To even begin at an attempt to fully convey the ineffable experiences I have lived through during the first 30 days of being in Europe would fall but a little short of insanity. I have gone through literal life times of experiences as I venture into territories and realms that up until this point have been hidden from me on the outside of a bubble most people I know live in called America.
Upon my arrival, things were immediately different. My surroundings, friends, language, food, societal norms, mode of transportation, and laws all completely changed the moment my foot stepped off of that plane. The day before, while being both excited and nervous simultaneously, I did not have a single expectation in my mind. I quite literally had no idea what to expect but knew one thing- this is my life and it is my journey that I will be the writer of. Studying abroad allowed this story to evolve into something that no other person has experienced or will ever experience. The things that have happened to me each and every day while here have been unique and special to me to the extent that I can say that with certainty.
I think a lot of this has to be because of the mindset that I came here with. If you have ever sat by a river and found yourself deep into contemplation, you might notice a piece of wood or draft would pinned between a boulder and the excruciating force of the current. I like to think of a lot of people as logs stuck to a boulder that they think will be their final position in life. However, it indeed is possible to train yourself to let go of that boulder, allowing a relief of all that force as you flow with the stream of life. When I came here I knew that a lot of things would be upside down from what I am used to, but I also knew that I have to ability to go along with whatever comes my way, going with the flow as I say. I have never stood by something so strongly: life is about the journey not the destination, everybody dies but most hardly live.
With this mindset, my experiences here have me been something I will say is the essence of what living is about. Creating and sharing memories and great moments with friends, all connected by love. It has yet to be a full month here and I have gone to more countries than I have gone to in my whole life combined, made friends that I would consider family and will continue to travel and enjoy life with for years to come. One of my favorite things about being in a place like this, in the circumstances that I am in, is that if you treat things like a video game, where you have a main mission for the day, but on the way to complete the main mission, countless side objectives that are all completely unique and unexpected each day will be created for you. The only way to ensure these side adventures come up is to like I said, “go with the flow” and be alert of how you can interact with locals.
The easiest (and sometimes necessary) way of going about this is using the google tactic. Yes I just made that term up, but hear me out as I have been effectively using it this whole time. So you have a problem or situation that would require some form of external help to resolve. This would for most people be google by default. After all, what can’t you find on the internet… right. Something google can not do however is continue the conversation with additional suggestions, stories, advice , and adventures to go on. This were it all ties together. Without the ability to get a SIM card over here until I sorted out an issue with my existing service provider, the internet was not an option. I was forced to ask countless strangers countless questions that have lead to countless new experiences and even friends. As I sit here writing this on the bus from Germany back to the Netherlands, I can not help but mention that this tactic might not go as smoothly with the Germans, as they were not the bunch to befriend strangers or even have the decency to not be rude about rejecting an honest interaction. Nevertheless, the Netherlands happens to be the exact polar opposite of Germany in regard to their people, as I have not had even a single mediocre interaction with a local. Yes, not only has each person been some of the most friendly people I have talked to, but they go above and beyond to help you and ensure that your day is going smoothly, as they would want the same done for them in a time of need. There have been moments like the time where I was completely stranded on a train moving through Brussels, with no service or idea how to read the itinerary that was given to me in a language I could not read a word of. Determining what stop to get off was critical, as my flight to Vienna was leaving South Brussels in only a few hours. Thankfully, to my rescue came a Dutch man with two kids with him enjoying their ride into Brussels for the day. He saw me stressing and after I asked him about where I was allowed to sit on the train, he continued on to help me realize the stop that I was going to get off at was in fact extremely far from where I thought it was. When I found this out I knew I was in a bad situation as I had no idea how to correct such a situation with the limited resources I mentioned above. Without this mans persistent help for the next 30 minutes on the train, I would have never made it to Vienna. He translated the maps for me, explained how the train system ran and which stops to get off, on , back off, and back on to. After all, my goal was to get from Maastricht, Netherlands to Vienna, Austria. Nothing short of crossing an entire foreign continent while alone and with no service. After 24 hours of traveling and using the google tactic, I finally made it and could reunite with my friends. Experiences such as this simply would not be possible if I did not make the choice to live here this semester. I’m excited for the rest of my time here!