Anyone who's seen the Lizzie McGuire movie knows that there's only one real reason to study abroad: to fall in love with a sophisticated, charming European man with an accent. Today I'm handing the reigns over to my neighbor and friend, Spencer Grady-Pawl, to tell the story of his whirlwind European love affair. May we all be lucky enough to find our own Albert someday.
At one of the first of many mandatory meetings I had to attend during introduction week, us assembled students were told that while we were in Amsterdam, we were going to fall in love. Initially, I was skeptical at the idea that love could grow in my withered and frozen heart, and I was right. It grew instead in my stomach, when I met a man named Albert Heijn. Albert, or Al as close friends such as myself call him, is the undisputed champion of grocery retail in Amsterdam, due to an intelligent business plan, reasonable prices, and the fact that I spend approximately €11,256 there each week.
When one first walks into an Albert Heijn, they are greeted, at some locations, by a portrait of the man himself, looking severe and bald and like he probably forbade dancing at his wedding. Once past that however, one enters a warm, welcoming, almost excessively-gezzelig store that offers everything from slightly-aged gouda to very aged gouda. If you manage to find your way out of the cheese section, however, you realize that it has everything you would expect from a grocery store in the States, except freeze pops, which sounds like a minor issue until you realize that you’re going to be here for FOUR MONTHS without getting to suck artificially-flavored ice out of a plastic tube five times a day like you did this past summer.
It makes up for this by having quarts of vanilla pudding for 88 cents, which you can drink from directly, until you have seven of those quarts in three days and realize that you should make an effort to include other food groups, such as the caramel pudding group.
The only time you’re likely to encounter any stress or anxiety at Albert Heijn is when checking out, because many of the cashiers feel for some reason that it is appropriate to speak Dutch. Fortunately, if you know the simple terms “hallo” (hello), “nee” (no), and “English please” (English please), then you can usually navigate checkout fairly easily, and move on to the stress of trying to pack your own groceries before the next person’s items get mixed in with yours.
If you’re lucky, when you leave Albert Heijn, there will be a cute dog tied up outside; the personalities of these dogs range from actively opposed to your petting them to begrudgingly tolerant of your petting them. Then, it’s time to bike home, where you realize that you forgot to buy stroopwafels and have to go back, which is okay because you love Albert Heijn and in fact intentionally forgot the stroopwafels just so you’d have an excuse to see him again.
In all honesty, though, Albert Heijn has been a huge part of my study abroad experience, and the two locations nearest my apartment I would consider my homes away from home, especially these past few weeks as my apartment has been without heat. In summary, if your friends try to convince you to go to Jumbo, or Lidl, or Aldi, those aren’t your friends; Albert is your only true friend, at least until 10:00 when he closes.
An acrostic poem about AH:
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<p>Hallo! My name is Aniqa Raihan and I am a junior at the George Washington University majoring in international affairs. I'm hoping to take my international education beyond the classroom by spending a semester in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. Join me as I meet new people, explore new places, and hopefully, find my home away from home.</p>