November 13, 2013
Ahhhhhh The NETHERLANDS!!! The land of majestic castles, beautiful tulips, delicious cheese, and wooden shoes. Holland to the world represents liberalism, equality, organization, environmental-friendliness, and peace. These last few months living in such a country have been unimaginable. I have already seen, learned, and experienced so much. I arrived to the Amsterdam Schipol Airport early morning on August 6th, only to be greeted so warmly by my first and third host mothers and Rotarians from my club. Immediately I realized how well-organized everything is. The immense electronic wind turbines took me by surprise. And the picturesque green pastries and farmlands had me in awe.
My impression of the people here were that they were "aardig mensen" (nice people in Dutch) and extremely smart as well. Everyone is involved with several activities (school, work, always a sport, music lessons, etc.). It is quite impressive how they manage everything..... And always on time too!
My first week here was spend in the north of the country in a city called Harlingen. Beautiful city. Here I learned my first few Dutch words, met incredibly funny Dutch people, and had the opportunity to get close to all the other exchange students. The following months were all filled with non-stop activities and adventures. I had a month free before my school started, in which I used to get to know my city, Utrecht, practice Dutch, travel a bit in the country with exchange students, get to know my host families and rotary club, and attend some incredible events. Most notably, the ShelterBox Amsterdam Challenge, where I had the chance to meet over 100 Rotex students from all across Europe and participate in an immense 'scavenger hunt' all throughout Amsterdam, raising awareness for the incredible non-profit rotary-sponsored organization: ShelterBox. I had a super time, and made invaluable connections with students from Poland, Norway, Italy, Spain, and Sweden.
I began school here attending a low-level post-high school "vocational" institution. After a while, I realized the school was not the best culturally for an exchange student and requested to change to a high school, like the other exchange students. After a month that school had started, my counselor here was able to switch me! It was a great change. My new high school is awesome, and the students there are great. I'm actually happy it happened in the way that it did, because I was able to see both the lower institution and the higher institution of the Netherlands. Having experienced both was actually quite a cultural experience itself.
This exchange has ultimately been a blast so far! I've travelled all throughout Holland, visited Frankfurt, Germany, Antwerpen, Belgium, spend a week in the south of France, and stood on the "Drielandenpunt" where Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands share a border and you can stand on all three countries at once!!
I cannot wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for me. And now that the holiday season is approaching, I am excited about all the activities, events, and travel opportunities that are in store.
I'll keep you posted! Ik houd van Nederland!!!