The next few weeks after my Carnaval Break were filled with days exploring around the Netherlands, which was much-needed. My CES program took us on a weekend trip to Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans, and Volendam; all very classically Dutch areas.

Amsterdam itself is such a charming city. From the canals, to the crooked, squished houses, to cozy cafes on every corner, it is such a comfortable and welcoming place full of beauty. In Amsterdam, we went on a walking tour, went to the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House.

The Anne Frank House has to be one of my favorite (it feels weird to say that) things I’ve done since coming to Europe. As I said before, I am extremely interested in World War II-era things, and her diary is to this day one of my favorite pieces of literature since I read it in the 8th grade. Being in her hiding place, walking where she walked and hearing the creaky floor, seeing the walls she looked at every day…it was all just so surreal. It was extremely emotional, and the whole museum is incredibly well done, a must-see if you are in Amsterdam! Also, our program booked our visit far in advance so we didn’t have to wait in the line, which is usually 2 or 3 hours long!

Zaanse Scans is a class old time Dutch village. Everywhere you look, there are small houses with canals for driveways and wind mills in the distance. There is a clog-making museum where we learned how they make wooden shoes, and we learned how they make cheese (their favorite) as well!

Volendam was also really sweet. It’s a little beach town on the North Sea. As you can imagine, I felt very at home here! When we were eating lunch, I felt as though I could have been eating at the Barnacle in Marblehead or something. It was nice to be reminded of home in a place so far away and so different. Here, we also got to dress up in traditional Dutch clothing and take professional pictures! It was so fun, with props and clogs and all.

A few weekends later, some friends and I planned a trip to The Hague (Den Haag). This is technically not the capital of the Netherlands (that’s Amsterdam), but it is where a lot of the governmental buildings are, along with a lot of museums and pleasant green spaces. It got bombed a lot during WWII, so the city contains an interesting stark contrast between modern skyscrapers and short, old buildings. We went to the Mauritshuis (AND SAW THE GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING YEAH I KNOW CRAZY COOL), meandered about in the beautiful sun, stopped by the International Peace Palace. We had afternoon tea/hot chocolate at a park, then made our way to the….beach! The actual beach, with sand and food stands and everything. The sunny, warm day might have turned windier, but we stayed on the beach for two hours and watched the sun set over the ocean-the first time I’ve done that in my conscious memory!

A week and a half later, one of the best things in the world happened….Ryan, my boyfriend, arrived in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport! When I first set eyes on him, my brain thought I was hallucinating and it was a really strange experience, but I acclimated quickly and we hopped on the train back to Maastricht! I showed him around my quaint, cozy city for a few days and he appreciated it as much as I hoped he would. We had to cancel our trip to Cologne, Germany so that I could study for finals…it’s weird that I still have to balance school with all of these experiences and trips and adjustment.


On Tuesday morning, Ryan and I had a day trip planned to go to Ghent, Belgium. We were so excited about it, especially because we had to cancel our Cologne trip. We had to transfer in Liege, Belgium, as well as at the Brussels Airport.

While we were waiting for our train in Liege, for some reason I decided to turn on my wifi. My phone flooded with messages from my friends back in Maastricht asking where Ryan and I were and where we were heading. I told them, then asked why, and they replied that there had been a bombing at the Brussels Airport. This did not make sense at first because everyone in the train station was acting completely normal, and the attack had happened 45 minutes previously. We realized that this was very serious and despite how badly we wanted to go to Ghent, we realized that it wouldn’t be a smart choice.

I went to get our tickets refunded, and my French is not very good (neither was the employee’s English), but I gathered that he had no idea what happened in Brussels. He just told me which train to get on to get to the Airport…the last thing I wanted! He let us refund them. While we waited for our train back, the station began to grow more tension and police surged into it and people got more frazzled. Luckily, we got on one of the last trains out of Belgium and we went back to Maastricht with heavy hearts.

Unfortunately, this event greatly impacted the rest of Ryan’s stay with me. We had to cancel our totally planned, totally paid-for trip to Rome. I was devastated. It seemed as though everything was going wrong – we didn’t get to go on any of the trips we had planned. But, Ryan helped me realize that it’s not the trips that he came here for, it’s just being together. Having such an important piece of home, especially during a time of fear and sadness, was so special and we were incredibly lucky.

En lieu of our cancelled trip to Rome, we decided to spend the weekend in Amsterdam and Utrecht. We had so much fun, and it made up for the rest of the trip being not exactly what we expected! We walked around a bunch and got to know the city a bit more, went to the Rijksmuseum, Vondelpark and the Heineken Experience. We waited to get into the Anne Frank House for only a little over an hour, and it was just as impactful the second time. We went on a boat cruise of the canals, and met up with Amy in Utrecht for dinner and walked around a bit. Ryan went home after spending 10 wonderful days with me, and I couldn’t have asked for a better travel companion!

I’m so thankful for this experience! I have grown so much over the course of the past three months, and a lot of that growth is owed to the people that I am spending my time with. I love Maastricht, and I love my friends that I have made here. Having Ryan visit was still pretty great though 😉 PS-for those of you who don’t know, stroopwafels are these amazing cookie-ish concoctions that the Dutch LOVE. They look like mini, semi-flattened waffles, and have caramel or syrup in the middle. They’re best when placed upon the rim of a mug of tea, so it melts while the tea steams…yup. It’s really magical. You can bet that my suitcases will be filled with stroopwafels on my way home.

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