Two weeks before I left for Amsterdam I panicked; I panicked because I had to leave my dog, my home, and every person I’ve ever known. I sat in my car sobbing as I realized this experience might be too far out of my comfort zone. I shook it off and hoped I could get over the nerves. Those two weeks before I left I had never experienced anxiety to that extent. Still, on the 5th of July, I drove an hour and a half to Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport where I proceeded to board an eight-hour flight to a place I’d only heard of, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
I arrived late to orientation the next day and spent three hours in customs only for them to tell me to have a great time and give me a stamp. On the bus to our hotels was my first interaction with people with my program. I talked to so many people on that bus, hearing life stories and details that I couldn’t process because of the jet lag. My first experience in Amsterdam was a king-size bed in a luxurious hotel I got to call home, The Student Hotel, City. I spent that night relaxing and exploring the hotel with Holly, my best friend (for the month), after my nap, a nice dinner, and an even nicer and well-deserved shower. I spent the next three days getting to know the city and the people I was there with. From the first days, we established a group of friends who spent the next month traveling all over Europe and spending countless hours with each other. These people were my rock as well as my comfort in a place full of firsts and scary new things
Starting school that following Monday made for another first; six people in a class with an Israeli teacher who moved to Holland to experience the Dutch culture. We analyzed the dutch and spoke of the way they lived, their free will and understanding laws, respectful attitudes, and direct communication. We talked about America in the same way, how most Americans’ beliefs were slightly different and harsher, they were loud and outspoken, I’d never seen America from that point of view. While I loved the class and learned so much I don’t think this class was my experience or a life-changing event; the people were.
Al, Nic, Mason, Jackson, Holly, Pat, Avery, Johnny, Sophie, Callie, and Parker, were the people I spent every day with, and while I only knew them for a month I knew more about them than most of my college friends. We spent a month traveling Europe, we ate frites in Brussels, stayed on a boat in Rotterdam, cliff dove in Sorento, and drank cheap beer in Prague. Throughout this month I realized how important community is, how asking for help is okay, and always saying yes to new things.
When looking back at my month abroad the memories and moments kind of mesh together, I couldn’t tell you the day or moment I met any of those eleven people but I know I love them all. I learned so much about the person I was when separated from everything I knew, I was brave, a leader, and spontaneous. While that person in Amsterdam isn’t as prominent when I’m home in Chattanooga I strive to be her, I miss her. I left Amsterdam in tears, not ready to go home or leave my people, and while getting back was so refreshing I would give anything to travel back in time and relive that whole experience. Studying abroad is the best thing I’ve ever done and can’t recommend it enough to other students.
Olivia Smith (BS Communication) spent summer 2022 interning abroad in Amsterdam, Netherlands through CIEE. Olivia had the following to say about studying abroad, “Going somewhere unfamiliar and unknown its extremely scary, it can be terrifying and confusing. Going somewhere alone can make that unknown scary place even more terrifying, but if you never put yourself in uncomfortable positions you will never see the world and experience new things.”
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