Keeping Gezellig, One Year Later

Kaylie Crawford
January 27, 2014

“With a leap of faith I feel a little stronger, wanna swing from a star in the big blue sky, don’t wanna watch it all go by– so I’m gonna fly…” — Sydney Forest, “I’m Gonna Fly”

2014 came suddenly, turning the corner and making skid marks as it went. I barely had time to hug 2013 goodbye before ‘14 came rushing in and replacing a year that will surely be reflected upon as one of the most important, most formative, and most wonderful years of my life.

Nearly a year ago, I was neurotically re-checking the location of my passport, tending to a new tattoo, and scrumping along with an attempt to self-teach some basic Dutch phrases. My worries consisted of pick-pocketing, getting lost, and both making new friends / losing old ones.

That girl back then, she was most certainly me.

But she isn’t me.

Amsterdam — not just the city, but the Dutch people and culture in general — wooed me, harder perhaps than I realized even when I touched back down on American soil in June (after a brief vacation in Amsterdam and Glasgow with my parents). I still have photos un-uploaded on memory cards tucked away in semi-forgotten places; I still have friends I’ve been meaning to message but haven’t; I still have stories to tell, memories to recall. The art I created in my studio class at the Rietveld remains curled up in a Van Gogh museum poster box, cuddling up to a Sunflower poster my mother purchased for the parlor.

I have Amsterdam art prints and cards up on the wall of my college apartment in Ithaca. I managed to track down some imported stroopwafels in the European aisle of my local Wegman’s (and quickly got all my friends addicted to the perfect tea-side snack). And I remain to be insufferable with my persistent use of the Dutch phrase slaap lekker when telling friends goodnight, and am too-sugary-sweet when I call my boyfriend (sans sarcasm) “mijn schatje”, Dutch for “my darling” or “my sweetheart”.

But all these more or less superficial additions to my quirks and habits did not really tell me how much studying abroad in Amsterdam changed me – no, evolved me. I’m not changed, in the way that I’m completely different…I’m evolved from the same base, like how [nerd alert] Pokémon evolve but remain the same individual they were when you caught them in that little patch of grass outside of the city…

A few weeks ago, I stayed up too late watching old 90’s Nick cartoons and knitting (because I’m just that cool). Tired, I went upstairs, pajamafied myself, and went to bed.

My rain sounds (nice, white noise) gently played in the background. Everything was quiet, serene. It was still pitch black out, around 2:30am. I had been up since the previous morning…and I could not sleep.

Deep, intense homesickness python-gripped my stomach and wrenched open every little detail of my life in Amsterdam: biking to class, chatting with a stranger, or taking the tram to free concerts with friends. I missed staying in and cooking a small meal after shopping at Albert Heijn, or cutting stems and vase-ing tulips for myself and friends. I missed sketching at the park, sharing a rijstafel, or browsing the boeken markt op het Spui

I started crying. Not loudly, not violently — but crying enough to wet the pillowcase and require a sleeve-rub or two. I genuinely missed Amsterdam and the life I had there, and how well I felt I belonged there once the first month-and-a-half adjustment had finished. Not everything was a bundle of tulips: classes got stressful, trams ran late, the apartment had issues, etc…but life is never  perfect bouquet. But I had a life there, and it is that life I miss.

Yet that life, and this one, are one-in-the-same. I’m on a continuum; 2014 isn’t separate from 2013–it’s 2013 continued.

Dutch Kaylie is the same as American Kaylie– but Dutch Kaylie certainly challenged and reinvented the American Kaylie. Living in the Netherlands as a student resident opened up my heart. I felt my own self and independence tangibly. I now seriously consider the idea of moving to the Netherlands at some indistinct point in the near-ish future. This is certainly not the norm for study abroad alum, but it isn’t that rare, either.

For me, much of American culture at large alienated me. I feel distant from it, isolated. In the Netherlands, my own thoughts and feelings were supported or validated by native Dutch men or women, and the culture seemed to welcome me with open arms and a warm hoi. Yet I feel at home in some micro-American cultures, such as that of Ithaca, New York, where I attend college and will be living after graduation while considering graduate school options for 2015 or 2016 (Glasgow University being a major contender). In Amsterdam, there were moments I missed Ithaca and my American life– but it never drove me to tears.

To deal with this “reverse homesickness” (reverse only in the sense that it wasn’t my first home), I try to remember that Dutch Kaylie is just as alive and well as American Kaylie, and that all the friends and experiences I’ve had made me into the Kaylie writing this at present. Amsterdam and the Netherlands are still there, and will be, to welcome me whenever I am able to arrive at Centraal Station in Amsterdam from Schiphol once more.

Until that moment comes, 2014 will press on, bringing more distance between me and my time abroad. Already, it has been one year, which is unbelievable in any and all respects. I will carry on and do my best to find gezellig here, in Ithaca, with the friends and loved ones I’ve made and missed while in Amsterdam– and continue to cherish all the gezellig I experienced living by the Amstel.


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Kaylie Crawford

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I&#39;m Kaylie Crawford, a tea-drinking writer with a desire for travel and poor coordination skills. I hail from the small town of Dracut, Massachusetts, and study writing at the gorgeous Ithaca College in New York. Besides doodling, snapping photos, and reading, I love adventuring with friends (or just staying in with a home-cooked meal and a movie). I plan to see the world and meet the many beautiful people in it, and share my shenanigans with others in hopes to spread some smiles.</span></p>

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