Since being in the Netherlands, I have been exposed to so many new things. I have experienced new cities, new people, new foods and a whole new way of life. While this appears to be all glamour, there are an immense amount of challenges that go with it. You are constantly going to be uncomfortable. It has been almost two months now and I have barely established a routine because their routines are vastly different from the United States.
This leads to a lot of uncertainty and when you stay at home for a weekend instead of exploring, people are quick to ask why. Why aren’t you taking advantage of this opportunity you have? You don’t have time to sleep, why don’t you go out? It is true that most of the time you can find me outside or planning a new trip. However, I still need to take days to unwind in my home away from home like I would at home.
At first, I used to feel guilty about doing this. I felt guilty about sleeping in or watching Netflix for most of the day but then I realised, this is apart of my ritual at home. This is what I would do to unwind from a stressful day and I feel like I stressed myself out more by trying to cut this out of my routine. As a studying abroad student, your routine is completely thrown away and as mentioned in earlier blogs, you need to hold on to pieces of it.
Now I’m not saying stay in your room the entire time. Go out and explore, take a walk, bike around or plan a trip! I enjoy these parts immensely but don’t feel guilty for taking a couple days to recuperate. Never forget that what you are doing is challenging and it is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. So my advice, future study abroad students? Recognise your uncomfort, take a couple days or moments and then go back out there. But don’t let it control your study abroad and let your room be all that you see.
On Thursday, our instructor invited us to his house for dinner as a welcome to the Netherlands. But first, he promised to show us a bit of Germany and that is exactly what he did!
Traveling to different countries is the equivalent of traveling to different states in America. To input some random facts, to get out of Arizona alone it took my family 8 hours by car. I could get to the tip of Italy in that time from where I am, and the Netherlands is at the top of Europe: it is so small! The entire country of the Netherlands could fit inside of half of Arizona and nearly every EU country could fit inside of Texas. Crazy isn’t it?
So back to the Germany story, it was about a 30 minute drive as we took a longer route to see some sites. After a “cattle guard”, we entered the city of Kranenburg, Germany! There was a lot of agriculture on this part and back in WWII, American soldiers landed in one of the fields and ran to the river to help prevent the German’s from crossing the Dutch bridge. Crazy isn’t it? I felt like I was inside of a history book and I am itching to go back and truly explore.
The dinner was also nice and it was interesting to talk to him and his wife about their travels. At one point, they lived in Africa for 10 years and it’s amazing the perspective they have. When we began talking about culture and communication, I was able to participate in the conversation because I related so much to what they said. The world is so vast but also the same and that common link is communication. Once you know their language, people light up and you are able to learn so much more about them.
While Dutch is immensely difficult to learn coming from English, I challenge myself everyday to read something new or speak a new word. It is hard, frustrating, and sometimes overwhelming but the things you learn, just can’t be learned anywhere else.
As I pedal my way past the halfway point (get it, because of the bicycle?) I’d like to think I’ve gotten the basis of living in the Netherlands down. I know how my classes work, I can say basic Dutch words, and figured out how theonline grocery ad’s workto figure out what I’m eating each week! While I am adapting, this doesn’t mean I don’t miss home and how I’m used to living.
In the Netherlands, the people are much more reserved and direct: it’s just in the nature. They mean no harm but sometimes can come off rude and it happens every day. This is especially true when you go outside of the normal. If you couldn’t guess by the title, my best example of this is my brightly colored workout pants.
People here dress nicely, everywhere. I’m not saying suit and tie, but definetly borderline business casual, it’s just a cultural thing! This is not true of Americans whatsoever. While I personally can’t bring myself to do it myself, almost all of my friends walk around in their pajamas if they want to. This is just something that does not happen in this country, and as a result, I’ve been afraid to wear my exercise pants while biking to the gym.
It hit me today that while it is important to adapt, it’s also important to remember where you came from and keep those parts of yourself too. This can mean cooking your food at a certain time, splurging on your favorite shampoo or even wearing your pants to the gym, no matter how many looks you get. And despite the looks I received today, I finally felt comfortable enough to brave them all and wear my fun pants to my gym.
To my surprise? Someone else was wearing blue pants too. I finally felt at home.