One of the hardest parts about adjusting to life in the Netherlands, and abroad in general, is the amount of free time I now have. At University of Rochester, my home school, I've been involved in a myriad of activities. I was in Ballet Performance Group and a sorority and I wrote for a few different University online publications over the years. I also worked twelve hours a week in the University call center. On top of all this I had at least four classes to worry about that met at least twice a week. Here in Amsterdam I only have three classes, and two of them only meet once a week. I don't have a job (because of the type of residence permit I have) and I'm not involved in any extra activities except for a dance class on Tuesday nights that just ended for the semester. On Wednesdays at 11 a.m. I am done for the week and the next four days are completely open.
I created my schedule this way on puropse. I can't remember the last time I had so much time to myself. Even as far back as elementary school I always had some activity to go to after school or some social event to attend. This summer I worked nearly constantly, and I looked forward to my four month break with envy for my future self. However, adjusting to all this time off has been quite a struggle. It was easy for me to tell myself that I would use my four days off every week to travel around Europe and explore Amsterdam. Of course that's what I'd be doing, this is abroad afterall. Living abroad for four months is a lot different than visiting, and being a tourist gets very exhausting. Even when I do go on outings around Amsterdam that's usually about half of my day at most... then what?
I've learned recently that doing nothing is okay, even when you're in the most amazing, beautiful city in the entire world. Not only am I better at doing nothing, I'm better at being alone. I'm an only child so I've always taken for granted that I'm great at being alone and I don't need other people to have a good time. Well... it turns out I'm actually a huge extrovert and going for more than two hours without talking to someone makes me explode all over my Twitter, and no one wants that. But being forced to have the most alone time I've ever had has forced me to reflect on and try to improve myself in ways I never have before.
My advice to anyone who is planning on studying abroad is to be open. This sounds super cheesy and obvious but I don't mean be open to the culture, or new experiences, or any of that. Of course you have to do that to have a good time in any travel situation, but what's specific about going abroad is that you are going to have down time and traveling does not always carry this component. Be open to this down time and reject all of the guilt that comes with not constantly climbing windmills and wandering through museums and taking perfect Instagram photos of the canals and its various swanlife. Part of living in another country is finding a daily rythm and part of this rythm is going to be just sitting and reading, or watching Netflix, or staring out the window and doing nothing, and that's okay. And bonus, when you're pushed to boredem more often, you find out exactly how best to entertain yourself, and being your own entertainment is a skill you can take anywhere.
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<p>I grew up in Ipswich, MA an incredibly beautiful (though much too small) town on the northern coast of Massachusetts. I began college in 2013 at the University of Rochester, planning to major in Brain and Cognitive Science. I ended up having to take some time of of school for health reasons and I was lucky enough to travel to India for three months where I backpacked with a gap year program called Carpe Diem. It was the most incredible experience I've ever had, how could it not be. But to be honest it feels surreal now. I am so excited to get back to living far away from everything familiar to me. When I came back to U of R in the winter of 2015 I decided to major in English and Anthropology and now my dream is to work for NPR. These days I'm usually listening to a podcast or book on tape, reading, or writing.</p>