While preparing for my semester abroad, I had to mentally condition myself to not have expectations and to be as realistic as possible. Yes, it IS an exciting journey… Oh the places you’ll go!, — as they say. However, we all need a healthy dose of reality from time to time.
If you’ve been following me on social media at all, I’ve been posting quite a lot about my new life here abroad.
I mean, can you blame me? I love the Netherlands —from the abundance of bikes everywhere to the gorgeous windmills of Zaanse Schans, the scrumptious stroopwafels (I’m still not sick of them, and I’m scared that they will act as a foil against my efforts of staying fit through Yoga, Pilates, Yogalates, and Zumba) not to mention the kindness that the Dutch have shown me, despite being an outsider and not speaking their language.
But going to a new place also comes with a few challenges:
Making new friends
Making friends with other international students is actually pretty easy if you put in the effort. ESN (Erasmus Student Network) is an organization whose mission is to connect international/exchange students with each other and ease in their transition to the host country through a wide array of activities, cultural events, and trips throughout the semester.
This really meant a lot to me because I was mostly alone during my application process. It didn’t occur to me just how many people were in the same boat. Getting to meet other students from all over the world has been such an enriching experience, and it’s only the beginning. Making friends with the local Dutchies though, that’s a different story. It’s a little harder since they’ve already settled in and have made friends. But, I will however say this: they are sooo nice, y’all. Just warms my heart!
Adjusting to a new routine
It’s only been 2 weeks since school in Utrecht University officially started but man, does everything take so much effort to do.
I’m still adjusting to living on my own—I mean, I have a roommate but you get the gist. Grocery shopping for 1 person is harder than I thought! I have to force myself to get up and be productive so I don’t waste the day. I feel so much pressure to do everything right and really make the most of my time because I don’t want to waste a second of my 5-month stint here.
However, I do know that I need to give myself a break. I’ve been talking to so many fellow exchange students who feel exactly the same way—it’s like learning how to ride a bike (don’t you just love how fitting my metaphor is?) At first, it’s hard to find your footing and how to balance so you don’t fall off and hurt yourself. It takes time to get comfortable, but the most important thing is that you look straight and far ahead without going too fast or too slow. Basically, you’ll be fine as long as you don’t lose your perspective of the big picture! Remember, direction is more important than speed. I should know since I got lost cycling the other day. But that’s another story 😉
Learning to be self-sufficient
Along with adjusting to a new way of life, I’m now in charge of how I handle my finances and making sure I eat my veggies, work out, all while doing well in school, which is what I came here to do. It doesn’t hurt that I naturally don’t mind being alone…In fact, I really enjoy my own company (it’s February, gotta show some self-love!).
It can be intimidating, however, when you call all the shots. I can’t blame anyone but myself if things go wrong. Despite this, I do embrace that even if I make mistakes, I’m still benefiting my learning more about myself and what I’m capable of in the long run.
Dancing to a new rhythm is no picnic. I’ve always been bad at following choreography anyway, so I’m not that surprised. Just gotta give it time, that’s all.