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