Saturday, September 27, 2014

Netherlands Adventures!: The One Month Mark and The State of My Brain

This past Wednesday marks one month that I've lived in the Netherlands.  I know, crazy, right?  Time has really flown for me.  If you've been following this blog, you have an idea of what I've been exploring and seeing, but I haven't really talked about the state of my brain through all of this.

So I'm going to switch gears and get a little personal.  Normal Netherlands posts full of pictures will resume after this.

My Arrival and How It Got Better

When I first arrived in the Netherlands, I had an incredibly hard time.  I was frustrated that I couldn't find where anything was, I was frustrated because I didn't know anyone here, I was angry and sad that my friends and family were now thousands of miles away, I was devastated that my dorm room looked like a hospital room.  Negative emotions engulfed me frequently for somewhere between a week and a week and a half.  Gradually, I started doing things about these bad feelings I was having.  Right away, I went and bought food.  Eventually, I got a couple of towels.  I picked up toiletries.  I walked around Leiden and eventually let myself get lost and find my way back to familiarity.  I decorated my room as much as I could.  I started developing a routine.  Even if I'm seeing and experiencing new things every day, almost constantly, the skeleton of my day is the same.  I wake up and have breakfast with Netflix (just for a little bit), I make sure that I have time to myself.  I make sure that I take my night shower and then I make sure that I type my nightly email to Jack (boyfriend).  Unless I'm somewhere else for the weekend (actually, that's what I'm doing right now-- this is a scheduled post.  I'm currently spending the weekend in Texel, which I'll post about later), my day will always have these things.

Meeting Challenges Head-On

I have had a lot of pent up nervous energy since arriving.  Yes, even now, when I've been here for a while and have started getting used to Leiden and Netherlands-isms.  My natural reaction is to shut myself away.  But I can't do that here.  I wanted to go abroad and really, four months (give or take) isn't that long at all.  I need to get out and take in as much as I possibly can.  So I've taken it upon myself to go and see at least one new thing a week.  Maybe that's in Leiden or maybe that's in a different town/city altogether.  But explore I will.  I've also been trying to use Dutch as often as possible.  I have to go shopping at least once a week for food, so when I buy my groceries, I try to practice there.  I know that I have English to fall back on if I really don't understand something, but in order to be respectful, I want to start out with Dutch.

For a while, I was scared to take the train.  I didn't leave Leiden until our program director took us to Amsterdam for the first time.  He gave us a brief crash course on the train system and we were off.  The second time I rode a train was to The Hague to see the King and Queen.  That ride was by myself due to the fact that everyone else in my program was either sick, injured, or sleep-deprived.  I almost didn't attend Prinsjedag because no one else in my program was going.  But I did it any way.  I sucked it up and hopped on a train to Den Haag and made it back to Leiden in one piece.

Parties and pub crawling are kind of big here.  I went to a pre-drink session the first weekend I was here.  I didn't go out afterwards, but I went and bought alcohol for the first time and went to a party.  Last weekend people on my floor were going pub-hopping.  Since my friend, Marie, wanted to go, we went.  I discovered that pubs aren't awful and scary like I thought.


The first few weeks that I was here, I didn't let myself engage with the internet until night time when I knew that I wouldn't be losing out on opportunities.  My boyfriend and I have been sending one email to each other every night just talking about our day and about whatever thoughts we might have.  Throughout the week, I'll email my mom.  On Facebook, I'll interact the way I did at home.  Now that I've been here a while, I engage with the internet a little more, but I always make sure that I did some exploring for the week.  That justifies it for me.

I also skype/video chat with my family and with Jack.  Video chatting I try to limit to evenings on the weekends only.  I know that when I'm video chatting I can talk with someone from anywhere between fifteen minutes to 3 hours.  I don't want that to happen during the week when I could be out doing something.

I don't know how good this is for me to do as a study abroad student, but I don't feel particularly deprived at this point.  I guess that I will keep up this habit until it becomes too damaging for me to keep it up.  Right now, I don't see this practice becoming a problem for me.

At Present

Leiden is feeling more like home to me.  It's "my" city.  I still need my routines (who doesn't, I guess), but I'm definitely feeling more comfortable here.  Currently, I'm trying to branch out more and meet new people.  There are student groups through Leiden University that I can go to.  There's always pub crawling on the weekend, although I'm not interested in doing that all the time.

I'm starting to get the hang of what the rest of my semester during the week will be like.  Since finishing Intensive Dutch, we've started our regular classes through Central College.  It's only been the first week though.  I'll talk about classes once I've gotten the hang of them.  I'll give it a few weeks.

At this point, I'm feeling ready to travel around Europe more.  My first big trip is to London, England for my fall break.  I'll be there for days.  I've already started to book things that need to be booked in advance.  I'm really excited to be attending a matinee performance of Les Miserables that Wednesday that I'm there.  One of my favorite YouTubers, ItsWayPastMyBedtime (Carrie Hope Fletcher), plays Eponine and I'm really excited to see her sing in person!

So, there's my personal update.  If you have any questions about this, feel free to leave a comment below or leave me a message on Facebook, if we're connected there.

Until then, Thanks for Reading and Tot Ziens!


1 comment:

  1. Hey Meg- I have been impressed at how much you are seeing and taking in. You are doing it right! I am not surprised about the down times. I once went to Russia (I was on a project) by myself and was supposed to meet a colleague from EPA. He couldn't come at the last minute, and even though I had been thre before, I felt abandoned and wasn't sure I could deal with a week of work there by myself. After giving into tears, I contacted a person on a simiilar project who was there and we went to an art museum, and life looked much better. I got into the work and was fine. It happens to all of us, so thanks for sharing from the heart! It looked as though your time with Marie was awesome, and sometimes it takes friends to introduce you to new activities. I love reading your blogs and am grateful that you are sharing.


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