Bragging About Groningen

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

 

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The Roof Over My Head

Here are the pictures of where I am living for just under five months 🙂

photo 2

Unpacking (FINALLY)

Unpacking chaos 3 Unpacking chaos Unpacking chaos 2

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.

Korno shower Korno Bathroom

Hallway, with the recycling out for the world to see.

Korno hallway Recycling clutter

Kitchen, again do not let this deceive you, doesn’t look this nice and clean in person 😉

Korno Kitchen Korno Kitchen 3 Korno Kitchen 2

My room all put together! I am actually really happy with my room, I have made it my own and it feels like home.

IMG_1632 IMG_1630 IMG_1629 IMG_1627

“Experience, travel- these are an education in themselves.” -Euripides

 

 

The Adventure Begins!

The past few days have been a blur, but an amazing and wonderful blur. I left for the airport at 6am after a mere four hours of sleep. My sister, dad, and stepmom all were there to wish me goodbye.

Goodbyes 2 Goodbyes 3 Goodbyes 4 Goodbyes

My stepmom put together an amazing goodbye gift, she recruited my family and closest friends in making a necklace for me. Everyone gave a word that meant something between the two of us that my stepmom had carved onto charms. She also put a charm of the coat of arms of the University of Groningen and a Nederland charm. I was blown away by her thoughtfulness and don’t ever want to take the necklace off!

Goodbye necklace Goodbye necklace 2

I had a three and a half hour flight to Philadelphia where I then had a six and a half hour layover. On my layover I stopped at a Travelex to exchange some money. I wouldn’t recommend this because they do charge, I was charged $10, and their exchange rate isn’t very good. In the future I will use ATM’s and my dutch bank account. I ate dinner at a bar in the airport called Chickie’s & Pete’s, there I sat next to two german fellows who were travelling to Vegas for business. This was my first experience (within my study abroad adventure that is) interacting with people from another country so I got a kick out of chatting with them. Then once I got back to my gate I talked to a girl who was returning home from her study abroad experience. She is from Amsterdam and spent that last six months studying in San Francisco. I also got a kick out of talking with her since we were swapping places, and she also gave me her contact info to get in touch with her when I go to Amsterdam so she can show me around. My flight left a little before 9 in the evening and arrived in Amsterdam at 9:30am. I slept a little here and there, but not well. As you could imagine once we had visibility when landing in Amsterdam I was as giddy as they come, couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

On the plane to Amsterdam

All of the signs in the airport were in English so that was really helpful, I was able to find my way around without any problems. I received my first stamp on my passport, so neat! Once I had my luggage I made my way to the train station which was conveniently located just outside customs in the airport. I must say, Schipol is a very nice airport! I had some troubles purchasing my train ticket because my financial institution neglected to shut international fraud off of my cards. (Fortunately the job I left to pursue study abroad is at my financial institution so I was able to contact my friend/coworker who took care of it for me.) I was able to buy my ticket in cash at the counter and make my way down to where the trains picked up. It was quite the challenge lugging my three suitcases and backpack around, especially when getting on and off the train. As always, it was very exciting for me to ride on my first train. Once I found my spot I didn’t take my eyes from looking outside the window. That is until jet lag kicked in and I was out like a light for the duration of the train ride.

(Waiting at the train station then on the train, very jet lagged.)

Waiting for my first train Catching my first train

On my first plane and very jet lagged

Hedwig was right there to greet me as I walked off of the train, and we walked about 15 minutes to my hostel. My arms are still sore from rolling those almost 50 pound bags around. She helped me check into the hostel and get things situated in my room. From there she gave me a tour around the city. I was instantly awe struck by the beauty of this city, I have never seen anything like it. Everything is brick, even the streets. It is all so historic and magical all I can say is that I am in love. Hedwig is a bargain hunter like I am, so she was showing me where all of the best deals are in the city. She was also extremely helpful in finding me a phone here. I got a cheap pay as you go phone and prepaid minutes/texting for €15, what a steal! We ate lunch at a store called Hema, which I would liken to Target. They have groceries and household items but on the top floor they have restaurant with glass windows surrounding it so you can look out at the city. I’m not exactly sure what I ate there, she called it a “toasty” but it looked somewhat like a calzone. It was delicious! Then later on we stopped at Drie Gezusters, “Three Sisters,” for tea and warme chocolademelk (hot cocoa). It is not customary to tip here, nor is tax added onto sales, very nice change coming from the US! Hedwig was very helpful, I’m very glad I decided to sign up to have a mentor.

(Drie Gezusters happens to be the largest bar in Europe)

Drie Gezusters Drie Gezusters 2 Outside the three sisters, on my tour through Groningen with Hedwig

It was back to my hostel after that where I met the girls I will be sharing a room with until Saturday. We are all international students and got very lucky to have a room with only girls. Not one of us is from the same country which is so neat. Australia, China, England, India, Mexico, Sweden, Canada and the US are all represented here. Four of us will be moving into the same student house, Korno, as well. The hostel is surprisingly really great, it’s clean, nice, and safe. I keep hearing that this is one of the nicest hostels people have come across. Our bathroom is tiny, it’s like an airplane bathroom with a mini shower. The first thing I noticed was how different the flusher was, and every one I have come across since is the same kind. I will have to get a picture because you’ll see why I didn’t know what to do with it at first. Three of us went out for dinner, back to Drie Gezusters, then came back to the hostel and all knocked out. I slept for over ten hours, like a rock. They serve breakfast at the hostel, mostly foods I didn’t really recognize but it was good.

The first welcoming festivities were today (my second day in Groningen). Three of us went together to the main academic building to register with city hall and receive our residence permits. From there we went to a bank to activate our dutch bank accounts. Everything went very smoothly and I was impressed with how simple they made things for us. I met up with an international student who is moving out of Korno to buy kitchen supplies off of her. She sold all of her stuff to me for €10. From there I went to my faculty introduction. The faculty is what we in the states call “department,” so I am part of the Faculty of Behavioral and Social Science. One girl who is in my room at the hostel is part of the same faculty, I also met someone who is staying at the same hostel who is part of the faculty as well. So we all were able to walk there together which was nice because I didn’t have a clue where it was. At our introduction we got some general information, a tour around our faculty facilities, and did a scavenger hunt around the city. The faculty facility is really neat, it’s a bunch of historic (of course) buildings around each other that circle a courtyard garden. We got put into groups of six for our scavenger hunt that took us around really neat places in the city. There was a girl from Ireland, two from Turkey, one from Hungary, and one guy from Sylvania. We stopped at what is now the faculty of philosophy building but it used to be a courthouse. So we were able to go inside where I imagine trials went on. In the basement we were able to see what used to be holding cells for prisoners, it has since been turned into computer labs. There was graffiti all over the ceilings from prisoners of long times past. Our hunt ended at The Dog’s Bollocks Bar where we had a “pub quiz.” Apparently this is a very common activity in Europe because I was the only person who did not know what that was. Basically, it’s a quiz in a pub. So we answered questions in our groups about our scavenger hunt, the team who got the most correct won. Team #4 (the team I was on) were the champs! We each won a school mug, so awesome! We stayed there and mingled for a while, I was able to meet some more people from all over the world. We got free drinks there and some authentic dutch food. Then a group of us who are all staying near each other grabbed dinner; besides the people I have already mentioned there was also a guy from Nigeria who came along and a girl from New York. That’s the run down of my first couple of days in Groningen. I already mentioned this, but I can’t say it enough, I am so in love with this city.

(Academiegebouw, the main academic building)

Academiegebouw

(My view of part of the city centre outside the bank while I was waiting to activate my account)

View from activating bank account View from activating bank account 3

(Courtroom turned Faculty of Philosophy)

Faculty of Philosophy Courtroom

(Inside of Academiegebouw, stain glass and looking towards the entrance.)

Faculty scavenger hunt, stain glass Faculty scavenger hunt, entrance on academic building

Some things I have noticed so far about Groningen:

  • The doors are opposite. By that I mean the way you open and close them is different than how I’m accustomed to. When you enter a room, you push the door. When you exit a room, you pull the door.
  • I had been warned about this, but eating out takes much longer. So far from my experiences it takes a while to get your food once you’ve ordered. Then twice as long to get your bill, if you get it at all. A couple of times I’ve had to go up and pay at the counter which I was told is normal.
  • Bicycles. Where to begin with the bicycles. I expected there to be a lot of bikes, so this doesn’t come as a shock but more so something really cool to see. There aren’t very many cars driving around, a lot of buses, and then bikes galore. The Dutch are very skilled cyclers as well. They can hold hands with each other while cycling, text while cycling, carry mass amounts of bags while cycling, keep both of their hands in their pockets while cycling, so on and so forth.
  • Everyone really does speak English, but only when they know you don’t speak Dutch. All of the signs and menus are in Dutch (at some places you can request a menu in English), which I don’t say to be ironic because Dutch is their national language but I say it to give them kudos. Although they literally all speak English fluently, they take pride in their official language and use it primarily. I have much respect for that, and hope to pick up as much Dutch as possible while I’m here.
  • Shopping is huge in this city, I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere with so much shopping. Groningen is a fairly small city, you can bike from one end to the other in 30 minutes, and there are two H&M’s. That is the perfect summation to give you an idea of how much shopping there is.

“In other words, where we are is vital to who we are. By ‘where’, I’m speaking not only of our physical environment but also of our cultural environment. Culture is the sea we swim in- so pervasive, so all consuming, that we fail to notice its existence until we step out of it. It matters more than we think.” -Eric Weiner from The Geography of Bliss

Let the Packing Commence!

With the help of my best friend I was able to get half of my packing done last night, it went a little something like this…

Everything I want to cram into two suitcases, a carry-on, and a backpack.

Packing for Five Months

This was too grand a feat to attempt in one night, so we decided to tackle clothes and bedding. I must say, trying to decide what you’ll want to have in a foreign country for five months was quite the challenge. But surprisingly, I did pretty well at not over packing clothes, if I do say so myself.

Packing 2

Bring on the space bags!

Packing 5 Packing 4 Packing 3

We managed to fit all of my clothes, a comforter, sheets, and a pillow into one piece of luggage. Space bags, little miracle workers!

Now all I have left to do is pack my bathroom supplies and miscellaneous items, which will be going in my second piece of luggage. I plan to pack my shoes in my carryon to save on weight in my checked bags. Also a few extra clothes and some travel bathroom supplies will go in my carry-on as a safe guard if (God forbid) anything happens to my luggage and I don’t have it at first.

I leave day after tomorrow, surreal!

 “From an early age I longed to leave home and to keep going. I cannot imagine not traveling- stuck home all the time, in the confinement of a house or community or a city.” -Paul Theroux

 

 

Getting Educated: The Netherlands is #1!

One of the most common questions I get when I tell people that I am going to study in The Netherlands is “What kind of food do they have there?” Well, from what I have read their cuisine isn’t much different from ours here in the US. Aside from a few unique selections…

(Courtesy of Stuff Dutch People Like)

…they seem to have what we here in the US would consider “normal” food. However something that sets The Netherlands apart from other countries is that they were just named the “Healthiest Country in the World.” This is thanks to their low cost of food, its availability and diversity, the overall quality of the food, and the importance of vegetables and dairy in Dutch diet. The Netherlands has low rates of diabetes and obesity which put them at the top of the chart for world’s healthiest countries.  Way to go Nederland! If you are interested in reading the article you can find it here http://m.nydailynews.com/1.1582013#bmb=1

I would also like to point out that we have the Dutch to thank for donuts 🙂

“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in a way they have been told to.” -Alan Keighley

Thank you, Tawny!

I want to share how grateful I am to Tawny for donating towards my dream to study abroad. I am so appreciative of your generosity, it truly means the world to me! As I mentioned so many unexpected costs have come up -such as getting placed in more expensive housing and my laptop crashing requiring me to purchase a new one- that every extra penny is such an immense help. It humbles me to be able to say that through God’s grace and the generosity of others I was able to raise $2,490. I am in awe and so deeply grateful, I have received so much support and I am able to pursue my dream because of all of the amazing people in my life, THANK YOU.

Four more days…

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”  -Joseph Campbell

Fundraising Goal: Achieved and Surpassed!

Thank you so much Lisa for not only helping me reach my fundraising goal, but also surpassing it! I say this with one very grateful heart, words cannot express my appreciation. I’ve spent the past three months fundraising and it brings me so much gratitude to everyone who donated to be able to say that I went over my goal. As so many unexpected expenses have arisen it helps me out immensely to have raised a little extra.

In these last five days I have before I leave I am busy getting things in order. I’ve arranged a few more purchases once I arrive in Groningen, things students are selling before they leave. It’s encouraging to be finding that I can get things second hand and therefore cheaper than I had been anticipating. I have a plan for my cell phone, I am going to put it on a seasonal standby for the duration of my time abroad, so I will strictly be using it when I have access to WiFi. This way I can still iMessage, email, and Skype on my phone but I will not be racking up international charges. Doing this will cost me $8 a month, which is significantly cheaper than the alternative. Then once I get to Groningen I will find a pay as you go phone to have for emergencies and contact within Europe. I cancelled my gym membership and have my auto insurance set up to go on a freeze the day that I leave. My finances are in order, my cards are ready to be used internationally, and I already have my Dutch bank account situated. The University of Groningen offers a great service to international students, they have a partnership with a bank that allows students to apply while still in their home country then activate their account at the welcoming ceremony once they arrive. This will be a great help because I won’t have to rack up ATM and conversion charges, instead I can primarily use my local bank. All I have left to do is pack and get in a lot of quality time with my loved ones!

Five days to go, can you believe it???

 

“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.  The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” -Chris McCandless

Fundraising Update: Almost There!

I want to extend many thank you’s to my family – Grandma Wolf, Uncle Keith, Aunt Kris, and Aunt Brenda – for their generosity and donations. Also thank you to my wonderful coworkers who donated and wrote me a card with such kind words of support. I am so grateful for all of you! I can’t reiterate enough just how much it means to me to have so many people supporting my dream, it wouldn’t become a reality without every one of you!

13 days to go, and a mere $140 to reach my fundraising goal!

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” -St. Augustine

TWO WEEKS

I’ve been busy getting things in order the past couple of weeks, here is what I have gotten done so far:

I finally received my official acceptance letter from the University of Groningen, they gave me my student number and all of the login information I need for their student portal.

I booked my room in the hostel I will be staying in for the first few days that I am in Groningen until I can move into my housing. What an adventure this will be, true Eurpoean travel experience right from the get go!

I’ve joined quite a few facebook groups for the city of Groningen – groups for international students, for the international student house I will be living in, travel groups, etc. – but one in particular I joined is one for people to sell their bicycles. I posted on the page and let people know I am in the market for a bike, how much I can afford, and when I will be able to purchase it. I had quite a few responses but one in particular stuck out because it was right in my budget. So I got to talking with the girl selling it and she said she would be able to sell it to me February 1st, when I asked her if that was the earliest she’d be willing to sell it she apologized and said she needed it for exams until then. However, she said if I was living in international student housing and by coincidence was living in the same building as her that we could share the bike until she was done with her exams. Turns out, we do live in the same building, she’s even on the floor right below me. Talk about kismet! Unfortunately I won’t be moving into the building until February 1st so we won’t be able to share it, but it will be very easy to meet up and do the sale on that day! Also, the building I am in does not have wifi so I need a UTP cable to access internet. I asked her if she didn’t need hers after she left if I could buy it from her and she said I could just have it, and if I needed anything else to let her know. I’m really happy with how great that seems to be working out!

The Erasmus Student Network is Europe’s international student organization, many schools have their own group, and Groningen is a part of it. They plan events and trips for international students and seem to be a great resource for students to get settled in and make the most of their study abroad experience. They also offer a mentor program where they pair you up with a student from Groningen who can help you get settled in. I applied to get a mentor and was paired with her last week. Get this: her name is Hedwig. HEDWIG, like Harry Potter’s owl. Shameless Harry Potter nerd that I am I sure got a kick out of this, for me to get paired with anyone I get paired with Hedwig. Meant to be! We have been talking a bit and are coordinating things so she can meet me at the train station when I get into Groningen. It gives me a lot of peace of mind to know I won’t be completely left to my own devices when I first get there.

I decided that I wanted to load up on most everything I will need while I am gone rather than buying it when I got there. So I went to the store and stocked up on all of my bathroom supplies – face wash, contact solution, make-up, hair products, medicine, etc etc that will hopefully last me five months. I figured doing it this way would save me money in the long run, from what I’ve read most everything is cheaper here in the US. I even went ahead and bought my bedding here as well, I got the least expensive bedding I could find and plan on using my space bags to flatten it out when I pack.

Tomorrow is my last day at my job, I must admit this is very bittersweet for me. I’ve been at my job for over two years now and really love it, I was blessed with the perfect job to get me through school. This is one of the bigger sacrifices I’ve had to make to pursue studying abroad, giving up my job, but I know just how worth it it is. I will miss my spot as the girl behind the counter, but I’m off to bigger and better things.

I think I have just about everything that I need. There are a couple of minor things I still need to purchase but other than that I just need to pack and get in a lot of quality time with my loved ones. I can’t believe it’s already time to start packing, man this time has flew!

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” -Michael Palin

Thank you, Grandpa Jack!

I want to thank my grandpa for his generosity in donating towards my fundraising efforts, I am so very grateful! I can’t say enough how much it means to me to have people supporting my dream, I truly could not do it without all of you, so again THANK YOU.

$600 left to my goal, and 18 days to go!

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure.  There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” -Jawaharial Nehru