It has been an adventurous and sometimes even stressful, but unforgettable semester abroad for our Whitmanythoughts bloggers. Let’s see what Alexa (London) and Rachel (Amsterdam) have to say about their time abroad, now that they’re back in the states.
Sarawhitmanythoughts: How does it feel now that you’ve officially studied abroad?
Rachel: It feels incredible to now officially say I’ve studied abroad. Studying abroad was always something I had dreamed about, and a university that offered study abroad programs was something I considered when applying to colleges, but I was never sure if it would happen for me. I’m so thankful to have had this opportunity and I’m proud of myself for doing it.
Alexa: It feels unreal to say that I have studied abroad. Even though I am now back home, I almost feel like I am still there. It was definitely the quickest four months of my life and it does not feel real, like I actually did that.
S: What was your favorite thing you did?
R: Being able to travel around Europe was my favorite thing to do. I’ve only done a little bit of traveling with my parents growing up, like going to the Caribbean, but this much traveling was so new to me. I’ve seen more of the world than most of my family has ever been able to, and I feel so privileged and humbled to have had this opportunity.
I was able to visit seven countries in four months, which just feels insane. I went to various cities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and England. The world feels so much bigger now.
A: My favorite part overall was my break and getting the opportunity to travel around Europe. It was amazing to be able to see and experience different places, people, food and cultures.
S: What is your least favorite part of studying abroad?
R: Having to maintain an apartment became pretty mundane towards the end, and I think this being my least favorite part of studying abroad had to do with the language barrier. All the products in all the stores were all in Dutch, so I had no idea what I was buying most of the time. It was exhausting to have to go into the store every week and not really know what I was getting. I like cooking for myself and I don’t mind cleaning, I was just kind of over not knowing what stuff was and only buying the same products that I felt comfortable buying.
A: My least favorite part about studying abroad was the first night there. The excitement was real at the airport before I left and even settling in, but that night I felt extremely home sick. However, I had friends with me and we all assured each other it was normal and that most of us felt the same way. I got over that really quick and other than that I did not really have an experience I didn’t like.
S: What is your favorite place in your study abroad city?
R: Out of all the places I went, Amsterdam was my favorite and I’m so happy I was able to live there for the duration of my exchange. It’s such a beautiful city with so much to take in. Amsterdam has such unique landscape, and biking around the canals was breathtaking. It never ceased to amaze me that I was living in such a beautiful place.
Amsterdam is very cozy and there are tons of cafes and bars to sit in and chat with friends. My favorite thing to do in Amsterdam has to be checking out breweries with my friends. Our favorite was this place called Brouwerij ‘t IJ, and it was very close to where we all lived and was super cozy. All the beers were delicious, and it was such good environment to sit down and chat.
A: My favorite place in London would have to be the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was something I did within my last week before leaving and I loved it. The cathedral itself was amazing but the view of London from the top of the dome was unimaginable. I also really enjoyed all the museums because they were free, but the Victoria and Albert Museum would have to be my favorite.
S: What is advice you’d give your pre-study abroad self?
R: I would tell my pre-study abroad self to relax and that everything will work out. I was very anxious about getting all the necessary paperwork done and meeting people and making friends. Now that my semester is over, it feels crazy to think that that stuff ever even bothered me. As long as you have an open mind and are yourself, everything will work out.
A: The advice I would give to my pre-study abroad self is to be more outgoing and take more chances, have fun and enjoy this life while I can, while I have this experience, and worrying is for later.
S: What are you taking home with you in terms of life lessons and ideas about yourself?
R: I’m taking so much home with me from my study abroad experience. I am so much more confident in my capabilities to be independent and take care of myself. I went to different countries where I didn’t speak the language and figured out public transportation, how to feed myself and to get to where I wanted to be. If I can do that in as foreign country, a new city or place will never be able to intimidate me.
I also think that I actually kind of like myself and who am I more now than I did before I went on exchange. Being abroad forces you to open up to people in order to make friends, and to do that you really need to know yourself. I don’t think I had a complete idea about myself before this, but now that I was forced to that, I know who I am and what I want to put out into the world.
A: From this experience, I have learned that I am more capable than I ever thought. I am more confident and independent from this and will take that with me for the rest of my life. I have also gained a love for traveling. Having never left the U.S. I adored every minute of each new place I visited.
S: What are your plans for when you come home?
R: I’m sad to have left Amsterdam, but I have so much to look forward to being home. I still have a year left at Hofstra, and I’m excited to be back with my friends. I will be interning with DoctorOz.com in the spring semester, and I’m excited to be living my dream of working in NYC. I definitely am looking to continue to travel, and I have notifications set up for ticket prices on flights to visit my friends that I made while studying abroad.
A: Now that I am home I plan to enjoy my time with home-cooked meals, free laundry, and a cozy bed. However, I can’t wait to go back to London someday.
Follow Rachel on her blog, Reviewed by Rachel.