Well, this is one of my very last posts on this blog! In ten days I will be checking out of the apartment I've been living in for the last four months, turning in my beloved Museumkaart, and meeting up with my parents to spend the holidays in an airbnb in my favorite neighborhood of Amsterdam. I'm so thankful I'm staying for the holidays because if I had to think about leaving this incredible country in just ten days I would be miserable. Also I get to check off all the last-minute items on my Amsterdam bucket list! Not to mention enjoy some meals out that I could not afford on my own. The past week has been filled with constant writing and studying so I have a lot of things on my mind. This has just made me realize that I have learned SO MUCH while being abroad, academic and not. So I thought I would use today's post to talk about five of the things I've learned from Amsterdam and this experience as a whole.
1. Budget airlines are not really about budget-friendly. Okay this is not totally the case if you're careful, but it's definitely possible to wrack up fees if you're not looking! EasyJet and other budget airlines sell tickets for very cheap, this is true. But, they can afford to do this because they will charge you for everything else. On some airlines you have to pay a fee just to buy a seat, that's not included with the ticket... not sure what the ticket is buying you then. When using budget airlines, be careful!!
2. Keeping friends in a city takes work. I've been lucky enough to always have friends. I went to school with the same kids from a young age and I still count many of my hometown classmates among my best friends. Then being a freshman in college made making new friends very easy because everyone is in the same boat looking for some semblance of a homebase in a new place. At the University of Amsterdam things are not so simple. People live spread out over the city and there isn't really a central campus meeting point. So unfortunately many of the friends I made in the first month here ended up drifting. I'm still glad I had those transient relationships, but I've learned that living in a city isn't the easiest thing on one's social life.
3. Being alone is sometimes better. Seriously, this is true! I've made a couple day trips to other cities in the Netherlands and those were some of the best days of my time here! When you're alone you can do exactly what you want and not have to worry about what a companion may want to do. Also, your impressions of the place you're exploring are so much more personal and natural because you're not thinking about what your traveling companion thinks.
4. The Netherlands is not a haven of progressive attitudes. This one blew my mind. When people think of Amsterdam they think of a totally liberal, open city where everyone can let their freak flag fly with no flack from anyone else. This is not the case. There are a lot of really disturbing attitudes and traditions in this country, just like anywhere else! I could go on about this forever, as this has a lot to do with many of the classes I took. Broadly though, I've learned not to be so idealistic about people or places, because usually there's much more to the story.
5. Simple is better. I love Amsterdam. I've seriosuly left my heart here, and I'm going to feel lost when I return to a land of orange presidents and nonstop news. One of the best things about the Dutch is the simplicity with which things are comunicated and accepted. This definitely speaks to the straightforward way with which the Dutch communicate. In the United States there is a contant consideration of what another may think and whether it's good or bad. I have felt that much, much less here. This may stem from my lack of commitments here but I definitely attribute some of it to the straightforward attitude the Dutch have. Either way, the lesson has been learned and I hope to be a lot less busy and manic when I return home. Taking a deep breath is always a good idea.