From May 9th to May 18th I had the privilege of hosting my mom during her first trip to Europe. It was such a blessing to get to share this experience with her, and we had an incredible time. It … Continue reading
On April 26th I had the privilege to take part in The Netherlands very first King’s Day. Previously known as Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag), this day is a national holiday that celebrates the Dutch monarchy. The first Queen’s Day took place back in 1885 and honored the birthday of Queen Wilhelmina on August 31st. The date has shifted around, coinciding with different birthdays, but now it celebrates the recently inaugurated King Willem-Alexander (whose birthday is actually on April 27th, however with that falling on a Sunday this year the first King’s Day was celebrated the day before instead). Festivals are plentiful, orange is donned, DJ’s fill the streets with music – it’s quite the day! The night before is also considered “King’s Night,” so the excitement begins in the evening and lasts well into the next night. I had a great time harnessing my inner Dutchness, and loved being able to take part in this fun holiday!
“I mean, I want to see. I want to see all I can every place there is to see. My life carries eyes and they’re there for one reason. To see through them.” -Bob Dylan
I stumbled upon this video that (tries) to simplify the confusion surrounding what the actual name is of the country where the Dutch are found. Enjoy!
“Big stuff and little: learning how to order breakfast in a country where I don’t speak the language and haven’t been before- that’s really satisfying. I like that.” -Anthony Bourdain
There has been a lot of speculation as to whether I am actually “studying” while abroad.
I am here to set the record straight: yes I am indeed going to my classes and studying. In fact, I am in the midst of exam week. My classes are much different here than they are back home. The semester is split into two blocks, A and B. I’m taking five classes total, three A block and two B block. During A block I had lectures once a week for each class, Mondays and Wednesdays, for two hours each. So total I had six hours worth of class every week, and I didn’t miss one lecture. I don’t have homework, no essays to write or busy work to bust out. My entire grade in each course is based off of an exam that is given at the end of the block. Right now I am in the courses Organizational Change, Social Environment and Behavior, and Intergroup Relations. After exams I will move to my second block courses which are Personality and Individual Differences and Diversity in Organizations. These are all psychology courses that are going to help me on my path to the organizational communication career path I’m intending to pursue.
The set of up the semester here leaves me with a lot of free time, which is what has afforded me the opportunity to travel so much. There are four full weeks throughout the semester that I have off from lectures, so of course I am going to take advantage of that time! There is so much more to this experience than textbooks and lectures. Passing my classes and gaining credit towards my degree are certainly priorities to me, but I am gaining so much more than that. The life experience I am getting here far outweighs anything a textbook can teach me. The history I am able to see with my own eyes, the cultures I am able to interact with, gaining more independence, I could go on and on. That is why I am so grateful for the way semesters are designed here.
“Exploration is the physical expression of the intellectual passion. And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore.” -Apsley Cherry-Garrard
…you have your bike stolen. Guess that makes me a legitimate Groninger now?
My bike was stolen the other night in the city center while I was taking part in a Pub Quiz. Bike theft is a very, very common occurrence in Groningen. There’s a whole business behind it, people stealing bikes and reselling them. I’ve heard stories of people who had their bike stolen only to see someone else riding it a few days later. Often times the person riding it had just bought it off of someone else. On more than one occasion the “new owner” was kind enough to simply give the bike back to the victim. One time a guy had his bike stolen, went to purchase a new one, and the bike he went to purchase ended up being the one that had just been stolen from him. More often than not, however, people never see their bike again. I was so bummed when I walked out of the pub, went to where I had parked my bike, and found no remnants of it. I definitely had one of those “it won’t ever happen to me” mentalities. My bike had been properly locked with a really strong lock that you put between your wheel and frame, so the perpetrator had to have picked it up and carried it away. But, it happens. Yes I was bummed because not only am I out the money I spent on the bike, I also really loved my bike. However it’s just money, and it’s just a bike, worse things could happen. So when I got home I hastily checked the groups on Facebook where people post bikes for sale, got in contact with a girl, and bought a bike the following morning. I got two locks for this bike, so I am going to be sure to lock the wheel to the frame as well as lock my bike to something stationary like a pole or bike stand.
Goodbye old friend
Welcome my new mode of transportation
“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.” -Fitzhug Mallan
I am experiencing so many amazing things abroad it’s hard to really wrap my head around it all. It’s human nature to appreciate things much more in hindsight than in the present, and I know when I get home I am going to be wowed by what I had the opportunity to experience here. I am trying hard to make sure I am living with gratitude and keeping my eyes open so I don’t get home and kick myself for not appreciating what I have here while I have it. So here is one of the many things I want to reflect on that is such a neat part of my experience, and that is the international dinner. Basically what they entail is a group of people from different places that come together and make a dish that is typical in their country. I have been fortunate enough to experience two of these so far. First with my ESN group and second with some of the people in my corridor in my student house. How often in ones life do you get to sit down with people from all over the world and eat food from their countries? Once in a lifetime if one is lucky. And boy am I lucky.
Here are some of the things I had the opportunity to try:
- Bangers and Mash from England
- Schnitzel from Czech Republic
- An apple dessert from Germany
- Poutine from Canada
- A chocolate dessert from Brazil
- Stir fry from Hong Kong
- A potato dish from Hungary
- Crepes from Hungary
- And omelets from Spain
My contribution each time was the classic banana split.
From the first international dinner
And the second international dinner
These dinners are truly a treasure during this amazing study abroad experience.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Wanted to share this fun little video with all of you, what a tremendous city I have the pleasure to live in.
“Travel teaches how to see.” -African Proverb
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