Everyone always talks about how amazing studying abroad is; the neighboring cities that are in arms length to visit, the new faces and personalities that enter our lives and the new foods and cultures we are consumed by. If you ask a person who just recently came back from their foreign excursions, they will tell you all about the fun times they had. What is often forgotten in these conversations are the difficulties faced in the very beginning. As you might be aware from my previous blog post, I had so many nerves running through my body. However, the minute I landed it all turned into excitement. I had a bounce in my step and a giant grin slapped on my face; in just a few shorts moments I would be surrounded by all new faces and heading off to my apartment/dorm facilities.
Let me start from the beginning. It has been a week since I have officially made my big move to Amsterdam. Right now, I am so happy to be here. A week ago, I was miserable. Monday, my mother and I were introduced to Amsterdam with cold, hard rain. We should have excepted the rain since Amsterdam is known for it’s sporadic moments of wet weather (such as today, as I am writing this post). I did not want to let the weather bother me for I had already begun befriending the other students at the airport pick up. Fast forward an hour or two, I finally arrived home after checking in at Science Park (Side note: Science Park is the University’s sports center, located about 3 kilometers from my home in Diemen).
My emotions were going haywire as I placed the key into the door and finally opened it. A lot of you are aware that I do not live on campus at Hofstra. I live with my family and have never been away from home before. I did not know what the whole dorming experience was like until now. My face fell as I took my first steps… the room was pretty empty with a basic desk on the far right, my bed in the opposite left corner, a mini fridge and microwave hiding in my small closet which is located in front of my bathroom. I do not have any photos of how it looked originally but let us just say that I was not thrilled (thankfully I had my mom here to help make this feel like home!!!! Shout out Mom, you rock). I sat down on my bed, looked around, swallowed my pride and said, “Well…this looks nice?” I forced a smile and opened up my suit case to begin unpacking. About 10 minutes in, I put my head in my pillow and just cried. My mother noticed my disappoint from the moment I walked in and allowed me to sob hysterically. With a combination of jet lag, unwelcoming weather, anger and disappointment all I wanted to do was to fly back home immediately. I did not want to stay.
To avoid making this blog sound like a book report, here is just a quick recap of my week. The next morning, after passing out from crying so much, I awoke to a new day in my new home. I tried to be positive because I was meeting about 6 other girls to go to orientation together. I met my orientation group at UvA’s law school campus and went on from there. Day one was amazing: I had hilarious coaches, met people from all around the world, and explored my new city. I arrived home with some of the same girls from earlier in the morning with a bounce in my step again; the day was great! When I laid down on my bed to tell my mom about my day, the tears started flowing again. I missed my dad, I missed my home, I missed my job.
Fortunately for me, the rest of the week has been amazing. I did not cry again since the first two nights — something I consider an accomplishment. During the week, my orientation group and I went to the Artis Zoo, Sail (the boat parade that happens here once every 5 years), took a salsa class, learned some Dutch together (it’s super funny to hear Spanish people talk Dutch), attended a pub crawl, saw a comedy show, bought my first bike, went to a Euro Dinner that allowed me to try so many new foods, and much more.
The International Student Network at UvA also have events for the students for the semester. Yesterday, I went on a bike tour with about 20 other students who attend UvA or HvA and then a pancake boat. On this bike tour, I actually experienced my first fall and scraped my knee. A younger Mariam would have cried and been too scared to get back on the bike; this new Mariam laughed it off, struggled a bit but got back on the bike. You cannot truly learn to ride without accepting the falls.
My mother’s last day in Amsterdam is tomorrow and then she leaves me to go back to New York and my dad early Thursday morning. I am not sure how I am going to survive these next few months without her or my dad, but I know that I have to because returning home is not an option until January 21. I am so thankful I had her with me from the beginning and that my new life is about to begin. The sky’s the limit here and I intend to enjoy every second of my life in Amsterdam. Thanks for reading 🙂