Going Dutch: Behind the Scenes

Hello friends 🙂 I’m writing to you from a university desktop, which is part of the reason why this blog is so delayed. I wanted to write last week, but due to the sheer number of things to accomplish and program travel, I decided to save the blog for this week. Big mistake past me.

This week on the blog I’ll be talking a little bit about what my daily life here in the Netherlands is like, traveling with my program last weekend, last week’s field trip, and life updates. Hold onto your hats folks.

Sidebar: I took a difficult midterm today, and then spent 4 hours transcribing an interview. I hope this doesn’t come across in my writing, but in case it does, the sections are clearly labeled for your convenience.

Daily Life in the Maastricht

I had no idea what I was walking into when I arrived at the train station in Maastricht. I like to be prepared for every aspect of life, and the idea of having little control over what would happen next was truly uncomfortable. I did not know how to fill my days at first when school first started. I had homework right out of the gate in both of my classes, but I was still adjusting to the class style and in the process of gaging how closely I had to read my readings. For the first two weeks, I am sure I did way too much shopping, as Maastricht (surprisingly enough) was voted the shopping capital of the country in 2016. I ran a lot of errands, getting various things for my dorm room, and did my readings way too late at night (oops). My living situation includes a communal kitchen, so I was also learning how to grocery shop, and how to feed myself. I definitely skipped lunch multiple weeks in a row (oops again).

I am happy to report that I am getting in the hang of things, and I have discovered other shopping options besides Jumbo, our grocery store, and other meals besides those involving pasta and meat. Getting a bike definitely changed the makeup of my day as well. Speaking of my bike, this is Stella. Yeah she’s pink, yeah she says “girl power” on her frame, and yes, in case you were wondering, my bike is the talk of the town. Additionally, anyone who knows me knows I’m all about girl power. Stella has developed a creaking noise from an unknown source so… Here we are.

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A typical day for me looks like, waking up either before class, on the days I have class at 11AM I get up before that, or waking up to go to class, on the days that I have class at 8:40AM. On the days where I have my early class, I like to maximize the fact that I am out of the dorm room, and usually spend the day in town doing work, or grabbing lunch with friends. Wednesday and Friday are market days, and I am trying to take advantage of those opportunities as much as possible because the produce is SO much better than Jumbo. Also, I bought marinated, thinly-sliced steaks for a euro each and they were amazing.

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Pre-gaming the market with a matcha green tea latte.

I cook dinner in the communal kitchen with Camryn usually, and whoever else happens to be in the kitchen, and sometimes we make dinner for multiple people because it’s hard to cook for one. For the rest of the night, I’m usually working on homework or on occasion I’ll grab a drink with friends. I try to make it to gym classes, but I’ve been really sick for a while so I have not incorporated those in this routine.

Honestly, every week is so different here it’s hard to get a routine down, but I think that’s a good thing. I discover new places every day, and the other day when I had to ride to a computer repair shop that may or may not have been one town over, I stopped riding my bike (and immediately pulled over onto the sidewalk), and just looked out over the water. This place is so beautiful and full of life. It’s incredible. I’m challenging myself to go with the flow and appreciate every day life here, because I’m really going to miss daily life here I think.

When you study abroad, just as in your university, you’ll find your places. Always explore outside of these places though- it’s so worth it.

Pictures outside of the Jan Van Eyck Academie on a beautiful day. 


Going Dutch Weekend

Honestly, this weekend is now moderately fuzzy in my brain as it was a week and a half ago, and we had to wake up super early to do all the things. I’m just going to talk about the experiences I enjoyed the most because those feel most relevant to me. I’m super pumped to share them.

The first stop on the first day was a man-made island where we learned all about the world-famous Dutch water engineers. These engineers have actually been invited to both New Orleans and Florida to help them solve the problems they face with flooding. It was super interesting and I wish that I had been more awake to appreciate it. Here’s a super interesting New York Times article about it.

The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/15/world/europe/climate-change-rotterdam.html?mcubz=1

From there, we drove to the Hague and checked into our hotel. It was drizzling, classic Netherlands weather, and I took off on my own to explore as I had already seen some of the things that people were going to visit. I visited the Escher museum. M.C. Escher is a Dutch graphic artist, well-known for the way that mathematics influenced his designs. His works were incredible to view, and I loved adventuring on my own. By happy accident, I ran into friends outside the museum and we continued onto dinner, and finally the Peace Palace before walking back to the hotel. I fell asleep early and it was blissful.

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Day 2

We started out the day at the Royal Delft Museum, and let me tell you friends, this was amazing. Royal Delft is a type of pottery that the Dutch basically stole from the Chinese (oops), and the museum is the last remaining factory from the 17th century. The traditional practice of hand-painting items is still practiced here. The pottery has been used as gifts for the royal family, and when the royal family visits other heads of state in their respective countries, they usually bring along one of their famous tulip vases.

Examples of hand-painted pottery and a smaller version of the famous tulip vases.

The best part of this tour? WE GOT TO PAINT OUR OWN TILE. I chose the ship design, which was a bad choice for my lack of artistic skills. Nevertheless, I finished my tile and they will send them to us after they fire them, and put them through the same process that the traditional pottery is put through. I’m pumped.

On the left, how it is supposed to look. On the right, my painted tile before firing.

After that, we visited the most Dutch place ever, Zaanse Schans. It took me three times to try to spell that also. I cannot pronounce it. I know this place as, the land of cheese, windmills, and clogs. Super touristy but also wonderful. I learned how cheese is made, how clogs are made, and I saw some windmills that still produce things like spices. I had the best smoked gouda of my life.

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Clogs and windmills, am I right?

Luxembourg Field Trip

So our class just casually went to Luxembourg to visit the European Court of Justice last week? It was actually moderately horrible because I think we spent more time on the bus than we did in Luxembourg. We got our own guided tour of the CoJ, and a prize pack? We were taken to the VIP entrance, and I think we were all secretly hoping Angela Merkel would walk in the door and surprise us, alas she did not. I learned so much!

Inside a hearing room at the Court of Justice, and the Court of Justice prize pack 🙂

I think the most entertaining part of the visit was Sabrina and I getting laughed at by a waitress. We ate at a cafe/restaurant called Paul, and we both order eclairs. The waitress brought them out to us on a plate without utensils. Classic Americans that we are, we picked them up with our hands and took a fateful bite. Apparently, our waitress was grabbing utensils for us to eat the eclairs with and when she saw us holding the eclairs she burst into fits of laughter. Our table also laughed, we laughed, it was truly great and also embarrassing. Good fun.

Cute friends/classmates (sorry @Alanna I’m still working on this whole inserting pictures into the blog thing, lighting a prayer candle, and a view from the bridge)

Life Updates

What’s the purpose of this section? I don’t really know. Relevant things that don’t fit in anywhere else?

  • I got more sick last week so that was amazing. I also figured out the Dutch took sudafed off of the market years ago. The strongest thing I can get it not going to be very helpful. What did I do? I relied on some home remedies aka boiling chopped garlic and fresh ginger together to make “tea,” and adding lemon juice and honey- and drinking it. It truly was not that bad and I would strongly recommend it. I will never take NyQuil for granted again.
  • This weekend marks the start of six consecutive weekends of travel for me. Yikes. I don’t really know how that happened.
  • I’m finally connecting to my friends who are abroad via What’s App, and I got to Facetime several people. It was wonderful. Love you ladies.
  • My laptop either needs a hard drive replaced or I need a new laptop. I don’t really know to be honest, and it’s been a struggle to be a student without a laptop.
  • I am the only American in one of my classes and every time something about the United States is brought up in one of our articles; I become the resident expert on America. It’s cringey.
  • My friends have supported me all week through all my shit so shoutout to everyone hear who listened to me vent, and shoutout to Alex for letting me cry on the phone at 1AM this morning. All the things people. All the things are happening.
  • I cut myself for the first time while cooking- would not recommend.
  • I’m meeting Alex in Lille, France tomorrow and spending the weekend there.
  • I had a really amazing milkshake last week- here’s a picture of it!

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I have not gotten super super sappy yet so this week I’m just gonna tell you: since I’ve been here I have come to appreciate human kindness so much more. I think this quote conveys it better than I can-

Ah, kindness. What a simple way to tell another struggling soul that there is love to be found in the world.

Alison Malee

I have faced a lot of challenges this week. I am proud that I was still able to dance down the hallways of my dorm (by myself), before settling down to study for my midterm. I refuse to give anyone the power to steal my joy.

Thanks for reading as always. I was so excited to write this blog today.

Best,

Erin

 

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