Time has flown ridiculously fast this past semester – can’t believe that it’s already nearing the end of July and I’ve long finished my exchange (and overall studies for that matter!). I left Amsterdam on the 27th of June and have been travelling around Europe since. I am quite aware this post is long overdue! Having said my goodbyes the night before, and then rushing to the airport (literally right after my last exam), I really didn’t want to leave as reality finally hit me.
From biking like I’m on a mission, to showing my friends around Amsterdam with pride, and actually knowing stuff beyond what to do or see, I felt like part of the community. Throughout those months, I met some incredible people who have really made this experience one to remember.
During this exchange, I was asked a lot whether I missed Melbourne or got homesick. In all honesty, no. There was so much to do, like meeting new people, adjusting to life in the dorms and travelling, that my brain couldn’t compute beyond this.
Another question I was repeatedly asked was… ‘did you learn their…native language?’ (because a lot of people don’t know that they speak Dutch in the Netherlands – I was once guilty).
And sadly, not really. Since I was learning Spanish, I didn’t want to confuse the two together. But at least I picked up on some (random) words*:
- Lekker = yummy (But sooo much more, can be used to positively describe many things)
- Dank ja wel = thank you
- Apotheek = pharmacy (so random, but for some reason it stuck – pronounced a-poh-take)
- Bibliotheek = Library (same as above)
- Gezellig (untranslatable – but generally cozy etc. Note: I seriously thought it was spelt “Huzellah”)
- Doei = byeeee (pronounced doo-ee)
- Tot ziens = bye (more formal)
- Eine, twee, drie, zeven, negen, tien (1,2,3,7,9,10 – don’t know the other numbers) (Note: learnt these while waiting on the phone for the immigration services – ‘you are “#” in queue’
- Stroopwaffle – syrup waffle = heaven in a biscuit
From work, I also picked up:
- Groot = big
- Klein = small
- Ontbijt = breakfast (not ‘snacks’ as I once believed – thanks Linde!)
- Alstublieft (I don’t know how to spell it, let alone any dutch word) = please, you’re welcome, etc
*Had to google the spelling for majority of these, because 97.8% of times the sounds do not match the spelling. So when in doubt, you’re most likely wrong.
Side note: because I spent a lot of my time buying groceries, I am also able to recall many fruits and vegetables e.g wortel = carrot – it’s a fine skill.
All in all, I’m so glad I managed to extend my degree to do exchange. It’s definitely a privilege and while not everyone has the circumstances (financial etc) to go, for those who have the means to, I would STRONGLY recommend it. Of course, each experience is different, but everyone will develop a MUCH greater sense of independence and meet people that they can keep in contact with long after.
Not only that, before commencing exchange, people kept saying how it ‘changes’ you. To be honest, after my post about this topic, I was still waiting for that epiphany. Instead, this change has been very gradual. I’ve become a lot more comfortable being alone (for example eating in restaurants, going to shows), and appreciate things a lot more (family, friends, the little things).
On exchange, some will find what they’re passionate in, others will realise that their hometown is actually really cool and will want to explore it more, but I believe everyone is forced to view their life before exchange from an outsider’s perspective. With that much time away, you’re better able to reflect, and critique aspects of your life that you would like to change upon returning.
I think exchange and travelling attracts a breed of people, those who are open-minded, free and want to try new things. It’s helped eliminate stereotypes (or reinforce – e.g the French and their baguettes). But most importantly, emphasise that people are just people, and we can get along despite cultural barriers and ways of thinking.
I am heading back to Amsterdam as I write this, and will be returning to Australia soon after. I’ve had an incredible time in Europe, and while i’ll miss it a lot, I’ll be coming back for sure!
Until then x