I am on board my flight, waiting for my in-flight dinner, which will probably be the usual chicken or pasta. I’m using this time to reflect on how I intend to make the most of the upcoming semester. I am a full year abroad student, so I’m already halfway through my stay in Amsterdam, and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to have a second chance at experiencing this wonderful city and country.
One of the biggest lifestyle changes I intend to make is to travel within the Netherlands more. One of the most important aspects of study abroad for me is the aspect of cultural immersion; not immersing yourself in the culture of your host country is a waste your time abroad. It can be tempting to just stay in Amsterdam your whole time; I mean, aside from a few weekend trips to other countries, which is one of the great benefits of studying abroad in Europe, I only ever visited The Hague last semester. It was great to contrast that city to Amsterdam and get a real feel for the country as a whole. Amsterdam is a bit of a standalone city in the Netherlands, as it is so international. Dutch culture really shines when you visit other large cities, such as The Hague, Utrecht, and Rotterdam, or especially in the smaller towns and rural areas. The Netherlands is such a small country that many worthwhile destinations are not more than an hour by train, so simply doing a day trip to a small medieval town like Amersfoort or somewhere in the southern countryside, where the accents are very different from the Dutch you hear in Amsterdam, is very easy and affordable. Plus, Amsterdam can be overwhelming and hectic at times, so a nice, calm train ride to a nice, calm part of the Netherlands can be a refreshing reset.
I also intend to take advantage of any nice weather we get this semester. Northern Europe is dark, gray, and wet, and the Netherlands is especially rainy. I imagine the first month or two will be pretty grim, in all honesty. But, as soon as it gets somewhat warm, or there’s any inkling of sunshine, you best believe that I will be out and about, walking and cycling through my favorite parts of the city. I want to try more restaurants, shop at more thrift stores, discover beautiful, hidden canals and alleys, and ultimately get to know the city inside out; those days where it’s not miserable out are going to be very productive in terms of my cultural immersion. In the beginning of last semester, there was a heat wave in the Netherlands, and it was quite warm for almost two weeks. I went swimming in parks on the canals, spent time in the Amsterdam Woods, and was out walking and cycling all day and night. Those days quickly faded away and it made me realize how precious our time outside is. I felt cooped up in my room towards the end of last semester, avoiding any reasons to go outside. This is unsustainable and unpleasant. So, those days of nice weather are precious; make the most of them.
As I’m finishing up writing this piece, post Lufthansa chicken (it was actually quite tasty) and getting ready to sleep however much I can, I’m excited at the prospect of trying new things and experiencing this wonderful city and country in a different way than I did last semester, and to really make the most of my time there.
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Despite being a history major and studying history at the UvA this year, I am a passionate musician. I have been playing piano for over a decade, focusing largely on jazz, but I love to play guitar, banjo, and mandolin in my free time!