As I took off from Salt Lake City’s International Airport, I nervously thought to myself how I wouldn’t be back in my home state again until there was snow on the ground. Coming to the realization that I would be away from home for four months was numbing and surreal as this journey wouldn’t be a weekend getaway or a hotel stay, instead, Amsterdam is going to be my new home. These thoughts of my future lulled me to sleep on the ten-hour plane ride to the Netherlands and once I landed, I immediately got my luggage, picked up my room keys, and settled in.
Immediately I noticed how lucky I was with the view from my apartment and how it looked even better in person than online. The first day was spent unpacking, cleaning, meeting roommates, and napping to get over jet lag. As soon as I was well rested, I spent the evening exploring my neighborhood-familiarizing myself with the cute shops, and ended up finding the most adorable ice cream shop nearby :) I took myself to get ice cream and once the weekend was over, I was ready for orientation week at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam!
As soon as I made it on campus I introduced myself to the other exchange students in my group and ended up making three new friends-one with which I have become super close to unexpectedly (Bea). Together we explored the city and browsed shops, took the tram, metro, and train, bought houseplants, went to IKEA (my first time ever in an IKEA), and got smoothies. It was lovely to have a buddy to travel with and she stuck with me even in the most uncomfortable of moments.
As we wandered around, we ended up going on a spontaneous trip to Haarlem which is one of the cities just outside of Amsterdam and enjoyed some coffee and sparkling weather bordering a canal which brought me back to my childhood trips to Bosnia as the coffee culture here and it is very similar in that everyone drinks it more rather than in the United States. I have also noticed that being multilingual has had its advantages in navigating the Netherlands. Although I do not speak Dutch-there is a surprising amount of similar terms in Bosnian and Croatian. For instance, in order to check out at IKEA I looked for the ‘kassas’ or registers which is how I refer to them in Bosnian as well.
I also made my first grocery run which brought a sense of independence as I was able to navigate the store alone. In my short time here so far, one of the most significant differences I have noticed between the US and the Netherlands is the quality of the food. My lactose intolerance in the US has disappeared here and everything is essentially organic, local, non-GMO, and fair trade. The sense of community that Amsterdam has established revolving around eco-conscious lifestyles has made me recognize that this location is perfectly fitting for my studies for that reason. This upcoming week I plan to engage with my campus more in regard to setting up a place where I can recruit members for a month-long green challenge with the non-profit organization I’ve worked with in the past called, “Turning Green” as their campus representative-my goal is to have at least thirty new sign-ups!