Travels

Amsterdam: Havin’ Fun on Week One

So, my flight got delayed. This means I missed the flight to Amsterdam and had to reschedule another one. After 9 exhausting hours in a plane, my big toenail was knocked off by a piece of luggage the moment I got off the bus. Like it was literally just laying on the ground beside of my foot. Also, I kept getting to the supermarket five minutes after it closed so I had to use my old t-shirts as towels for a couple of days. One day, I plugged my flat iron into the outlet and the power went out in half of my room, so I have been going full blown fuzz head ever since. And, most importantly, Hulu doesn’t stream outside of the US so I have no way of watching this season of The Bachelorette.

But ya know what? It’s all good. I’m in the sixth happiest country in the world.

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Only a few short days ago I hugged my momma and said my see ya later’s before I headed off to Amsterdam, Netherlands for the next four weeks. This month I will be studying business and communications at the University of Amsterdam and earning 3 transferable credits! (For those interested in the actual title of my class, it is Contemporary Television: Business, Storytelling, Audience.) Last fall semester, I began looking at independent studying abroad options because 1) it was something I had always wanted to do and 2) my college doesn’t offer a program I can travel through. A friend recommended CIEE, and their business courses offered three places that I was interested in: Shanghai, Moscow, and of course, Amsterdam. I went with Amsterdam because I believed it was the most similar of the three to America, so I wouldn’t have total culture shock upon my arrival. I chose to stay four weeks rather than eight or twelve simply because frontin’ the bill ain’t easy. Luckily, I have a super supportive community that came together to help me fundraise and cover the cost for my trip! (You can check out my tips for fundraising by clicking here.)

But after saying my see ya later’s, I headed into the Cincinnati airport to check in and prepare for my flight. Shaking like a leaf, I stood alone at the check in kiosk as I printed off my flight information. After checking my baggage and going through TSA, I settled down at gate B02 flying into Detroit. After seeing lightning strike on the horizon, I heard the announcement of flight number whatever the heck I was getting on being delayed. Anyone who has ever briefly met me knows I am a stickler for punctuality, so knowing this flight was delayed drove me crazy. I kept doing mental math to determine if I would be on time for my flight to Amsterdam, and spoiler alert, I wasn’t.

Luckily on my flight from Cincinnati, I overheard a girl diagonal from me asking the flight attendant about if we would make it in time for her to board her international flight. I asked her where, to which she responded, “Amsterdam.” I asked her if it was for CIEE, to which she responded, “Yes.” And I truly believe God provided me with a friend in that moment for both my comfort and safety. Abby had been placed on the same connector flight as her dad, although they were flying to separate places, so he helped us schedule to leave for Amsterdam about two hours after we were supposed to.

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Once in Amsterdam, Abby and I missed the group pickup time by a little under an hour, so we caught a taxi into the city for our group orientation. Even as I saw the canals and thousands of bicycles parked along the street, it was so hard for me to realize that I was in Amsterdam for the next four weeks. It still feels unreal!

Yet, rather quickly, I have integrated myself into the Dutch way of life. I keep my windows open as everyone else here does since air conditioning isn’t a thing. I also now feel comfortable enough with public transportation to put in headphones til I reach my stop. However, I still walk most of where I’m going because it’s 1) free, 2) exercise, and 3) totally doable. Although I picked Amsterdam thinking that it was fairly similar to American culture, there are several minor differences in the beliefs, practices, and lifestyles the will occasionally remind me I’m not in K̶a̶n̶s̶a̶s̶ Kentucky anymore.

One thing that they kept reiterating during orientation was to not be offended by “Dutch bluntness”. Coming from the south — where we mask mean thoughts with a “bless her heart” or we swear up and down when someone does us wrong that “it’s okay, honey” — I was afraid I would be hurt by someone being a little rude. Surprisingly, it’s actually kind of refreshing for me to hear people say what they are thinking rather than hiding behind a polite way of expressing themselves.

I’ve encountered Dutch bluntness a few times when ordering at a restaurant or shopping at the market. (Asking the server what they recommend you order is not a thing here — they’ll look at you like you’re crazy.) But no occurrence was more eye opening to me than when I met a lady who owned a boutique right outside of De 9 Straatjes (The 9 Streets). Somehow we began talking about Dutch politics — the Red Light District, “tolerated” weed, etc. — and she explained to me how she felt about each thing. I hope to go back and talk to her during my time here, so I will save her thoughts and opinions for a post I’ll compose more in depth later. But, I do have to add that she said the boutique is her shop, meaning she can talk about whatever she wants to talk about and kick out whoever she wants to kick out. (I think she liked me though because I wasn’t kicked out.)

On another note, classes began Friday. In class, we are currently discussing the business side of television and how demographics, time slots, etc. play a large role in advertisement. (Isaiah and I can attest to this. We used to watch The Price is Right everyday at 11a.m. and the commercials were all for life insurance, electronic stair climbers, and hearing aids.) I feel like generally, when people study abroad, the folks back home forget that they’re studying abroad. I’m guilty of that, too. I know I have posted a billion pictures on Facebook of me running around the city, but what I didn’t post pictures of was last night’s forty pages and an online article I read, plus the journal entry I had to write. Also, it’s like that almost every night until my final exam the Friday before I leave.

But, I’m not just learning about television everyday. I’m learning about myself, too. I’m learning that I have the courage to walk alone around the city if everyone is going to a coffeeshop (a place that can “legally” sell weed) but I wanna go the Museum of Bags and Purses instead. I’m learning that budgeting money is hard, and sometimes I’ve gotta pass up on the Starbucks so that I can save money for some jewelry at the market. I’m learning that some days I don’t wanna do anything except come back from class and sleep (as I did today), and that’s okay too.

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I’m having so much fun. It’s hard for me to believe that I am a quarter of the way through my time here when I literally feel like I just landed. Thank you again to everyone who helped me make this trip possible. I am so grateful for every prayer and every penny that’s brought me this far. Here’s to another week in Amsterdam!

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