Today is my second full day in the Netherlands! I’m going to go back a few days and give a synopsis of my travel experience so far.
Wednesday, January 13 was a day full of packing and running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I had not even started my packing until this day (ha ha ha…don’t try this at home, kids), not to mention I had to quickly go to a few places before I left. Without a moment to just sit all day and actually process what would be happening that night, when I sat in the car on my way to the airport, I just burst into tears. The ride to the airport was really difficult, because I had put a wall up preventing my brain from realizing how far I was really going from everyone and everything I have ever known.
Saying goodbye to my family was surprisingly really happy! I am so lucky to have a supportive family of my weird ideas and goals, and they were all very excited for me to embark on this journey. I was more of a mess than any of them, thankfully! My flight to London went extremely smoothly (I tend to have a history of bad travel experiences, so this was a big deal). I had the row of the plane to myself, slept the whole way and woke up at the perfect time to watch the sun rise over the clouds of Ireland, it was absolutely beautiful!
I arrived in London around 8:30 their time. My layover was just totally weird, Heathrow Airport is more of a mall than an airport, and mobbed with people. My flight to Amsterdam left at 10:50, so I had plenty of time to catch my breath and convince myself that I was actually in Europe. The next flight was very brief, it seemed as if the second the pilot turned the seatbelt sign off, it was time to turn it back on for our descent!
When I got off my plane around 1, going through customs was extremely easy (and the Schipol Airport is super cool), and I met my friend Amy, who lives in the Netherlands outside. She so generously took me to her house and showed me around the area that afternoon and evening! As you can imagine, I was EXHAUSTED from traveling/saying goodbyes/the time change, so I went to bed really early and slept in late (very out of character for me).
On Friday morning, Amy took me to the train station and helped me get on the train from Utrecht to Maastricht, about a 2 hour ride. Riding through the countryside of the Netherlands was gorgeous, it is crazy to think that it is one of the most densely populated countries because there was still so much farmland and greenery (and a lot of cows. Also I realized that the Dutch raise deer alongside cows and sheep?! So crazy). They sure knew how to settle properly way back in the day! The public transportation system in the US is nothing compared to the Netherlands. It boggles my mind how far behind we are! Everything was so accessible.
Except….when I got off my train, I had to get on a bus to get to my University in Maastricht. I was told to get on any of the number 1, 2, 5, 6, or 9 buses and it would take me where I needed to go, and it would be a 5 minute walk from there (keep in mind I have a 50 lb. suitcase, a 20 lb suitcase and a backpack). Seems easy, right?! Apparently not easy enough for me. I ended up getting on the number 9 bus, but it was going East instead of West. So, I went an hour out of my way to this rural, farmy village. It was adorable, and I saw Belgium from the bus, but getting lost your first day in a country where you don’t speak much of the language is not an ideal situation! I ended up speaking enough Dutch to the bus driver that I figured out I got on the wrong direction. An hour later, I finally arrived to my dorm! It ended up being totally fine.
When I arrived, I settled into my room quickly because they were taking us on a shopping trip to the mall in half an hour. There, they took us to the grocery store (it was very fancy) just showed us around. I am so glad it is within walking distance, because now I don’t have to bike with my groceries! I have to do my own cooking here (for the first time in my life, I might add) and so far it is going well.
Today we went on a tour of the city. It is probably exactly how you would picture a European city, with cramped shops everywhere you look and all of the buildings connected. It is so amazing to think that this city has so much history, this area has been inhabited since at least 500 BC, and remains have been found from earlier. How cool is that?! We also went to a bridge today that was built by the Romans in the 1200s. After the tour, we had lunch in a restaurant which had fantastic bread and crazy pies. When we left, it was hailing outside!
Then, the school organized a trip to the famous Sint Peter Caves. There are about 80 km of tunnels underground around this area, and we got to go around in them. They are 800 years old and were originally used for mining limestone. Also, people used them for hiding during the French invasion in the late 18th century and during World War II.
Enough of the history lesson, sorry, I’m a nerd…
Anyway, I am adjusting so well to life in Maastricht! It is a small enough city that I feel comfortable, but big enough where I have plenty to explore and get to know. I am excited to see what the semester holds, and I am looking forward to experiencing more of Dutch life!
More soon, Maddie