Although I spent most of my time abroad in Paris, I had the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands for a long weekend. The train system in Europe is one of the best in the world and so it was easy for me to make the four-hour trip North to Amsterdam. I traveled with two other American students that I had just met a few weeks prior, and while I was eager for the trip, I was also a bit nervous.
The first thing I noticed upon arrival was that other people were speaking English. After over a month in Paris, the sound of my native language was hard to come by. I immediately felt at ease knowing that I wouldn’t have to use hand gestures or say something 7 times with a poor French accent before someone understood me. We had a limited amount of time in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and so we set out to explore.
Aside from the amazing Dutch pancakes, there were two things that stuck out to me during my trip. First, I was able to visit the Moco museum, which had some of the coolest modern/contemporary art pieces I had ever seen. When I visited, there was a street art exhibit which was awesome for me coming from New York where street art is everywhere. However, my favorite part of the city was the canals. After spending a ton of time around the Seine, it was cool to compare it to the endless canals that wind through Amsterdam. Also, unlike the U.S., pedestrians and bikers ruled the streets of Holland which I appreciated coming from the traffic-ridden streets of New York City.
Something I took away from my trip to Holland was that despite the fact that countries in the EU are so close together, each one has a very distinct culture. A short train ride could take you to a place that was quite literally foreign. Watching the way that other people went about their lives put my American upbringing in perspective and definitely made me start to question my own value system. A lot of these questions remain unanswered to this day.