If you could go anywhere in the world to study abroad, where would you go? The United Kingdom? France? Germany? Ireland?
What about The Netherlands?
The Netherlands were always such an unknown country to me, but I picked up a flyer in class one day, offering a trip to this country created by the developers at Mojang. Most of the time, I would disregard these types of things, but I thought it would be fun for my friends and I to hop into a Nether portal and go over to the European country.
Two of my closest friends and I had a master plan to go out to see the world this summer, but for one reason or another, they were not able to go. This left me faced with the decision: do I cancel my reservation and just keep working for Isanti County or do I travel halfway across the world, by myself, to stay in a country I have no knowledge about for three weeks?
Well, I took the chance, and it was something I will forever be grateful for.
My study abroad experience got off to a rocky start, landing in Amsterdam at 8:30 a.m. Oh, by the way, there is a seven hour time difference from Minnesota to The Netherlands, meaning it was really 1:30 a.m. local time. And I, being the experienced, smart traveler that I am, did not get a wink of sleep on the plane ride. I did end up meeting some of the people that I would spend my time there with, but we didn’t end up leaving the airport until around noon or one.
For someone who grew up in a town with less than 2,000 people living in it, public transportation was already pretty foreign to me, but being there made me realize that it can actually be an effective and convenient way to get around. The two or three hours we spent getting on and off trains and buses all around the country gave me my first real glimpse at the country that I would be staying in, and at first sight, I really wasn’t that impressed, to be completely honest.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but the country was more rural than I thought it would be, which at the time was underwhelming, but it grew on me.
My first week, I was so jetlagged, tired and confused I really didn’t get to take it all in at the moment. I was taking a class called Sport Event Marketing: Future of the Olympics. Which for me, is amazing. We went around the country touring sports facilities like Team TOC and the Gelredome, home of Vitesse, a Dutch football club.
In this class, my eyes were opened up to how other parts of the world view sports. For example, as U.S. citizens, we love going to football and basketball games because of the experience we get from the entire event. It is more of an entertainment business. But to compare it, most football fans in the Netherlands are like Philadelphia Eagles fans. Passionate, competitive, and at times violent. To keep it brief because I know Emma will be on me about word count, this class greatly improved my perspective.
The following week, I took a class called Education for All, which I thought would be a general education class about the Netherlands. It was not. It was a class for teachers. I am not a teacher. It was not for me. I don’t have much to say about that class. However, in my second week, I got a roommate.
Jonas was a German student who was just coming over for the week to take a quick class with one of his close friends, Lea. After a weird but funny introduction, the three of us went out into the city we were staying in, Groesbeek. After eating some fries with absolutely no seasoning at all, the three of us formed somewhat of a trio.
Despite being from completely different parts of the world, the three of us understood each other, and it honestly blew my mind that in such a short amount of time, I could relate and share my thoughts with them. They introduced me to a German tradition, Abendbrot, which translates to “evening bread”. During Abendbrot, families sit down and assemble their favorite open-faced sandwiches to eat amongst good company towards the end of their day. If it seems pretty simple, that’s because it is. What I realized while doing this is that Americans don’t have time to just slow down and eat bread with the people we love. It doesn’t necessarily need to be bread and the people we love, but taking part in a tradition like that is really cool to me.
In my final week, I took Sport Nutrition. Aka, do not eat like an American. It was a cool class that taught me how to plan, develop and execute healthy eating habits, but I’m sure you gathered that from the class title.
All in all, The Netherlands were an amazing experience because of the people I met in the place I was learning about. The combination of those two things made for an experience that is unlike anything else I have ever done. For what it’s worth, I would like to say thank you to my mom, dad, and Ali, you guys are probably the only ones reading this anyway. You gave me the confidence and motivation to go through with this and keep going with it. I really appreciate and love you guys for that.
Maybe next year I will go to Sri Lanka. Skol.
Header Photo: There is an Aldi in the Netherlands, because of course there is. Could they have at least budgeted for a Target or a Walmart or something? (Hayden Lee/The Reporter)
Write to Hayden Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org