Amsterdam Favorite

20 02 2013

Amsterdam Favorite

Although canals fill the Netherlands, the beautiful canals of Amsterdam seem to be a trademark of the country. Here is a shot I got while aimlessly wandering the streets of Amsterdam.





Blogs are HARD

20 02 2013

Okay, so it’s become quite clear that I am terrible at keeping a blog. I think we can all agree on this! I meant to do several detailed posts about my time since I’ve been here, but since that doesn’t appear like it will happen in the near future, I’ll go ahead a do a few quick sentences about everything that has happened in my few weeks in the Netherlands!

1. HU Introduction Day – Lots of International kids. Was partially terrified. Met all the ECEJ kids and ate lunch with nice people.

2. Moved Into Flat – Same day as Intro Day. Met all 9 flatmates: 2 Canadians, 2 Belgians, 2 French, 1 Spanish, 1 Romanian and ME. All very nice!Image

3. ESN Tour of Utrecht – Climbed Dom. Scared to Death. Had pitiful tour of Utrecht. Went to market. Ate food.

4. ECEJ Intro Day – Met professors. Bought tiny, tiny bike. Met rest of people I hadn’t met already. Everyone in my program is unique. Can’t wait to spend a semester with them.

5. Trip to Den Bosch – For Carnaval. Went with Emma, Marissa (even though we lost her!), Rebecca, Arik, Yousei, Kay, Albita. Saw pretty cathedral. Saw lots of drunks. Explored. Ate. Laughed. Conversed. Got snowed on.

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6. Trip to Amsterdam – Went with Marissa. Saw Anne Frank Huis and Market. Ate Italian and Argentinian. Saw replicas of all 325 Rembrandt’s paintings. Saw royal palace. Accidentally found Red Light District. Walked with heads down. Explored.

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And now for a quick fun facts about Europe’s tulip central, the Netherlands.

  • Crazy Weather. CRAZY. Rain. Hail. Snow. Sunshine. In one day.
  • Lots of bikes. Everywhere. Leg muscle is key.
  • Different curriculum in school compared to US
  • Paying for bathrooms is common. ANNOYING.
  • Croissants are AMAZING
  • Although people speak English, all the writing is in Dutch. Plan food trips accordingly.
  • People are generally nice. Like super nice.
  • I don’t know if it’s just the Dutch (or Europeans in general), but everyone is TALL.
  • Europeans kiss on the cheek. Don’t freak out like me.

Here is my address. I love mail.

Maggie Solomon
Willem Schuylenburglaan 42 K22
3571 SJ Utrecht
The Netherlands

Essentially, that is the rundown of everything that has happened so far in Utrecht, the Netherlands. I’ll try to update this a little more often (maybe it’ll be easier now that I am in a swing of things), but I am not going to promise anything. Because I know how I am. And now, I leave you with a pity party of all the things I miss about home.

  1. My beautiful, beautiful car – A bike ride can be a beautiful experience for someone riding on a pretty spring day who has done it before. However, for me, a girl who hasn’t been on a bike since she was seven and chose a country that has weather more unreliable than the groundhog’s shadow, it sucks. Between Utrecht’s many mood swings of rain, sleet, snow, sunny and hail that makes me cold, wet and partially blind, it also limits my wardrobe to pants or dresses with tights under them (because I already made that mistake). If only the bus wasn’t so expensive!
  2. My beautiful, beautiful dryer – I’m not a planner. I am ‘Hm, I think I’ll wear this today’ kind of girl. Washing, drying and wearing all in the same day was a common occurrence back home. However, here we don’t have a dryer, which has made me have to think constantly about when to do laundry, what to wear, etc. etc. etc. Plus, it takes the clothes at least two days to dry fully. Inconvenient.
  3. 24-Hour Everything – Not to mention that everything except the Albert Heijn is closed on Sundays, nothing is 24 hours. So you’ve got a craving for a hamburger at 3 a.m.? No Cookout here to ease that crave, so you better stock up on food.
  4. English – Mostly everyone here speaks English, so that’s not the issue; BUT essentially everything is written in Dutch, so more times than one (more like 100), I’ve played ‘Well…that looks right.’ Most of the time, I’m failing as well, as proven by my terrible grocery shopping choices and getting lost in Utrecht.
  5. Free bathrooms – Oh yes, this one doesn’t need any explaining.
  6. Good bread – Apparently, Europeans like harder bread than that of America. The Germans are arguing that this bread is too soft…uhm, what? This is really inconvenient when you want toast, because it literally tastes like a brick. Someone send some Sara Lee.
  7. My phone service – Need I say more.
  8. A legit campus – HU functions much more as a community college than anything else: no dorms, no 24 hour library, no good, close coffee shop (that I have found) and very small. When you’re used to something as lively as UT, it’s a bit of a downer. The upside to this, however, is that I am still making plenty of friends. Yet, I do miss having a library, the Studio to check out equipment, a Starbucks, the Strip and an awesome apartment (not to say my flat and my roommates aren’t great).

These are just a few things that I have given up, but in all honesty, I can live without them if it means I can keep having the amazing experience I am having now. I have made great friends, seen amazing and beautiful places and haven’t even been here a month!





The Top of the Dom World!

2 02 2013

The Top of the Dom World!

This is the view from the top of the Dom Tower, where you can see some of the canals that run through the city’s centre. Very beautiful! But it was also absolutely HORRID to climb, especially since the closer you get to the top, the more narrow the stairs become!





Nederlands! Utrecht!

2 02 2013

Well, guess who made it to Utrecht (FINALLY)? I!

Yesterday was my first full day in Utrecht. However, I should probably detail the events that led up to now!

Picture it. Four days ago. A dapper and excited young Maggie is awake at 6:00 a.m. to prepare for my flight out of the Tri-Cities Regional Airport. There were storms and tornadoes in Atlanta, but I was still optimistic about everything (because what could go wrong?). But, of course, like most things do, everything went South. We got a phone call from Delta saying that a flight had been cancelled (which turned out to be my TRI to ATL). Cue the freaking out. I HAD to be in Utrecht by Friday for orientation. They couldn’t cancel the flight!

So my mom, dad, and I started working on other options. I called Delta to see what I could do, and twenty minutes later, we were in the car driving straight to Atlanta to catch my flight at 5:25. We drove through where the tornadoes that were touching down only a couple of hours after and saw all the damage. While driving, I checked my Delta App and saw that my departure time had been changed from 5:25 to 7:40. I was more confused because it said i was still departing from the Tri-Cities. However, I tried to not worry about it.

Finally, we arrived in Atlanta. We unloaded the luggage and when I went in to buy my ticket, it wouldn’t print. (Are you kidding? It gets better.) I was directed to a Delta desk and after a few minutes of talking, they told me I wasn’t cleared to fly to Amsterdam. (OH YES.) I asked what the problem was, and I was told I needed a visa to enter the country as a student. I argued for nearly an hour about how both my coordinator as well as someone from Utrecht had told me I didn’t need the visa to enter, I just had to apply either before or after I had arrived (and as we know, I applied about a week and a half before departure). I even showed them a copy of the visa application. However, the Delta stonewalled me and told me I would be illegal if I went without the visa (WHICH ISN’T TRUE). By this point, I was freaking. Everything that could go wrong had went wrong. So my parents took my luggage back down to the car and we decided to just stay the night in Atlanta and try again the next day. Meanwhile, I had called the emergency hotline for the Programs Abroad office at UT and frantically described my dilemma. Unfortunately, they were just as dumbfounded as we were as to why we weren’t allowed to board the flight.

After I hung up (very depressed, I might add, to have come all this way to not be allowed to board a flight), I started combing my emails, trying to find one from the Visa Officer at HU that might be able to help. I found one of her explaining I didn’t need the visa to enter the country, but after more debating with different officers, they still wouldn’t let me board the flight. Eventually, they gave us another option. If I purchased a completely refundable ticket for a return flight within the three months, then they could let me board. It would only cost $3200. (YEAH THAT NUMBER IS RIGHT). My parents, who knew I NEEDED to be in Holland so as to not miss my orientation, booked the ticket and soon I was waiting for the 10:50 p.m. flight to the Netherlands. Shew. What an exciting first day, right?

The flight was about as good as a seven hour night flight with minimal leg room and inadequate support for sleeping could be. The man I sat beside was an older Dutch man who was very nice in answering all my questions about how everything worked and getting up every time I needed to move around. We landed at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport around 1 p.m. The nice Dutch man got and carried my carry-on off the flight (say that ten times fast). Then I searched for Customs, which took literally less than ten seconds to get through (what was all the hype, Delta?). I found my luggage drop and waited for about 20 minutes for it to come. Luckily, everything was in tact. I then went in search of the huge red and white cube where the Erasmus Student Network was waiting. Two girls helped me buy a train ticket to Utrecht and then we hurried down the platform since we only had about two minutes to get there.I was put on the train and told that ESN members would be waiting at Utrecht Centraal. I had been on the train for about 25 minutes when we arrived in Utrecht. I got the help of a woman to get my luggage off the train, but then left to fend for myself for getting my luggage up the escalators. (Just for visual purposes, I had two huge, 50lbs suitcases, a 25lbs carry-on, and a stuffed computer bag…laugh it up.) Plenty of people watched as I struggled off the platform and up the escalators. Some were probably giggling to themselves since I think I looked pretty ridiculous.

Eventually, I made it up the escalators and over to the second station of ESN. There were two boys who certainly got a laugh out of all the luggage I had brought (by this point, I started to realize I might have brought a bit much… They helped put me on a bus to the De Uihof (campus part of town) where I was going to sign my contract with SSH Short Stay then (as I was told) get a shuttle to my hotel, Hotel Mitland. Once I was on the bus, I was asking random people about which stop I was getting off of (Called Heigelbruklaan, I think? Something to that effect). Luckily, a girl told me when I was getting off and helped get the luggage off. The Short Stay office was just behind the bus stop, luckily, but I had to go around a median in order to get there. Of course, I struggling over the stupid amount of luggage I had brought. And right in front of the door of SSH, I dropped all of my luggage (of course). But what is the lesson that we are learning? Yes. Dutch people are nice. Two middle aged Dutch men were walking by and offered to help get my bags inside, which was incredibly nice. Once inside, I paid the rest of the fees and for my bedding.

Unfortunately, the ESN had been wrong and there was no shuttle. Thankfully, they called a cab for me, and the guy driving it (go figure!) was incredibly nice and even gave me a mini Dutch lesson on how to pronounce the sch- sound that has been giving me so much grief! He dropped me off at my hotel, and after checking in, I was in for the night to enjoy my lovely jet lag.

SHEW. What a couple of days, right??

I’ll write another post about my orientation at HU and my day with ESN touring Utrecht. As for now, tot ziens!