This past Thanksgiving break, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to visit the Netherlands on a school trip. I remember my heart thumping and hands fidgeting as I waited for the clock to hit 8PM to register for the class everyone wanted, and I couldn’t believe my luck when I had managed to snag one of the 18 spots.
Needless to say, my excitement for the trip made me forget that this was an actual class with actual work, in political science no less. I had never taken a politics class before and as an English Literature and French major, I was so far out of my comfort zone. Before the first class was done however, it had already won me over. With a concentration on global issues and the study of “wicked problems” (such as terrorism, human trafficking, etc), it was an extremely difficult but also incredibly rewarding experience.
And so, after months of reading up on the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and the most depressing articles about how our world is practically falling apart, we set off for the Netherlands.
Much to my dismay, we arrived at 6AM for a full day in Amsterdam. The weather wasn’t the greatest and though we were all exhausted, we couldn’t let the day go to waste. Two of my friends who were Dutch exchange students at my university came to spend the day with me, and despite not having seen each other in 2 years, it was like nothing had ever changed.
We went to the Rijksmuseum (which was a nightmare to try and pronounce), got french fries after seeing everyone eating them, and paid for a boat ride on the canal on which we all fell asleep. I have to admit though, it was a damn good nap.
We unfortunately only got a day in Amsterdam before we headed to a small town in the south called Tilburg. Our professor was good friends with one of the professors who specialized in Wicked Problems at Tilburg University. I was first extremely ambivalent and nervous because we were told we would spend 3 days participating in simulations and discussions with students whose main concentrations were in this field. While my Dutch friends made it seem like it was the butt of the Netherlands (in their words “I would never go to Tilburg”), it was all of our favorite parts. The students we met there were incredibly friendly and it made me wish I had gone there for school. Our hotel also coincidentally ended up being right across bar street (hey, we’re college kids) where the students invited us to hang out and experience the nightlife. We also had smoked salmon and croissants for breakfast. Needless to say, it was difficult going back to college dining hall food.
We also got to spend a day in Brussels, and though we didn’t have time to see a lot, it looked beautiful – a cross between Paris and Amsterdam – and I would love to go back some day.
We spent the last few days of our break in the Hague, where I met up with my Dutch friends one last time before we headed back to the States. We got to tour the International Criminal Court and the Peace Palace which was insanely beautiful.
The entire trip was covered by my university, from the flights to the accommodation and the incredible food. I’m so grateful for all the friends we made on this trip, both from the Netherlands and from my school. The one thing I miss the most is all the wine we drank… lots and lots… and LOTS of wine.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post and I’ll be back soon with another one!