Not Goodbye Amsterdam, Only See You Later

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Emma Basco
December 29, 2022

Usually I’m very emotional on planes, but on December 23 I think I was simply too tired to be sentimental. Because of the “once in a generation” ice storms in the Northwest and Midwest, my flights back to America got switched around three times. I ended up flying into Salt Lake City and sprinting down the terminal from gate A24 to gate A6, three bags slung over my shoulders, barely making it onto my plane to San Francisco before the attendant closed the door (they upgraded me to the comfort seat which seemed like compensation for the terrible layover). At that point, I was too exhausted to even register that I was back in America, that I was about to see my parents in just two hours, that my unforgettable fall semester in Amsterdam was over, that I had said goodbye to some friends I wouldn’t see again unless we ended up in each other’s cities, who knows how far into the future.

Maybe I would have been more emotional, though, if I weren’t coming back for the spring. Still, I can’t even fathom that at the end of January, I will be on the same flight I took in August, but this time I will immediately recognize Schiphol, the route to Oud West, the metro stop right outside of the Social Hub West. I can try and imagine how it will feel for Amsterdam to be familiar, but I can’t anticipate that, nor do I want to. Right now, I don’t want to speculate about spring semester because I am already nostalgic of fall semester, the people I met and experiences I had that made my first time in Amsterdam so special. I just know the two semesters won’t be the same, nor will one be better than the other, nor can they even be compared.

I landed around 4pm, just before sunset. The first thing I noticed when I landed in San Francisco were the dark green hills bounding into the sky behind the city skyline, the mushy pink fog smeared over the water, and the twinkling Bay Bridge. I was immediately comforted by the beauty of California; I felt finally home, after such a long travel day. My parents were out of this world happy to see me. My mom handed me snacks for the drive to Sacramento and kept turning around in her seat to smile at me and say, “I can’t believe you’re home! I can’t believe you’re home!” I was too tired to talk about it, but deep down I was also in awe with the fact that I was back in California, just like that. My parents felt the same, the drive back to Sacramento felt the same, my hometown felt the same (that achingly familiar feeling of turning onto your street and seeing your childhood home again). But of course, I didn’t feel the same. Sacramento was and always will be the center of my world, but now my world includes Amsterdam; a 5,000 mile radius from my sweet little childhood bedroom from which I write this post.

It is so hard to describe the feeling of returning to your hometown after living abroad. I frankly didn’t have time to process until now because it seemed like the second the plane touched down, I hit the ground running. My whole family (approximately 30 to 40 people) are in Sacramento this year for Christmas, New Year’s, and my grandma’s 90th birthday. Usually we get together every other year, relatives flying in from New York, Texas, and LA, but because of Covid, these celebrations have been majorly delayed. It's been almost four years since we have all seen each other; that, plus the fact of my grandma’s birthday, means that from the 24th to the 1st, my family is making up for lost time. Just the day after I got home, we had a great Christmas dinner party followed the next day by lunch to finish off the leftovers. In the next few days, we will have family portraits, more family lunches, my grandma’s birthday party, a New Year’s party, and a New Year’s brunch. I am overjoyed to be busy with my family again, running errands, deciding who goes in which car, divvying up dinner tasks, sharing space with the people I love the most. But I also can’t help but feel overwhelmed and a bit stretched thin. Above all, I want, and need, proper rest.

I’m so happy to see my parents, my family, and my friends, talk and catch up like nothing has changed. It is so nice to be home, in my old room, hearing my parents talking to my relatives in the other room, and I do have more time to relax than I think I do. It is interesting to talk about Amsterdam to my friends and family because I really am so tired from the whole experience. I think only my friends from Amsterdam who are all home now can understand the unique exhaustion of study abroad. I’ve recovered from jet lag, easily slipped back into my winter break lifestyle of driving everywhere, wearing just sweatshirts in the middle of winter, having nothing to do other than loiter and drive around with my friends. But I found myself missing Amsterdam sooner than I thought, scrolling through my camera roll, finding memories here and there that I’d completely forgotten in the whirlwind end of semester. I’m so grateful I get to go back, but I know it won’t be the same without everyone I met this past fall. This past semester was so special in so many ways. I see why some people say that studying abroad is the best experience of your life. Crazy how you can realize that you are living such a great experience, maybe one of the best in your life, while it is still happening.

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Headshot of Emma Basco.

Emma Basco

My name is Emma Basco and I am originally from Sacramento, California. I am currently studying literature and writing at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. I love to read on the beach, doodle on post it notes, paint with watercolors, and unearth new cafes and restaurants. My hidden talent is that I can make an excellent pot of noodles from packaged ramen.

2022 Fall, 2023 Spring
Home University:
Sarah Lawrence College
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