Week Fifteen: Returning to the Motherland

Yes, I have been home for about 10 days now. I just couldn’t bring myself to write this because I knew that writing this meant that this chapter of my life was over. And, I just wasn’t ready to admit that. What I’ve learned in Amsterdam about myself and about gender studies will stay with me forever. So, even with this chapter closed, I will frequently turn back to reminisce and remember it all!

Leaving Amsterdam meant leaving some of the most amazing people and the most incredible city in the world! My last week there was filled with karaoke, drag bingo, a lovely home cooked meal, and a final trip to a local brewery in my neighborhood. I also went to the Rijksmuseum and saw some breathtaking pieces. I presented my ISP project on paternity leave in the Netherlands, which is my academic pride and joy! On my final evening, I had cheese and stroopwafel in the park next to my house with friends from MHC, Zoë and Emma. It was the perfect ending to a challenging semester.

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^[Flevopark was 5 minutes from my house, but I only went on my last day in Amsterdam! What a shame because it was so beautiful.]

I wrote this following piece when I was still in Amsterdam. It sums up what it means to study abroad and who you are when you leave”

I’ve heard that studying abroad is the best time of your life. While this may be true, it can also be the worst. For me, it was the first time I left my bubble called Western Massachusetts. I view studying abroad like your first day of school or work. Every thing and every one is new to you, and it is absolutely terrifying. In the end though, you come out stronger and more ready to take on whatever the world throws at you.

While these past 3.5 months have probably been the most different of my life, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’ve learned so much about the people in my life, but most importantly I’ve learned about myself. What I want and what I need.

I wish I had come to this realization about 2.5 months ago, but I didn’t. Sometimes we need to go through hard times to make us stronger and make us realize all the incredible treasures around us. I was so worried about what I would loss by coming abroad that, just now, I’m taking off the blinders to see what I’ve gained. I’m also not going to say I changed. Because, while I am a different person than I was 3.5 months ago, I didn’t change. I simply found who I am supposed to be.

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Weeks Fourteen: As a Finishing Touch, God created the Dutch

I’M DONE! Well, almost. Yesterday evening, at around 6pm, I handed in my completed ISP on the impacts of paternity leave on fatherhood in the Netherlands. After hours of interviewing and writing, I finished writing a forty page, 1.5 spaced!, paper. I could not be more proud of myself and my peers. 

I also finished up my community service hours with week in Utrecht at RugtersWPF. I assisted in the research and development of a curriculum aimed at educating men about the issues surrounding child marriage. I ended the volunteer work at Rutgers WPF with internship opportunities in New York or DC, a letter of recommendation, and a satellite internship as a researcher! Although I will miss working with the amazing people in Utrecht, I will not miss the commute.

On Wednesday evening, I hung out/had a sleepover with Emma and Zoë. On our way out, I forgot my bike keys, so I had to ride on the back of Zoë’s bike. Neither of us fell of at any point, so does that mean that we’re actually Dutch now? We went to Vrankrijk, a queer squat, that hosts awesome parties! My friend Sarah, who did her ISP on drag culture, performed. Most of us from SIT went to the squat to support her. It was a great that we all came together to support our friend! 

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[Riding on the back of Zoë's Bike #SoDutch]

It’s crazy to think that in a week from today, I’ll be back in the United States and working! I plan on making the most of my last week here! I can’t wait to share it with all of you my final memories of Amsterdam as well as my transition back to America. 

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Week Thirteen: Remembrance Day

These finals days have been filled with volunteering and frivolously writing away on my ISP, so my apologizes for a late post about my past week. As of today, my countdown states that I have 10 days and a hand full of hours left, which honestly boggles my mind. Though a beautiful and rough journey, my time abroad went by extremely fast!

On Monday, my friend Emma celebrated her 21st birthday in Amsterdam! We went to this incredible sushi restaurant. And while I usually hate Sushi, my avocado roll and vegetarian gyoza was delicious. At one point we even stopped at the Ben and Jerry’s store to grab some ice cream. I got Phish Food, which I had been craving for quite some time! Then we ended the evening at a local hang out spot. 

On the following day, I began my volunteer work at RutgersWPF with their MensCare+ division. (My study abroad program requires at least 20 hours of community volunteer experience to complement your research project.) RutgersWPF is in Utrecht, so I have to commute, which really takes me out of the tourist mentality. My commute includes a bike ride to the train station, a 25 minute train ride, and then a 15 minute walk to the office. Though a lot of time, it is 100% worth it! The work that I’m doing there is research based, and will be used immediately in their curriculum.

On Thursday evening, almost all 16 of us attended karaoke at a local bar. Most of us even had the courage to sing; I sang Pat Benetar. On Saturday, my friend Zoe and I grabbed lunch at this local café that serves organic products. Needless to say, it was good food with a good friend! What is a meal without dessert though? She and I walked a few meters down the road to purchase macaroons. YUM!

On Remembrance Day, May 4th, I did another volunteer experience. This time it was with the silent tour. A group of us helped guide school children from Museumplein to the Dam during the city’s parade. Remembrance Day commemorates people who died or were persecuted during WW2. As an American, I reflected on our own countries positionally during the war and really admired that the Dutch still remember it through memorial services. The two minutes of silence at 8:00pm really moved me because thousands of people in that square remained quiet, as did millions of people across the country. The moment was followed by the Dutch national anthem. And although I do not know it, hearing it still felt special.

Also while at the Dam memorial service, I was also able to see the King and the Queen. Most of the countries important political figures attended, but, I at least felt that security was very minimalistic.

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[The King and Queen, to his Left.]

I can not believe that my final two weeks are coming to a close in the Netherlands. My ISP is due Sunday, and I present sometime next week on that. The next blog post will probably focus on my research and findings for that, which I can’t wait to share with you all!

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Labels

My friend Sarah said this awesome thing about labels: “I just hate how humans feel the need to label everything. It just IS what it IS, and IS NOT necessarily what you WANT it to be.” 

I wish I had heard that 7 months ago…

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Week Twelve: Koninginnedag/Nacht

Look out 4th of July! While the Dutch are not known for their nationalism, you wouldn’t know by the sea of orange that you saw in the streets of Amsterdam on April 26th. Amsterdam has a population of just under 800,000, but officials estimated that almost 2 million people would celebrate King’s Day here!

Prior to King’s Day though, I spent King’s Night with some friends from Mount Holyoke and a few of their CIEE friends. We went to this incredible block party, if you can call it that, on Prinsengracht, one of the main canals in Amsterdam. If I had to guess, about 2,000 people were at this block party. My favorite memory from that night was singing Sweet Caroline with my fellow New Englanders from Home and a few hundred Dutch people! 

Following a very busy King’s Night, I spent the day with some incredible friends from school! We walked around the streets of Amsterdam. The streets were filled with families selling their old knick-knacks, children selling baked goods, and young adults shouting drunkenly at the top of their lungs. Right behind the Old Palace in Dam Square, I actually purchased a princess muffin from these two precious girls dressed up as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella! We later walked to Vondelpark where we sat around, ate samosas, and took pictures with the iAmsterdam sign, which appropriately had a crown on it! We finished our King’s Day festivities at Museumplein. Out of the 16 people in my group, 13 of us ended up hanging out there. Some of us napped, hung out, and just enjoyed being together. We met this adorable Italian toddler who came up to our group and won over our hearts!

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Photo Credit: Emma 

All and all, King’s Day and Night met every expectation that I had! With only 3 short weeks left here in Amsterdam, I plan on making the most of my time here while finishing my ISP on paternity leave in the Netherlands.

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Week Eleven: London Calling

After an intense last week of classes, paper, and a dutch final (AHH!), I left the beautiful city of Amsterdam to explore the even crazier city of London. I went with 4 other girls, including my friend Emma from Mount Holyoke. Having been to London on a bus tour before, I knew the major tourist trap and wanted to avoid them. When I visit a city, I (attempt) to immerse myself in their city, and I think I did a wonderful job of that in London! 

After only a 45 minute flight from Amsterdam to London, Emma and I hit the ground running. We ate at an incredible Italian restaurant, Briciolo, just a short walk away from the hostel. Following lunch, the group did some shopping at Portobello Road, took a quintessential Abbey Road Photo, and explored Harrods. Although it was a long day, myself and my two friends decided to go to a London nightclub, since it is a top 10 party city in the world! 

Saturday was a much for low key day. Emma and I met up with a fellow Moho who was studying in London. Before we met with her though, we got on the wrong train and ended up in Cuffley which is about an hour outside of London in the countryside. It was We grabbed lunch with her and 2 of her classmates at an Indian Restaurant, walked around her neighborhood, and then had dinner at her flat. Oh, one of the girls who we dined with was from England and told me that my English accent was actually pretty good! That was probably the highlight of the day.  After a very busy day prior, it was nice to have a relaxing day. 

I also go to celebrate Easter in London with my friend Ryan from high school. We went to church at Westminister Chapel, which was absolutely breathtaking and one of the largess churches that I’ve stepped foot in. After church, we went to a pub for lunch, saw the palaces and Parliament, and grabbed coffee at this incredible organic/communal seating cafe. That evening, my friends and I tried to go out again. But, the Tube shut down early, and we were stuck navigating the night bus. This meant I got to sit on top of a double decker bus which just had to happen while I was in London.

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On our last full day, Emma and I walked around Hyde Park. It is no Vondelpark, but it was lovely! While in Hyde Park, we rented paddle boats and rode around in the lake for some time. In the evening, a few of us went pub hopping if you will. We went to “our” pub called The Blue Posts where I finished my trip off with an English beer and fish & chips. We then went to World’s End, which I found out a movie is based off of. I had my English Gin and Tonic at this pub, which if you know me, is my favorite drink, and having it in London was perfect!

Although I loved my trip to London, and the city will always have a piece of my heart, I was extremely excited to come back to a much more quiet Amsterdam. These final few weeks in Amsterdam will include many museum trips and explorations around the city. Oh yes, and my ISP! 

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Weeks Nine and Ten: Begin Again

Due to an insane volume of papers for the last week of school, I haven’t written for you all in a while. My apologizes! Also, now that ISP period has begun, I will be furiously interviewing and writing, so blogging may be more sporadic. 

In two days, I leave for London, where I will spend Easter, with my friend Emma. I have plans to meet with a few friends from back home as well as just general shenanigans around the city, which I can’t wait to share with all of you!

I hit the point in my study abroad period where all of the life changing and soul searching occurs. The person who I was two months ago certainly is not the same person that I am now. Amsterdam, “the city of sin”, actually taught me that sometimes it is okay to be alone. My physical presence is not an indicator of you remembering me. It is refreshing to know that I can truly be independent again. I missed that. My last month is Amsterdam will be a crazy mix of interviews, writing, discovering, and exploring. This month is the beginning of a new stage in my life, and I can not wait to share it with all of the amazing people who I’ve met here.

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