On June 13th my best friend and her husband were starting off a group tour through Europe in Rome, and you better believe I jumped on the opportunity to meet up with them. I arrived in Rome Thursday evening and had … Continue reading
Another dream: fulfilled. I went to Paris. I traveled to the city of love by night bus Thursday evening with two other girls. We found a great deal that would give us three full days in Paris, and avoid the typical unfortunate side … Continue reading
One of the major highlights of my trip to London was what I got to do on March 31st. I got to fulfill another dream, I got to explore Leavesden Studio. (Better known as the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – … Continue reading
From the 27th of April to the 2nd of March I was blessed with the opportunity to explore London. This is something that I have always dreamed of doing but never thought I’d actually be fortunate enough to do. Words can’t describe … Continue reading
Valencia On Monday the 24th we made our way to another city along the Mediterranean coast, Valencia. We scored round trip bus tickets for €40, great deal and also a great way to travel. The bus was close to empty … Continue reading
First weekend getaway: check! I spent Valentine’s weekend treating myself to Belgian chocolate and waffles in one of the most intact medieval cities in the world- Bruges, Belgium. Not a bad way to celebrate, I must say. There were nine of … Continue reading
Here are the pictures of where I am living for just under five months 🙂
Bathroom. The pictures are deceiving, it is actually much dirtier than it appears. But there are two of these for the 15 rooms, 3 showers and 3 toilets.
Hallway, with the recycling out for the world to see.
Kitchen, again do not let this deceive you, doesn’t look this nice and clean in person 😉
My room all put together! I am actually really happy with my room, I have made it my own and it feels like home.
“Experience, travel- these are an education in themselves.” -Euripides
Things I’ve Noticed/Culture Shock:
-Everyone wears scarves. EVERYONE. Men, women, children, all of them wear scarves. Mostly big thick infinity scarves. Which makes sense, with it being cold and windy you kinda need to, especially when cycling.
-People are very helpful, I have not yet asked a Dutch for directions or asked them a question that they were not very helpful and nice in response.
-This is a city with a heck of a night life. When my night ends, everyone is just beginning. Bars and pubs don’t begin to fill up until 1, by then I am tapped out. People stay out until the wee hours of the morning like it’s nothing.
-Condoms. We were given condoms in our welcome bag. This would NEVER happen where I’m from, seeing as how public schools are prohibited from teaching about sex. Abstinence rather is the education of choice, prevention is out of the question. I highly disagree with that method of education chosen by my home state, but it is what I have become accustomed to. So getting a condom in my welcome bag was quite a shock for me.
-So very liberal, which I knew, but it’s definitely a shock coming from my conservative state. Culture shock in a good way, people are very open minded and don’t pay mind to how others are living their lives. Refreshing change.
-A lot of times you can’t exit a store the same way that you enter. There are gates you have to pass through when you enter a store, and you can’t go back out of them. So a lot of times you have to go through the check out to exit a store.
-No plastic grocery bags. If you want one, you pay for it. Otherwise you come prepared with your own reusable bag. Also, you bag all of your own stuff. Luckily ESN gave us one, I bought an extra one, and I bring my backpack as well.
-Stores don’t open until 1 on Mondays.
-Cars don’t attempt to give cyclists space. I mean why would they, when there are so many of them. But it is very different from where I’m from, where hardly anyone cycles, they will practically go to the clear other side of the road to ensure a cyclist has space. Also, buses drive right behind herds of cyclists, practically riding their rear ends.
-Ambulances are yellow.
-I didn’t notice this, rather was informed of it. The provinces of North and South Holland associate themselves differently than those in Groningen. When asked what country they live in, the typical response from a Groningen native would be The Netherlands. When asked the same question by natives of the aforementioned provinces, they would say Holland. And apparently, the cities Amsterdam and Rotterdam are not pals.
Obvious Out-of-Towner Moments:
– When I tried to order off of the kids menu. Needless to say I got laughed at.
-Cycling my bike on the wrong side of the road.
-Going to a card only checkout lane when I only had cash.
-Referring back to the enter/exit system in stores – The time I didn’t know how to get out of a store when I didn’t buy anything.
-Getting lost. More times than I’d even like to admit to.
-Cheese. I can’t figure out the cheese for the life of me. The first time I bought cheese, I got what I thought looked the closest to cheddar. Turns out, it was parmesan. (I know, I know, they look nothing alike. But the packaging was deceiving I swear.)
-Buying non-alcoholic beverages when I was intending to buy them with alcohol.
“Half the fun of travel is the aesthetic of lostness.” -Ray Bradbury
Here is what I’ve been up to for the past few days!
Thursday was the welcoming ceremony at the Academy Building, they had a few people speak, different clubs with booths to look at, and ESN sign ups. The room they held it in was beautiful, stain glass everywhere, it looked like where Shakespeare would have held plays had he been Dutch. Now-a-days it is used for PHD students in defending their degree. During the speeches I was so impressed by how witty and entertaining everyone was. A couple members from a local comedy group introduced all of the different speakers. The president of the university spoke, rather than being stuffy and prestigious he was cool, just cool. A retired professor spoke, I never would have guessed how great a speaker he would have been. The entire room was riveted, he talked about the different phases we will go through during our time here. First is the everything is better here phase, second is the things that are worse here phase, and third is the some things are better some things are worse phase. ESN is the Erasmus Student Network which is basically an organization for internationals in the city. They hold various activities and excursions throughout the semester. First is introduction week, which is what they had us sign up for. So each day/night they had all sorts of activities people could take part in. Afterwards we got some free food and drinks, and yes the school itself provided us with beer and wine (culture shock moment for me). After that I went to the Drie Gezusters (I have a feeling I will be seeing a lot of that place in my time here) for drinks with a group of international students. Finally I was able to find a beer I can handle here. I don’t like beer, nor do I like wine, so finding something to drink here has been a challenge. Until I was informed of cherry beer, I’m hooked! So delicious.
(Where they held the speeches for the Welcoming Ceremony)
Friday was the start of the ESN introduction week. Over 400 people signed up for the intro week, and they divided us into 40 groups. My group consists of people from all over; Canada, Sweden, Brazil, Latvia, Hong Kong, the US, Australia, Germany, etc. The first activity was dinner at our introduction guide’s place then off to the “pub crawl.”
Saturday I moved into my international student housing. It was the day just about everyone was moving, so when I tried to head out at 9:30am I already had a 30 minute wait for a taxi. The girls in my hostel got up a little later to move and they had a two hour wait, I also heard someone who had to wait three hours for a taxi. My first impression of the building: SMELLS. So bad. It smells just like the reptile house at the zoo. My floor smells equally as terrible. It was pretty dirty when I moved in and a lot of things are broken. On the positive: my room is a good size, perfect even not too much space but enough. It wasn’t too dirty when I moved in, and once I did my own deep cleaning it’s just fine. I will put up pictures of the before and after in a separate post once I get some more pictures uploaded. When I arrived to check in I also had arranged to pick up the bike I was buying off a girl, my first experience riding it was high tailing it in the rain to an ATM when I was short on cash. But it’s a great bike, perfect size, rides great, have a good strong lock, and I have extra lights for it. Bikes get stolen here very often, it’s a running joke of the city, so a heavy duty lock is a must. Again, I will post pictures when I have them uploaded. I also went to IKEA to get some more things to make my room more livable. IKEA is huge here, that’s where students get EVERYTHING.
Sunday I spent some more time settling in. One thing that makes me feel right at home is the shopping hours on Sundays. Stores are closed on Sundays, unless it is the first Sunday of the month which is called “shopping Sunday.” Then, stores are open from 12-5, but not all stores are open. I was finally able to stock up some groceries at Albert Heijn which is the most prominent grocery store chain here in Groningen. I don’t know exactly how many there are in the city, but I have seen five so far. In this, what is considered a small city, alone. They have lots of fruit and healthy foods which I’m loving. After that I got dinner with the ESN festivities and from there to the other side of town for a comedy show. The local comedy group Stranger Things Have Happened did an improve show that was great, they were really funny. Afterwards it was time to get home, but I was on the other side of the city and didn’t know my way back. So a friend (from Sweden) who lives in my housing drove my bike, with me sitting back on the rack. It was quite the experience! It is extremely common here, you see it all the time. But it was my first time actually taking part, and boy it hurt!
Monday was the start of the semester, so I had my first lecture for my Organizational Change course. Taught by a professor who has more jobs than I can recall. He works for the Dutch government, teaches in South Africa, is a management consultant in Amsterdam, etc etc. I was schedule for two courses that fall at the same time, but luckily Social Environment and Behavior is rather easy so I’ve heard and they record the lectures and put them online. I was finally able to find some shower shoes which I had been desperately needing. Later on ESN held Dutch Language Lessons which was led by a really funny Dutch guy. I have some basics down but I’m really hoping to learn quite a bit more!
Tuesday was a get stuff done day. I didn’t have lecture until 5 so I spent the day doing laundry, watching my lecture that I wasn’t able to attend the previous day, and getting various school items together. Then onto lecture which was the same Organizational Change course, and straight from there to the cinema. ESN put on a movie night where they showed American Hustle. The movie theater (here called cinema) was massive and really nice! Most movies and TV shows here are in English, with Dutch subtitles.
I am still loving having the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, it’s been an amazing experience. Although I do really want to integrate more with the locals. I’m loving riding my bike everywhere, and seeing hundreds of people cycling around me. I must say, my legs are extremely sore, but boy will they be in shape! My hostel was right smack dab in the city center, which I do miss being there. That’s the truly breath taking part of the city, although it is all beautiful. But I am a mere 10 minute bike ride away. I’m really not far from anything by bike which is so cool.
(Groningen Centraal, the train station inside and out)
(Not sure what the name of this is, but I find it really pretty)
I know these past couple of posts have been very long, thank you for bearing with me through it! As I am still just getting settled in I like to write about all of my firsts here and when things are still new, but after time the posts will get shorter!
I am going to post some more culture shock moments, things that are different here, and some of my obvious out of towner moments in a post to follow. There’s a long running list of them! 😉
“Now and then in travel, something unexpected happens that transforms the whole nature of the trip and stays with the traveler.” -Paul Theroux
Here are some pictures of the Bud Gett hostel where I stayed for four nights. I was very impressed by how nice and clean it was, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed staying in the ten bed room. I wasn’t sure if that was they way to go when I booked my reservation, I highly considered a private room. However I am so glad I made the choice I did, it was a great way to meet people!
This is the view of most of the room, there are ten beds (all bunk beds). The beds were actually decently comfortable and I got lucky and didn’t have anyone above me the entire time. We had girls come in and out in the four days I was there, but not once did we have two people from the same country. Then you can see my bed (with my mass amounts of luggage) next to that are the lockers where I was able to lock up all of my valuables.
Next is the bathroom, which theses pictures don’t quite do the exceedingly tiny size justice. The view of the shower is from as far back in the bathroom as I could get. The first picture that looks like where you would pull a seat liner from, that would be the flusher. Never seen one like it before, but they’re all the same here!
Also known as the shower. There was another toilet and shower at the end of the hallway for all the rooms on the floor to use, so that helped out when needing to shower in a room of close to ten girls!
See that window there in the first picture? That’s a window I would pass by whenever I was walking to my room in the hostel. See that doorway and garbage in the next picture? That would be someone’s house. So these lucky fellows got to share a balcony with a hostel, found this quite interesting!
Stay tuned for my next post where I fill you in on what I’ve been up to for the past few days, and a wrap up of my first week here!
“Don’t be afraid that something happens to you. Be afraid that nothing happens to you. Nothing noteworthy or exciting or breathtaking. I’m more afraid of putting my dreams on a shelf and later realizing I’m too jaded or too tired to live them.” -We Are Sole Sisters