I'm lucky enough to have only been back in the United States for three days, but it feels like I left Europe a lifetime ago. I spent the holidays with my parents in Amsterdam and Bruges and we had a wonderful time wandering around Christmas markets, eating delicious food, and spending time together catching up on the last four months. I had been looking forward to their arrival so much that I hadn't really come to grips with the fact that I was leaving Amsterdam until we got to the hotel at the airport the night before we left. I've spent a lot of time in Amsterdam's Schiphol airport over the last few months, but this time I knew I wouldn't be coming back in a few days. This time Schiphol was the origin but not the final destination. It felt surreal to lift off the ground and wave goodbye to the lowlands of Europe that have been home to me for the last semester. I'm still coming to terms with it as jetlag makes everything feel like a dream and being at home feels more like being on a vacation.
My parents moved from my hometown of Ipswich, MA to Salem, about thirty minutes away, this July and it occured to me on the flight home that I lived in Amsterdam for twice as long as I've lived in Salem. Of course, I grew up so close to here that this doesn't make a huge difference in my perception of home, but in the back of my very tired brain I have this feeling that I'm going back to my little studio apartment any day now. I have to keep reminding myself that's not happening. I'm still riding the high of seeing friends and family that I've missed so much, but I know this will wear off soon and I'll be wondering how that familiar windmill view that I got so used to is looking to the next students who will move in.
Looking back on my experience I am filled with such gratitude. I'm thankful for my parents without whom I wouldn't get to do any of the traveling that I've been so lucky to have expereinced by only the age of 22. I'm thankful for the IES Abroad staff in Amsterdam. I assume all IES Abroad coordinators are pretty interesting, helpful people but I'm willing to bet that the women at the Amsterdam location are one of a kind. They made us all feel so at home for the whole four months while allowing us to grow and explore as independantly as we wanted to. Also, to any future IES Abroad students, you should definitely go on at least a couple of the day trips planned by the staff for the students. Seeing parts of the Netherlands with our very own Dutch guide was one of the highlights of my trip. I'm thankful for every single one of the people that I met abroad. From my closest friend who lived right next door to the Dutch students I got to know in class for a couple hours a week, everyone I interacted with made an impact on my experience. I'm most thankful for the city of Amsterdam. I will miss the laid back, aesthetically breathtaking city with every fiber of my being, but it's not goodbye, it's tot ziens!