I started school this week, which is good because I’m studying abroad. Oh, how I wish I was buying pastries at all the bakeries and spending all my money on weekend trips abroad.
Maastricht University is highly ranked and diverse university. I am in an open enrollment program, which means that I am enrolled directly at the university taking classes with students from different countries. In addition to open enrollment, I am required to take a class through my program with just American students. We have two blocks of classes, so we take these classes for 7 weeks, with a week of exams. This block I am enrolled in two classes. This does not sound like a large workload, but my classes are difficult. Shoutout to DU for preparing me well for these classes, and teaching me to think critically. My classes this block are Arts and Culture: Policy and Politics, and Law & Politics: Current Topics in the EU.
The Netherlands does a teaching style called Problem-Based Learning. I won’t take the time to explain it now. My direct enrollment class, Arts and Culture, meets in different small groups once or twice a week and comes together for a lecture every 2 weeks. It’s in these small groups that we do all our group work, presentations, and practical learning. My Law and Politics class is purely lecture, more like an American class (tg). Being the only American in my Arts and Culture class will surely be an experience. Excited and scared.
Outside of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences on my first day of school! Excited and scared.
Basically, this whole week I was looking forward to Alex visiting. It’s been a little over a month which is 30 days too long (I joke, maybe not entirely). Long distance relationships are difficult, but seeing Alex this weekend made all the late-night/early-morning phone calls worth it.
I met Alex in Eindhoven, the jumping off point from Maastricht to the rest of the Netherlands since Maastricht is so stinking far south that we have to transfer at Eindhoven to get places. We spent 2 hours in Eindhoven and had great bagels at Bagels and Beans, a regional chain. We took a train to The Hague, but I lost my train ticket in Eindhoven, so I had to buy a new one 🙂 Sorry Mom! I’m sure that won’t be my last travel challenge.
Notice Maastricht, then look for Eindhoven. Yeah.
The Hague has been the seat of the Dutch government for a long time, in addition to the Supreme Court, parliament, and the Council of State. The Hague is also home to the International Criminal Court, and the International Court of Justice. Alex and I bought day passes for the local transportation, and started exploring in the pouring rain.
We stopped first in the Madurodam, a 1:25 scale model of replicas of famous landmarks, shops, and cities in the Netherlands. It was an expensive ticket, and we didn’t know what to expect, but we had the best time. Everything was intricate, and there were plenty of moving parts to the model, including planes that “taxied” into and out of the model of Amsterdam Schiphol airport. We played all the games that were meant for children, but who could resist? Due to rain, it was not crowded. 12/10 would recommend.
Madurodam models, and Alex being excited about children’s games
We proceeded to the Binnenhof, the meeting place of the States General of the Netherlands, the Ministry of General Affairs, and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. It is the oldest House of Parliament still in use today!
I should note that because we are usually too cheap to book tours (except we could not book a Peace Palace tour, which I would have done in a heartbeat), I usually end up reading the history of places from Wikipedia on my phone 🙂 It works pretty well.
We checked into our Airbnb, and then headed out to dinner. We ate at the Fiddler, the largest international pub in The Hague. I did my first beer tasting! Still not a beer fan. The tasting was super fun though, we enjoyed 7 50cl samples for 6.50 euro. We were going to head out after dinner to experience the nightlife, but ended up stopping at the Airbnb, and accidentally falling asleep before we could decide on a location. Oops.
The Fiddler beer tasting!
Breakfast was a block away the next morning, and we headed to the pier. The North Sea is incredibly cold, but I was so happy to see the ocean. We were in a great mood because the sun had finally come out. We stopped for cocktails (5 o’clock somewhere), and a local delicacy, bitterballen before heading back into the city. Bitterballen tastes like fried balls of Thanksgiving. I loved it, and I would eat it again. Maybe with beer this time 🙂
Signs of developing an addiction to coffee, and our adventure to the pier.
We made a quick stop at the Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice, to take pictures and visit the gift shop. There was a tree outside that had strips of paper tied to it with beautiful messages written in different languages. Alex had to drag me away from the palace so we could catch our train.
My beautiful friends met us outside the station and we walked home together. I felt so much love when they were standing in the train station (by happy accident really), and we group hugged.
After an attempt to order Italian food, we ended up making dinner and took Alex out to a couple of local bars. There is a bar by the school that is not only a bar, but a laundromat and a soup restaurant. Amazing, right?
The highlight of the night was stumbling across musicians in the street playing La Bamba. Dancing on the cobblestone streets to the acoustic version of La Bamba after a couple of drinks was magnificent.
This morning, Alex and I ate our last meal together for a while at Piece of Cake, a local tea room that also serves breakfast and lunch. We got a cupcake to go, and walked down to the river to watch the passerby. We said goodbye at the train station. I cried. Yup.
The title of this week’s blog relates to the fact that I had many moments this week where I did not know why there were musicians in the streets, or why certain things were happening, but I was present and thoroughly enjoying the moment.
I felt like I was dreaming the whole weekend. I am so thankful that I get to share these experiences with my person, and that I get the chance to build a community in an entirely different country. When I stop to think about it, it feels incredible that I am here.
On a more somber note, I feel so grateful that I have a place to sleep that is not threatened by natural disasters. While the hurricanes are battering the east, my state is burning. An 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico. My heart goes out to those suffering in a time that feels much like the world could end at any moment. Mad prayers to the survivors.
Up Next: More class, and another trip with my program!