Rose, outbound to Netherlands

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I haven't written on this site for a while. I've just been so busy lately. Not only did I have Eurotour recently, but my weeks are winding down and I've been trying to spend as much time with my friends and host family as possible.

Eurotour, jeez, where do I begin? I guess I should say first that it was one of the best trips of my life. Sure, I've done other cool things but I don't think traveling around Europe for two weeks with my best friends will ever be topped. The Dutch Eurotour went to Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Lido di Jesolo, Venice, Lucerne, and Paris. Every single city was so unique and I have so many memories in every single one of them.

Berlin was the first stop. Berlin was especially interesting to me because of my family ties to Germany. My mother was born in the American sector of West Germany before the Berlin Wall fell. That made seeing the wall and the Stasi prison all that more interesting. Also there was art and street performers everywhere you went, which made me fall in love with the city even more. It was a good start to an amazing trip.

The most beautiful city I have ever seen by far was Prague. My friends and I explored every part of Prague, not even just the touristy stuff. At one point we found ourselves at a hole-in-the-wall café. We spent almost an hour there just talking and resting our tired feet. It's little things like that moment that made this trip so special.

Next stop was Vienna. To me, Vienna felt like it had a large student population. At night we met so many college students from all around the world. It's amazing how many international connections I have now. Not only from Eurotour but my whole exchange, too. Somewhat like Berlin, there was art everywhere. But unlike Berlin there were also palaces everywhere you looked. My time in Vienna could be described in one word: gezellig. That's a very hard word to translate in English, but in this case it means that I had an amazing time with close friends.

Life's a beach, especially in Italy. We stayed in Lido di Jesolo, close to Venice. We spent a whole day at the beach and by the end, most people had at least a minor sunburn. It was crazy being at a beach, actually, because I hadn't been to a warm seafront since I was still in Florida. I would close my eyes and feel like I was back home sitting on the beach. Yet I would open them and realize that I was in frickin' Italy and I didn't really mind that I wasn't in fact in Florida. And, of course, we went to Venice. Gosh, what a city. It was so hot that day which made the gondala ride that much more enjoyable. That's right, my life long dream of taking a gondala trip in the small canals of Venice finally came true. The fact that I was with my best friends in the whole world made it that much better. 

If I had to describe Switzerland in one word it would be: expensive. I mean I barely bought anything in Switzerland because everything was double the price that I would pay in the Netherlands. Despite this, Lucerne was absolutely gorgeous. My favorite thing that we did was speedboat in the lake of Lucerne. I had never felt more free than I had when we flew across the water, the mountains surrounding us, marking the boundaries of the water. I just felt like yelling as loud as I could just because I could. It will forever be one of my favorite memories of exchange.

Last stop: Paris. I finally got to see the buildings I've been dreaming of since I could remember. I mean just seeing everything you've heard about since you were a little kid with your own two eyes is a feeling that can't be described. The entire time I was in Paris my heart was just filled with love and excitement and adventure. The first day we just explored the streets. We stopped to take pictures at the Notre Dame, Louvre, and the largest cemetery in Paris. We also stopped for coffee and macaroons just because. Then we all met up as a group and walked to the square of painters. Everyone was trying to get us to let them paint us, for a price of course. After awkwardly smiling and refusing we made our way to Eifel Tower. We spent an hour there just taking pictures and laughing and smiling. I don't think any of us really realized that we were really there. Then, at 11:00 PM, the whole Eifel Tower started sparkling. We all laid on the ground to watch it. Again, i t's little moments like this that made Eurotour so great. We also spent a day at Disneyland Paris. Since I go frequently to Disney World Orlando, I just let my friends choose where we went and what we did while I followed them around like the mother of a bunch of curious children. At the end we all watched the firework show by the castle and I would be lying if I said we all didn't cry a little bit. We spent our last night all together wondering if we would ever see each other all at the same time again. Of course we hid that and we all just partied until the break of dawn.

But my friend group really never was back together again after Eurotour. That is what sucks the most about exchange, I think. You build this whole new life for yourself and you become so close to all these amazing people. Then, all the sudden, you have to say goodbye to everything. 

Just the other day a good friend of mine got on an airplane back home. And now three of my best friends in the entire world are back to their old lives. The scariest part is that we might never find ourselves at the same place at the same time ever again. I had the best year of my life with these people and it saddens me to think that they aren't going to be in the years to come. Not physically, at least. 

Another thing about exchange is that, while I always knew that I'll be able to go back to Florida and have relatively the same life as before, my life here will never be like this ever again. I can't ever be in this exact position in the future. Sure, I can come back to the Netherlands to visit or even live here, but it would be nothing like how my exchange was. 

So here I sit, writing one of the last journals of my exchange, torn between two very different countries. While I don't want to leave, I am ready to go home. I haven't seen my family or friends all year. Yet I have family and friends here that I don't want to leave behind. 

Luckily I still have two weeks to say a proper goodbye to the country that changed my life.