special thanks to my unofficial tour guide, Steph, and my new friend Nathan, for tagging along and putting up with my touristy antics. You’re the best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Week Abroad

Tomorrow will mark one week since I left the Mitten State and settled into a new life in The Netherlands.

After traveling for an entire day and landing in a foreign place, I made my way to the train station and realized how utterly alone I really was. – A pretty depressing start to this blog post, eh?

Once I finally retrieved my luggage from the dreadful baggage claim, I took the morning train from Amsterdam Schipol to Utrecht Centraal. As I hauled my luggage across both train stations, I looked around at the masses of people heading to work or starting their day, and I felt very small in this new city.

I cannot speak or read the Dutch language and I was naive to think I could easily navigate Utrecht after never having visited before. Public transportation is not common in the motor city and I can’t remember the last time I rode on a train or city bus. For the first time in my life, I experienced serious culture shock.

According to my best blogging friend, Wikipedia, culture shock is the feeling a person gets when they are in a new territory. I would say this feeling is hard to describe, but Wikipedia says individuals facing culture shock may have an overwhelming feeling of homesickness, experience a technology gap, and boredom. Wikipedia is correct in describing how I felt. Per usual.

Luckily for me, though, I wasn’t completely alone.

My new boss at the hostel met me at the train station and helped me get settled into my new home. I’m referring to this place as home, because after a few days of living at Stone Hostel, that’s exactly what this place is to me.

Maybe it’s because every person I have met here has worked in the hospitality business, or maybe my new coworkers and friends are just exceptionally awesome, but everyone has been so wonderful to me.

I experienced my first coffeeshop, went shopping at a European H&M, took a day trip to Amsterdam, and ate the all of the bitterballen I could get my hands on – all thanks to my new friends.

This past week has been crazy and exciting in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I have had conversations with people from all over the world, put myself in uncomfortable situations, and in the process I have gained a new outlook on life. I feel more relaxed and happy with my decision to come to Utrecht.

If this was only week one, I can’t imagine what is yet to come.