Hello there! Since you’ve stumbled upon my blog, I may as well introduce myself. My name is Alexa, and I am a sophomore at the College of Charleston in scenic Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A. In just five short weeks I will be jetting off to the Netherlands to spend a semester studying at the University of Groningen. This lovely blog (queue jazz hands) will be my attempt at chronicling my journey. Although studying abroad is an exciting experience for all who choose to embark on it, and will be for me as well, my circumstances are a little different. I am fortunate enough to be a dual citizen of both the United States and the Netherlands. Born in the U.S. to an American father and a Dutch mother, I lived in the Netherlands from ages five to eleven, thus spending many of my formative years there. For me, the choice to study abroad in Groningen was less about broadening my horizons–though I hope to do that as well–and more about reconnecting with one of my homes.
A little more about me: I’m nineteen years old, soon to be spending my twentieth birthday in the Netherlands! I love to read, write, and, naturally, travel. I’ve been to thirteen countries and speak two languages (Dutch and English). I am a true student of the world, as I am majoring in International Studies. My great loves include my past and present dogs, Oscar Wilde, Audrey Hepburn, anything Dickensian, hot tea, scintillating poetry, crêpes, Disney (I am a child of the nineties), and Paris. In my free time I enjoy playing board games with my friends and doing bad Jeremy Irons impressions. My goals for the future include learning to speak French fluently and watching the entirety of Gilmore Girls on Netflix.
As far as the logistics of my trip go: I will be flying from Charlotte, North Carolina to Amsterdam, which voyage will take approximately twelve hours, including one layover in Philadelphia. Once I arrive in Amsterdam, my Dutch family members will be there to pick me up–however, if you’re planning a similar trip, your best bet for travel throughout the Netherlands and much of Europe is usually the train. After spending a few days with my grandparents, I will be heading to Groningen for orientation. I will be living in one of the international student houses in Groningen, called Winschoterdiep, for the semester. It’s about a ten minute bike ride from the city center, where the university is located; I’m hoping for a nice sense of community and a new perspective from other international students. Some practical tips for traveling to/living in the Netherlands, speaking from a simultaneously Dutch and American perspective: firstly, get a bike. The Netherlands is the most cycle-friendly country in the world, with bicycles outnumbering people (though we have quite a few of those, too). Furthermore, the land is flat, making cycling easier, though you will often be riding against strong winds. Which brings me to the weather: when in doubt, dress warmly. The Dutch wind often comes from the North Sea or Russia and is therefore very cold. It also rains quite frequently. Basically, the same weather you hear about gracing England is the weather you can expect in the Netherlands. This means you need rainproof shoes, coats, and gloves. On the plus side, the reason the Dutch make such good cheese (Gouda, Edam) is that the rain makes for excellent grass which, in turn, leads to well-fed cows that produce high quality milk. As the Dutch football legend Johan Cruijff once said, elk nadeel heeft z’n voordeel, meaning “each downside has its upside.” Speaking of Dutch cheese, be sure to check out this great video for more information about Dutch cuisine: http://vimeo.com/110724667.
I better stop before this post turns into a one-dimensional list of travel tips. Exceedingly long story short: I’m excited for my semester in Groningen, and I hope you join me as I reconnect with my past, and hopefully make new connections for the future. Tot straks!