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Pre-departure: Anticipating the Unknown

January 27, 2019

Part of the fun of starting fresh in a completely new city, program, and environment is that it’s a departure from the norm. I chose to go abroad for the purpose of newness on every level. But with newness comes change, and with change comes anxieties. I'm flying to Amsterdam tomorrow, and in order to cope with this transition, I've thought of some things I’m excited for, and things I'm anxious about.

Excited About Meeting New People

I've been travelling in Israel for a bit before Amsterdam, and in the hostels I've stayed at I met a bunch of Dutch people! All of them seemed super nice and eager to show me around once I arrived in the city. That kind of openness gave me a lot of hope and made me feel like finding my place in Amsterdam will be easy.

Also, the more I learn about the kinds of programs and support built into being an international student in Amsterdam, the more comforted I am. The Erasmus Student Network, from my understanding, is a network of all international students studying at all different programs and schools in Amsterdam for the semester. It seems like they make a pretty concerted effort to bring those people together and build community. And it also looks like people in that network will be coming from all around the world! So I’m really excited to be a part of that. I’ve signed up for the ESN orientation, which sounds like it will be an important first step to becoming integrated into that network.

Additionally, my program at the VU through Semester in Amsterdam, the VU semester program for international students, put me in touch with a “Dutch buddy”, a current Dutch student who will be in touch with us throughout the semester to answer questions and show us around. So that sounds like it will be a really good resource.

Excited to Make Amsterdam My Own

Though I grew up outside of New York City, I always considered myself to be a small-town kind of gal. I like to know the ins and outs of a place, and truly make it my own. I’m really excited to get to know all the local hotspots, meet the shop owners and the bartenders and taxi drivers. I’m excited to try Dutch foods and become acquainted with the local market, learn Dutch recipes and cook for myself. I love to bike, and so I’m really looking forward to making that my primary form of transportation.

Nervous About not Finding my People

I have a pretty solid community back at my home university, Brandeis University. It’s a small school where everyone knows everyone, where the support and the community I’ve always found to be very strong. Departing that for the unknown conglomerate of people I expect I will meet is a bit nerve-racking, despite all the points listed above. I also know that loneliness can be hard. This summer I was abroad in Haifa, Israel, and though I had some friends with me, it was not always easy to feel connected to a broader community. I definitely had some real low points.

Nervous About Feeling Disconnected

I speak zero Dutch and know extremely little about Dutch culture. And while I hope to make the Netherlands my own, I feel I am truly starting at square one.


Overall, though, I am really looking forward to what tomorrow and the next few months will bring. I’m not anxious by nature and mostly right now I’m feeling like this whole adventure is so surreal.

See you on the other side!

Rachel Levi Blau



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