Although today is not a Tuesday, my last few days deserve a blog post. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for travel. I am grateful for my boyfriend who lives on the other side of the world and has offered me the most genuine cultural experiences I could ask for. I am thankful for the parents who let me go on these trips, instead of coming home. Today, I appreciate the freedom I have to be able to hop across the world in just a few hours and authentically experience a new place, new people, and a new culture.
Last July was my first time in Europe, so this trip only marks my second trip across the pond. My short, 5-day trip to the Netherlands was incredible. From seeing Knut for the first time in three months to witnessing the Dutch charm in person, my mini voyage was simply fantastic.
My stay in the Netherlands began at 7:00am last Friday morning. This time translates to midnight Nashville time. Combine the timing of my arrival with a broken airplane TV and an excited girl, and I did not sleep for a minute on the flight. Therefore, I should have felt exhausted when I arrived. However, there is something about travel that pumps your veins with adrenaline, so I was wide-eyed and thrilled when Schiphol airport greeted me with Christmas lights and a tall, tired blonde boy.
Some highlights of my trip include visiting the Rotterdam “Markthal”, exploring Amsterdam, and meeting Knut’s new university friends.
Beginning with Rotterdam, it is a city 75km south of Amsterdam and home to Knut’s university, the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), which functions as a branch of Erasmus University. Knut’s quaint, yet spacious, apartment sits on a charming street in the middle of the city. He shares it with two fellow students, one Swedish and one Portuguese. The three of them are enrolled in RSM’s International Business Administration program, which consists of 40% Dutch students and 60% international students. The program is taught in English, making communicating with his university friends much easier than talking with his Norwegian friends last summer (however, his Norwegian friends were just as kind and welcoming!). I absolutely love how everyone in Rotterdam (and Europe) affectionately refers to their school as “Uni.” It just sounds so much more sophisticated than “college”…
As for Rotterdam itself, the city is quite large as it hosts 610,000 people (Amsterdam is home to 780,000). Although most of our time in Rotterdam was spent at Polak, RSM’s brand new library (I conveniently visited Knut during his final exam week), and hanging with friends in various apartments, there was one particular Rotterdam landmark that stood out.
Rotterdam’s Markthal, or market hall, is a beautiful indoor market filled with fresh food and elegant restaurants. It boasts a tasteful ceiling mural depicting classic market treats, such as fruits, vegetables, and breads. Unfortunately, I failed to snap a picture of this exquisite sight, however I have pasted a Google Image here for your convenience. After walking through the market, we dined at a fabulous Italian restaurant where we ate handmade pizza and drank fancy, overpriced water from a large, chilled glass bottle.
As I was in the Netherlands, we naturally took a trip (okay, two trips) to the ever-so-famous city of Amsterdam. Door to door, it takes roughly one hour to grab a classic Rotterdam tram (similar to a train, but runs above ground and functions more like a city bus system) toward Rotterdam Centraal Station, board the train, and arrive in Amsterdam Centraal.
Amsterdam was an absolute dream. But first it was a nightmare. I did what all travelers fear: lost my phone, credit card, and driver’s license in a foreign country. Luckily for me, I realized it relatively early and after Knut spent about two hours communicating back-and-forth with people from both train stations, everything was located in the lost and found in Rotterdam. God bless the soul who found my stuff and turned it in.
Anyway, back to the city. Both times we visited, we absolutely fell in love with Amsterdam. Surprisingly, Knut had not yet been due to the classic busyness of university life. We especially loved the canals that push their way through the entire city, as well as the quaint bridges that accompany them. Bikes could be seen on every street corner, and also chained to bridges and gliding along the city’s biking-only streets. As a self-proclaimed cheese connoisseur, I was particularly interested in the abundance of cheese samples that could be found in every cheese store (which we saw on just about every street). Yes, I did enter them all and pretended that I was browsing the cheese selection in order to grab a free sample.
We mutually agreed that our favorite part of Amsterdam was ice skating in the rink adjacent to the classic “I amsterdam” letters, located at the Rijksmuseum. Knut’s true Norwegian colors came through as he effortlessly sliced through the ice, while I attempted to stay upright as my feet clumsily slipped along the way. However, I escaped with no injuries and thoroughly enjoyed my chilly time there.
Finally, the best part of each adventure is the people. One of the best nights of my 5-day trip included visiting a few of Knut’s friends for a home-cooked meal and just sitting around the table chatting and playing cards. I was able to meet some really interesting people and have some equally fascinating conversations. Later, we met up with another group of people at the bar across the street from Knut’s apartment. Here, we similarly sat around, had a few (legal) drinks, and chatted about our different lives as American college/European university students. I met people from all over the world who have lived such unbelievably exciting lives. From taking a gap year in Africa to growing up in the U.S. and Singapore, so many of Knut’s friends are not from just one place – but many. They hold unique perspectives and boast experiences from across the globe. They could not understand my description of American sororities, nor how I only speak one language fluently. And although I cannot imagine moving to another country and learning in a foreign language for 3 years, their entire university experience gives me a small pang of jealousy. I am eager to explore the world in such an open, adventurous way.
Once again, my trip to visit Knut exposed me to another part of this large world. With each adventure I take, I learn that the world is not as immense as it seems. In fact, his Swedish roommate’s mom even grew up in Nashville and his grandfather is a professor at Vanderbilt. Funny, right?
Today, I am thankful for so much. But mostly, I am thankful for the ability to see the world and the dream of seeing more of it.