Embracing the Unknown

Hannah McGrew
January 11, 2020

There I am riding my bike through Vondelpark. There’s a slight breeze that ruffles my auburn-brown hair while I glide past the trees surrounding the paved path. As I look around, I see tulips in an array of colors, small ponds with the occasional ripple, and people filling open spots with their bikes parked next to them. Some are laughing with friends, some are reading, some are simply laying back; taking in the beautiful spring day. Some of the conversations I overhear I can understand. Others speak in Dutch; and while it’s unfamiliar, it’s undeniably charming. 

Eventually, I arrive at my favorite spot where I am meeting a couple of friends to hang out and study. We all sit and laugh about our most bizarre moments of the day, we chat about things we found interesting in class earlier that morning, and we make plans for a fun weekend trip to a new country. As I sit, thousands of miles away from where I grew up, surrounded by people I’ve only known for a couple of weeks, it hits me that I’ve never felt more at home.

All of the sudden, I blink and I am sitting in front of my half-packed suitcase in Indiana. I was daydreaming again…

This has been the trend leading up to my departure. The closer it gets, the more I daydream about what it will be like. I imagine the types of people I will meet, the food I will eat, and the places I’ll see that I probably don’t even know exist at this point. While my mind races with all of this, I anticipate what I may need and fold it into my suitcase. 

Some of my packing essentials are known staples for Amsterdam. As I fantasize about walking to class through the puddles that the rainy weather brings, I tuck in my favorite raincoat and rainboots. My power adapter is also a must, as I imagine myself plugging in my laptop at a charming cafe while I finish an assignment. These packing essentials are some of the more widely-used that I’ve read. However, I also include my own personal things. 

I make room for my empty journal which I hope to fill with stories and adventures that I can read on my way back to the U.S in about 4 months. While I am sure that I will have many incredible experiences, I know that homesickness at some point will be inevitable. Therefore, I also squeeze in my favorite stuffed animal that I’ve had since I was born; just in case the distance becomes too much or some charming Dutch man breaks my heart. 

As much as I enjoy hypothesizing what my time will be like while I’m in Amsterdam, I know that it’s impossible for me to truly wrap my head around this adventure I’m about to have. While I like to think that I’ve traveled a good amount for my age, I have not yet been to Europe. In a lot of ways I don’t really know what I’m in for. That should probably scare me. In fact, one of the main questions I get when I tell people I’m leaving for Europe for the first time is, “Are you scared?” 

My honest answer is “No.”

I know that I probably should be… but I’m just so excited. I’m excited for the grand adventures of meeting a ton of new people from different cultures, going for rides in the canal, seeing the Anne Frank museum, and so much more. I’m also excited for the seemingly mundane things too though. I’m excited about becoming lost in a new city, about not being able to understand people when they speak in Dutch, about figuring out how to use Euros, about stepping into an unfamiliar apartment and sharing it with people from so many different places, and on and on.

I think, like everything in life, it’s what you make of it. So, if there were any fears that I would have about studying abroad in Amsterdam for 4 months, it would simply be that I didn't take advantage of every opportunity and embrace the unknown.



Photo credit: ericvokel.com 


Hannah McGrew

<p>Being from a small town in Michigan, I was always eager to get out and explore the world. Upon my graduation from high school, I was gifted with the opportunity to travel to Alaska which is where my insatiable desire to see the world truly began. At school, I’m studying Psychology, Business, and History—a reflection of my many interests! When I'm not studying, I love curling up with a book, teaching Gymnastics, and exploring wherever I'm at.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
Indiana University
Stevensville, MI
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