(study) ABROAD

As I sit in a park in Utrecht tanning by a canal writing this blog, I can’t help but smile at how incredible my life right now. I’ve been in Utrecht for a week now, but with everything that has happened I find it impossible that I’ve only spent 7 nights here. From the Tour de France to a home cooked Italian meal to a 400 year old windmill to wandering Amsterdam’s Red light district, everything that I’ve seen has only been made that much better by the amazing people that I’ve met here in this short period of time.
A week ago the Tour de France arrived in Utrecht. First stop for Amber and I was to buy a bike ourselves- then race to the finish line to catch the Grand Depart of the tour. What was most amazing to me about the tour were the crowds that attended. It was busier than a gator football game, and that’s saying something. Gator football fans pack into a stadium, while Tour fans line the streets for MILES to cheer on riders.

Classes started on Monday, which I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed about. I know the term is STUDY abroad, but can’t I just do the abroad part? Despite my reservations, class is actually quite fun. It is a lot of lecture (When the Dutch tell you they’re brief and to the point, I beg to differ), but there is also a lot of group work and simulation games unlike my classes in America. The group work was a great way to break the ice and meet people. I was surprised at the diversity of the class. Pretty much the only people from America here are from UF, while the rest of the class comes from places as far away as Indonesia, South Korea, and Turkey. Myself and two other girls from UF, Savannah and Amber, have grown close to a group of Italians who we cook dinner with and explored Amsterdam with yesterday. Exploring a new place is always fun, but it’s even more fun to be in new places with new people.

It’s the newness of it all that keeps me so engaged. The Netherlands is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL country, but as foreign as it is to me certain parts remind me of home. We visited the Zaanse Schans yesterday, which has the beautiful historic windmills. Obviously the windmills aren’t commonplace in Florida, but the agriculture and drainage of the land and peat moss at the Zaanse stuck a chord with what I know in Florida. I like to think that I’m adapting to Dutch culture well, but there are little parts of me that will always be Florida. For example, I’m tanning right now. While listening to country music. And drinking an iced tea.

One of our assignments for class was to write an essay comparing American culture with another country using Hofstede’s 6 Dimensions of Culture. While American culture is very different from the culture of my peers from South Korea, Italy, and Indonesia we all still manage to find common ground and enjoy working with each other. And in my opinion, that’s more of a learning experience than what I can learn in class.