Hi everyone – Sabrina Peng here, reporting from Amsterdam, the Netherlands! I’ve just finished the first month of my study abroad semester here (time flies!), and I thought I would catch y’all up on a few of my favorite moments so far:
1) constantly getting lost in my university’s labyrinth of a building and accidentally getting locked in
2) frantically asking random people for help reading Dutch labels on food items in the grocery store
3) coming to within an inch of my life after almost being run over multiple times by bikes and trams
In all seriousness though, it’s been four weeks of happiness and craziness, and I’ve finally settled into Dutch life a lot better than I thought I would – from learning new food vocabulary to being extra careful to look both ways in the streets before crossing. I didn’t think I would be nervous about studying abroad, but my experiences have proven that however confident you are to begin with, you must always be prepared to expect the unexpected – especially in the case of that old lady almost taking me out with her bike.
One thing I wasn’t sure of at the beginning of this experience was making friends, especially new Dutch ones. Although there were 130+ students in my provider program who were all American (some even from TCU, close to home), there was still that awkward moment the moment I rolled my suitcase up to the group of chattering, excited people waiting in the Schiphol airport. It was one of those first-day-of-school vibes all over again, where no one knows what to do to ease into conversation. Over the misery of being forced to stand outside in cutting winds and near-freezing weather, however, I made my first friends 5000 miles away from home.
Although different class schedules and living arrangements have shifted who I most often hang out with, I’m so fortunate to have a great circle of friends here, and even more so to have four amazing (and clean!) roommates. Having to cook in a shared kitchen can be a daunting task, but we’ve managed to survive our first month without burning the place down, so I count that as a success. Together, we’ve visited pubs to celebrate birthdays, danced the night away at clubs, and planned trips to visit other countries (including a weekend away to Brussels soon!).
I’ve also connected with my Dutch classmates better than I expected. Although everyone here does speak English, English is still considered the second language to Dutch, which is used for the majority of conversations. This has led to some difficulty communicating, but it’s pushed me to ask about and practice common phrases – even if my American tongue can’t produce those pesky, throaty sounds that the letter “g” is supposed to make. One girl in particular in my computer networks class is someone I know I’ll keep up with in the future, even when I return to the States. She’s 18, wicked smart, and willing to answer all my (sometimes dumb) questions about Dutch life. I can’t wait to continue making new Dutch friends who I’ll be able to come and visit in the future!
In this blog post, I’d also like to address what “study abroad” actually entails. Studying abroad for me hasn’t been just rainbows and butterflies, where I’m spending all my weeknights out on the town and all my weekends sipping wine in different countries. Studying abroad means actually *studying* abroad – I’ve spent most of my weekday evenings studying lecture notes, writing code, and completing ridiculous amounts of homework. I even have classes where the professor has explicitly measured out the time that we should be spending on the course every week! Because of this, I’ve found that the best way to make use of my limited time here has been to finish my work on weeknights, carefully planning out which weekends I have free and where I want to go the most. In addition, since my university doesn’t have dedicated spring breaks, I’ve had to intentionally carve out longer periods of time in my schedule so I can visit places that are farther away.
So far, I’ve done solo day trips to Rotterdam (where I got to take pictures of these really cool cube houses and see two of the world’s best men’s tennis players play each other) and The Hague (where the king’s palaces sit right next to tiny street cafes and Chinatown offers unlimited dimsum/hotpot for only twenty euros). These two trips were great because I was able to map out everything on my own and travel at my own pace. I’m also planning a trip to the Iberian peninsula (Barcelona and Lisbon…see you soon!), as well as Dublin, Munich, and Italy/Greece with my friends! I’ll have to wait for my longer breaks for those to happen, but I can just imagine myself standing on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, celebrating Springfest with a pretzel in hand, and taking in the picturesque coastline along the Mediterranean. All of this is at my fingertips, and I can’t believe I only have three months left to experience all of it.
It’s been a great four weeks, but the next twelve are promising to be even better. Sitting at this café writing this blog post and enjoying the views of the canals outside, I’m just feeling so thankful to have this opportunity of a lifetime. Now, I’m going to dive right back into what study abroad has to offer, and I’ll see y’all on the other side!
Thanks for reading and follow along for more adventures on Instagram at @sabribritravels and @smuabroad