By: Rachel Bowman
While I had liked to think of myself as well traveled before my study abroad trip, I had only left the country a few times and mostly had traveled within the states. Coming to Amsterdam is the most traveling I had ever done, and actually planning a trip to another country from Amsterdam with a group of friends was an incredibly liberating experience.
Only knowing a group of people for a few weeks and then deciding to go on a trip with them is a bit intimidating, but I’ve learned to just have an open mind about everything while I’m here. I had no reason to be worried; I got along with the group really well from the moment we met. However, traveling can create stress and you just don’t know what can happen.
Luckily, the experience of actually getting to Antwerp, Belgium, was incredibly smooth. We took a FlixBus from Amsterdam, and it was about a two-hour ride with a really cool few of the Dutch countryside.
When we arrived in Antwerp, we didn’t have a set plan of anything we wanted to do, and we weren’t able to check-in to our hostel for a few more hours, so we just wandered around the city. We took in the beautiful architecture and saw some of the major sites. Then we sat down at a small café and sipped on some Belgian beers until we checked in.
“The food in Antwerp is also worth noting. The Belgian waffles were everything I had dreams about!”
Staying in a hostel
This was my first time staying in a hostel, and it definitely was not as bad as I thought it would be. There’s an expectation that hostels can be dirty and noisy, but that was not the case for me. I met some nice people staying in my room, and the receptionist gave us recommendations for dinner.
My bed was fine and everyone in the room was very respectful. The only thing that wasn’t exactly the best about it was the bathroom in the morning after everyone else had taken a shower. It wasn’t worse than living in a dorm, though, and staying in a hostel was definitely a cheap and fun way to travel!
The nightlife in Antwerp was really cool to experience. We had time to kill after dinner before we went to a club, and as we were walking back to the hostel we heard some loud music playing down a street. We figured we’d see what all the commotion was about.
It turned out to be a store grand opening and they were serving wine and appetizers to anyone who walked in. We took advantage of the opportunity and it was really fun! The store also set up a bar and a stage for live music outside, and we stayed to enjoy that. It was an awesome experience because I felt like a local and it was really cool to be a part of the community in a sense.
Being part of the community
On our walk back after leaving the store, we stopped in an art gallery to use the bathroom and ended up staying and chatting with the artist and his wife. This was another really cool experience because it was awesome to get to know some locals! They were full of advice and it was interesting to talk to the artist about his work.
This was the highlight of the trip for me because it left me feeling like I was capable of doing anything. I went to a foreign city I had never been to before and found a way to be a part of the community. I’m going to take that open attitude and not being afraid to put yourself out there with every city I go to now; it can really give each trip a unique experience.
My first travel experience while studying abroad is one I will never forget! While it was only for a short weekend, I loved that I was able to see all the different aspects of Antwerp. I got to see all the tourist parts while feeling like a local at night. This experience left me with a travel bug and I can’t wait to go on even more trips while I’m here, and I think the desire to travel is something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
You can find out more about Rachel’s travels through her blog, Reviewed by Rachel.