Week 1: Hallo

Hallo, everyone! I’m happy to finally give you all an update on my first week in The Netherlands.

For starters, the entire trip was the longest and most exhausting one I’ve ever taken. I flew in from JFK to Dublin, then from Dublin to Brussels and then took a bus from Brussels to Maastricht. Although the “jet-lag” struggle was very real (you can see it yourself in the picture below), we couldn’t go to sleep since it would have just messed up our sleeping schedule. I’m sure that I went over 24 hours without sleeping but thankfully, the adrenaline from the excitement of arriving kept me going during that first day.

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Speaking of which, the first day was spent on orientations and such. I will say that I was shocked when I arrived at the dorms given that I thought we were going to share a room and a bathroom with one other person. Turns out, it’s Freshmen year all over again with a few stalls of bathrooms and showers for the whole floor. Plot twist: the floor is co-ed. (The bathrooms and showers are separate, by the way). Also, we don’t have fans or air conditioning in the rooms, and the weather here is currently averaging around 95 degrees. I guess the stay includes a complimentary sauna. Nevertheless, I got over the whole bathroom situation, and I bought a fan!

On the second day, we were taken around the city for a small tour. My roommate and a few of the other students made last-minute plans to go to Amsterdam for the weekend. When I say last-minute, I mean that we left right after the tour ended and didn’t even book a place to stay before we headed out. Fortunately, we lucked out on a hotel right in the center of the city and managed to fit 6 people in a room with 3 beds. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and explored the city for the remainder of the evening and night. On Sunday, we went to the Van Gogh Museum and took a fun boat ride on the canal before returning back to Maastricht. Talk about unexpected trips, but thank God I did, because it was one of the funnest weekends I’ve ever had!

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On Monday, our fourth day, we were given a more in-depth and historic tour of the city of Maastricht. The city is extremely beautiful and welcoming, and the people are very friendly as well. Before beginning my travels, I learned a few words in Dutch (something everybody should do out of common courtesy when traveling to a country with a language different to one’s own), and it’s really come in handy! During the evening, the Penn State students were invited on a special dinner at one of the restaurants in the city. (It’s worth mentioning that the food here is delicious! I’ll definitely return a few pounds heavier).

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We went on a guided tour of Zaanse Schans on Tuesday. The town is surrounded by a gorgeous blue lake, and it’s known for its large windmills. We got to see how the typical Dutch wooden shoes are made and got to taste some of the delicious cheeses and chocolates produced through the windmills. We then made our way to Amsterdam for a program-guided tour around the city. We ended our visit at the Rijksmuseum before coming back to Maastricht.

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Yesterday and today have been focused on our program course on Eastern European economy, politics, and history. It has been very intriguing, and I’m looking forward on learning more once we embark on our study tour, which starts tomorrow!! We’ll make our way through Germany first, then head to Poland, followed by Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, and then back to Germany. We’re scheduled a lunch at Slovakia as well!

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I’m extremely excited, and I hope to continue to learn and to be amazed at how truly wonderful the world is.

As always, keep me in your prayers for a safe travel.

Until next time! Guten Tag 🙂

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