Giving Thanks

Hoi, alleman.

It hardly seems possible that I have arrived at my three-month marker already.  Well. I take that back. It kind of does. Time feels like is passes quite slowly here for me, but then every Thursday I tell myself I’ll read my assigned articles early. Then I wake up and it’s Monday morning and I’m scrambling to get to class and look for cards from my grandmas.

So, it more accurately feels like I’m in some sort of bizarre caffeine-induced time warp sprinkled with moments of clarity and excitement. Quite sobering when I actually reach a milestone in time where I have added another month to my conquest.

Today is one of those days– Though it heralds the conclusion to my third month, it also rings the bell of the first holiday I spend without being surrounded my friends and family.

I thought I would feel more homesick than I do. But instead I’m sort of filled with a bittersweet mixture of gratitude and sadness all at once.   There is a word in Dutch called ‘gezellig’ (roughly pronounced heh-sell-ick).  There is not English equivalent for it, because it is a word that describes an ambiance or essence of a place/person(s)/situation. English doesn’t have many words like that.  But if there was ever a situation in which this word is the first one my brain turns to for the US, it is the holidays. It feels like Thanksgiving at home: cozy atmosphere, lots of friends and family socializing, good food, and enjoying company. It is how Thanksgiving and Christmas feel. Thanksgiving is very gezellig, and I am sad to be missing out on the few times of the year I get to experience that word to its full effect.

However. I am grateful that I have had such good experiences to miss. Moving abroad for a good amount of time is by far one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had. You gain a lot of perspective about what it is that defines you as a person, and the strength of bonds that you have.  And through every card, skype call, videogame, and text I get nearly every day from my fiance, my family, and my best friends, it is impossible to not be humbled that so many people are looking out for me and doing what they can.  You can only be so sad with a support group like this, you know?

 

Take the time to be thankful for everyone who has helped you find your adventure and leap head-first into whatever unknown you’re facing. I know I certainly am.

Tot de volgende keer.

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Winter is Coming

Hoi, alleman and welcome back to the blog!

Long time no talk, but I am happy to say that I have survived my first quarter and all of the finals/papers along with it.

Life here has been pretty slow this last month. Everyone has spent most of their time gearing up for finals, and now that it is all said and done, we were able to take a couple days off before the next quarter starts Monday. Yay.   When is Thanksgiving break again? (;

This quarter’s classes will be ethics, and two philosophy of science courses. The work load is looking fairly manageable for this quarter, as I have been fortunate enough to have many ethics classes, and this one seems to be quite cohesive in material from what I’ve studied previously. *crowd roars* However, the other two will be quite new– I’m hoping the build off of last quarter to some degree though.

Aside from that, I have had a great time enjoying the cool weather, the lack of ants, and my super cozy flannel bedsheets (thanks, mom!).  Though many of my classmates have been focused on doing well on the tests and studying like crazy, I have enjoyed many evenings hanging out with some friends back from ONU and playing games. I remain incredibly thankful to have made such great friends from there, that whenever I miss home, I can almost always find someone awake to ease my mind.

Though I am pretty certain missing my friends, friends, and the NB Coffee Company will never “go away” (where is my melted snowman when I need one???), it definitely becomes easier to manage as I find more and more people here who I resonate with spiritually and intellectually.  It is one of those incredibly unique situations where we have all formed a camaraderie through being subjected to the same trials and tribulations of the program here. The class of individuals I ended up with here are truly extraordinary people, and, I must say,  it is an absolute privilege to be chasing dreams alongside them.

It sort of pains me, not to spend at least some of my post addressing the “state of the union” in light of the presidential election.  But honestly, after this last week of discussing the notions of freedom, justice, and abuse of power, I am tired of trying to find justification for beliefs  that are cataclysmic to the very ideals America was built upon.  Though I am saddened by the  self-destructive nature some individuals are determined to pursue, I am hopeful that the remainder of the US will stay resilient, hopeful, and kind to their fellow countrymen. ( OK, I swear that’s it. I’m cutting it off here).

Stay safe out there. And remember, Winter is Coming.

Advice from a Pumpkin

Hoi, alleman

Longest post yet incoming.

Tl;dr: I have a meta blog analysis. I make a Halloween reference. I made some friends. And I am starting to feel at home.

Sorry for a bit of a late update. I have been kept quite busy lately by the never-ending stream of readings and group-projects.  But, I have carved out some time to write this while procrastinating on everything else I ought to be doing. (:

The first order of business is a little ‘meta’– that is, referring to my own blog within my own blog.  But I think it is fairly important to say it as I have thought it. So, I apologize for the ‘inception-esque’ effect here.

Writing a blog is incredibly difficult.  Much more difficult than I would have originally thought. Not because of it being “time consuming” or technically challenging.  No. But because it requires to to be both introspective and objective about myself and my experience all at once.

It is hard to go back and re-read my previous posts without judging myself. And feeling the need to just erase it all and rewrite it more objectively, from the perspective I currently have. Because as quickly as things are changing all around me, I feel like I change just as fast.

But at the same time I feel that it is more authentic for me to keep them as they are written–Without the future me constantly “editing” the past me. I think this provides a better paper trail for growth, and at the end of my journey will be overall more rewarding. It’s a bit like carving a jack-o-lantern. When you mess up and cut one eye a little lopsided or not perfectly to how you envisioned it, you don’t just give up in throw away. You just do what you can, and accept it for what it is.

While it is definitely a challenge for me, I am trying to genuinely provide a look into how it feels to move to a different country alone and start anew.  Not just how it is.  And it is incredibly subjective and always able to change, but when I write it, that is how I feel it. And, maybe, someone who is in the same situation that I am will read my words and think, “hey. It’s OK to feel lost and alone and overwhelmed. You don’t have to be excited and adventurous and confident from the start”. Traveling abroad is all of those things, and then some. But it is very strange to literally watch all of the above happening to you through the course of a blog. Watching yourself grow, in a sense.

Mooovvviinnnggg on.

I have finally started to make some friends in the great country of The Netherlands!

*cue applause*

I will start to introduce the people I have met through the blog a few at a time.  Perhaps one day I will even make it through the entire program of people!  But I hate to write about people I have not yet gotten a good enough chance to know, so I will work my way through them as I am able to learn more about them.

First up on the list is the marvelous Marloes (pronounced “Mar-loose”). (see potato-quality photo below).  I have mentioned a couple of times in the past about some of the advice gained from the other Dutch PSTS students here, and she is the source of most of that haha.  She is an incredibly strong and compassionate individual.  And in all honestly, I feel like she would fit perfectly into my family. For those of you who have had the pleasure of meeting any of my family’s matriarchy, you definitely know that my granny, my adopted granny, my mom, and my sis are some of the most vibrant, strong-spirited, and caring women you will ever come across. And I am incredibly grateful to have met someone over here that shares many of those awesome qualities with them. I will always be one to say that the world needs women with strong hearts and bold minds; it is always a boon to have their company on any journey.

Second of which is Mees (pronounced more like “maize” with a soft z sounding like “mace”).  Also a native of The Netherlands.  He has provided me with a plenty fair share of advice about life here as well, but has also played a large role in bringing me “up-to-speed” with making friends and getting to know people better.  I feel like I have gotten to know many other students from the PSTS program better thanks to the fun little “events” he comes up with. And I’ve learned how to play some new games and appreciate old ones just a bit better.  Though he is highly critical and observant about the world around him, he has a good heart and is remarkable at interacting with other people.  He has also kindly volunteered his oven to the making of an American-style pumpkin pie. So, be sure to stay tuned for that adventure.

Last of this post, but certainly not least is Pati. Pati is an engineer from Mexico.  She was one of the very first people I met when I moved here, as a part of the international student welcome fest thing. Though I know her probably the least well of the people I consider to be friends, I honestly feel like I know her better because of her blog.  Pati is a phenomenal writer.  Not  just through style or whatever. But because her writing has a honest fire to it.  She is incredibly passionate about life, and has such a genuine presence around people. She is very good at making people feel… noticed? acknowledged? I’m not quite sure how to put it. But Pati is one of those people that make you feel “there” when she is talking to you. An incredibly rare and interesting quality to find in someone, but it is such a engaging part of her character.

Alright. So. There are a few of my classmates/friends! Like I said, far from everyone in my class. But I am hopeful I will have more to write on others as I get to know them.  There is still plenty of time. But this is a good way to feel like I’m “introducing” them to everyone back home, like I would when I lived there.  Though I can’t bring people to show them Pumpkinfest or play cards with my grandparents, I will attempt to give a small glimpse into what makes them so neat on here.

Next topic.

Last weekend I was actually able to go out into the city and hang out a little bit.  Marloes was kind enough to invite me to come have some drinks and see her boyfriend Stefan and his band play in the city of Enschede. Which ended up being great time.  There were mobile classrooms for science week, an interactive art exhibit, and a ton of people out enjoying the experience. Marloes and I also found some Gluhwein (what I make at the holidays with red wine, orange, cinnamon, and brandy) to drink. It reminded me a lot of home and enjoying it with my family during the holidays.  Overall an excellent night.

This week has been filled with lots of reading on Nietzsche and “being human”, Wittgenstein and language frameworks, social construction of technology, and a dip into artificial intelligence and philosophy of the mind with Searle.  And Marloes and I are gearing up for our next group project on actors, networks, and technology.

Wish us luck as we survive the next few weeks with lots of coffee, existential dread, and laughter as we approach the quarter’s finals.

Tot de volgende keer.

PS. Here is a nice picture of a storm I caught from my backyard and Marloes and I enjoying Saturday night’s drinks and music!

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The Rabbit Takes a Little Photo

Hoi, alleman and welcome to this week’s edition of “finding friends in The Netherlands”.

Despite this week being filled with the never-ending demands of group projects, I have managed to find time to get to the market and work on my friendship skills.

Which, while that may sound like a fairly simple procedure for most, it has always been a bit of a chore for me– Especially since I still feel like I am trying to get my footing in even the most basic of tasks in my new country (although I was quite pleased to finally hunt down the store that sells hand soap and clothes hangers this week). But despite that, I am still feeling a little empty of meaningful social interactions.  Yes, I see many people during class and have many neat conversations, but I am really struggling to find mutual companionship– A couple people to do errands with, to go out to eat with, and to just generally spend some of my immense free time with.  While doing all of these things solo allows me time to think and become more independent, I find myself often reminiscing about my days at ONU and hanging out with my friends and family back home.

I think that missing piece really came around to hit me yesterday when I met an 8 year old Dutch kid who was engaged with a ballgame with some of my classmates at the park when I showed up.  After a few brief words and questions about his interests, he was more interested in “talking English” to me than playing ball. So, we had a lovely conversation about the wonders of learning languages, playing videogames, and his favorite part of school: Recess.

Ahh. To be 8 again.

But the profundity of this conversation comes not from the topics discussed or the skill of his English, but from the fascination and enthusiasm with which he interacted with me.  As the day went on, I sort of realized that no one has really been that happy to see me or affected by my presence or immersed in a dialogue with me since I have left home. And while I have met plenty of people here, I still feel like a falling leaf–though distinct in my descent, I make the same sound as any other.

Aside from that, I have taken pictures, as promised. Enjoy a few shots of my transportation, my back yard, and my new city.

Tot de volgende keer.

 

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The Wellness Race and the Long Class

Hoi, alleman and welcome back to this week’s edition of “Surviving the Netherlands”.

I have learned this week that the Dutch people have sayings for nearly everything:

Especially when it comes to having a cold.

After searching for how to acquire some Alka seltzer or Nyquil to help me walk among the living again on week 3 of 4 being sick since my arrival, I was presented with the sage advice, “Without medicine, your cold will last 7 days. With medicine, your cold will last a week”.  Needless to say, I will be rubbing dirt into this cold until it goes away, and putting both medicines down on my “to bring back at Christmas” list.

My situation was definitely improved when my Dutch group-mate for our design project was also sick with the same thing I have. To which she told me, “Gedeelde smart is halve smart”.  Roughly translated, “Shared pain is half pain”.  Glad to know someone else will  also be presenting our team’s findings through feverish ramblings and a cacophony of coughing.

So, between the cold-induced aches and the steady pour of rain in the morning, I was unable to go to the market (likely more, “unwilling to bike 20 minutes through the rain while already sick”).  But I am hopeful that I will be able to head out next weekend to collect some great produce, an apple tart (or two), and snag some lunch at “Beans & Bagels”. And acquire some pictures of these lovely places to share with all of you!

Aside from those two negatives, everything else has been going well.

My bank account is officially set up, I am now considered a resident of the NL, and as such am able to travel freely among EU countries, and I am finally settling into the happy-medium of “reading everything assigned” and “reading what is necessary to understand the assignment” (which is a surprisingly large distinction in grad school).

On this week of topics, I am presenting on the acquisition of sociological scientific knowledge, reading about Empiricism and Transcendental philosophy, and wading my way through Heidegger (though even after reading 1/2 of his book, I still have no idea what his main argument is).

I’m afraid that is all I have for this week, however. I remain hopeful that my health will rebound before long, and that I will be able to continue on with market adventures this weekend!

Here’s a cheers to surviving my first month in The Netherlands (barely), proost!

A Pool of Knowledge

Friday, oh how I have missed you.

Although this week of class was my first, it is the longest one for the rest of the quartile.  4 hours of lecture Tuesday-Friday has slowly bludgeoned me to the ground.  I have never been so happy to simple collapse onto my bed and take a brief nap.  Fortunately, the rest of my semester will cycle between an 8 hour day and a 4 hour day a week and 3 days of 4 hours.

After my introductory period, I have realized that there certainly is such a thing as “too much” knowledge (well. at least crammed in a short period of time).  To where the pool of knowledge feels like I am drowning in it currently. Especially since one of my professors has the terrible habit of giving us 50+ pages to read, then expanding so much upon 10 pages of it in class, 4 hours go by while we are still on page 7.  Needless to say, we are already behind in his two classes.

Aside from that, the other classes are relatively fast-paced and interesting.  The constant class discussions  make the time pass quickly, and it enables me to pull information from a variety of different backgrounds– Not just the lecturer’s.  This helps to solidify the information I am given and root it within a more memorable framework.  Many of  my classmates are incredibly witty and humorous– They have a lot to contribute to the discussion and are interested in constant engagement with each other.  And for the first time in quite awhile, I do not feel like one of the smartest people in the room. It is truly humbling to be surrounded by so many great thinkers and reminds me that, “If you’re the smartest one in the room, you’re in the wrong room”.

I am hopeful that I will be able to keep up though.  While there is a lot of work, it is not an impossible amount to keep up with, and they are laying a ton of groundwork for now as to not loose the engineering and design students who are intermingled in our courses.

Apart from school, I have been cooking in my Crockpot, celebrating the death of ants, and hoping my bank account opens soon.  Oh. And craving a Coffee Shop coffee and Bob Evans. Only 105 more days!

I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the start of your September.

Tot kijk

 

Down the Rabbit Hole

Hoi, alleman!

I have survived the first week in The Netherlands. (:

The first two days there were harder than I could have imagined.  I had gone from having friends and family a short drive away, or from having David by my side to run errands with me, to being entirely on my own.  I grocery shop by myself, I buy bikes by myself, I go out to eat by myself. And at first it was lonely.  All I could think about was what everyone else back home was doing 6 hours away.  I think part of it was the complete and utter surprise of nothing being how it was depicted.  But of course, all colleges show their nicest dorm rooms with the painted walls and clean bathrooms, and not the rooms nearly everyone gets.  So, a likely combination of dehydration, jet-lag, and no air-conditioning in 88 degree heat made for a bad start to my adventure.  Or perhaps it was just that I was not warned about the Dutch toilet’s inspection shelf or closet shower? (More details on that here)  Mostly just a bunch of adjustments being dumped on my lap the second I had solid ground under my feet.

But as the ever-more aptly named book explained, “Before Alice got to wonderland, she had to fall pretty hard down a deep hole”.   Can you all see what the theme of this blog is yet?

So, despite the rocky start I had in my new home, this country has began to grow on me.  Not really for the layout of the campus or the scenery, but for the people.  For one, all of the Dutch people I have encountered are incredibly polite and helpful.  I have asked for countless directions from all variations of Dutch, and each person has been more patient than the last.  I have learned Dutch drinking games, Dutch songs, and strange customs (there aren’t actually any stop signs here. Even for cars. Just by the way.)  Furthermore, everyone here is incredibly passionate.  They are passionate about their careers, about their lives, and about their friends.  I have yet to meet a single person, on the plane or off, who hasn’t told me about their work or school without a glimmer in their eye and a smile in their face.  These guys LOVE to work hard, but even more, they love their families and communities.  It truly is so refreshing to see, and I look forward to gleaning some wisdom from them on how to be so enthusiastic about working hard and making time to remain engaged in their personal lives.

Aside from that, the University of Twente has a pretty large international community by all definitions.  It is great in both number and diversity.  I have met people from Istanbul, Mexico, Germany, Indonesia, Nepal, India, Belarus, Germany, Ukraine, Scandinavia, just to name a few! It has been a great relief to find people to not only struggle with, but to survive with as well.  Although I am still the only US student anyone has met, the internet has made us all so similar, so I do not have a hard time relating and discussing any variety of topics with them.  And the similarities in sense of humor and communication is incredible– There is very little lost in translation that can’t be explained by a good Harambe meme.  It is awesome to find people who are also so excited to be here in Enschede and passionate about this university.

My program, The Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Society, boasts a world-class staff and excellent publishing and graduating records.  After meeting a few of the professors, I am not surprised.  They are funny and down-to-earth, but there is no question that they are great thinkers who deeply care about the future of our society.  Not only that, but you can already tell that they love what they do. They are excited to have us and to share their knowledge. Our class has ~30 people in it, making us one of the larger ones to pass through this program. Less than half of us had Philosophy BAs and way over half of us are from outside of the NL– from about 10 different countries of origin. An incredibly diverse group.  After meeting my classmates and my department, I am excited to be a part of this program.  While anxious to get started, I think I will fit in just fine. (Especially since I have seen the reading list, and have encountered almost all of the readings before at ONU. Thanks again, ONU Philosophy department!)

The resounding lesson of my first week is to appreciate the small things: a crowded campus, a breezy 70 degree day, a new bike, a good pillow, and Skype.  And eventually, I will find my wonderland.

Tot de volgende keer