Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Around the World in 7 Months

by TheTruth (writer), Manhattan, New York, June 25, 2007


“This will be an experience of a lifetime for you”. As cliché as it sounded at the time, everyone who said these words to me before I left for my semester abroad could not have been more insightful. It wasn’t until now during my sixth month in Italy that I understand how true that statement was and how powerful an influence this experience has been in my life.
Reflecting on my first feelings of studying abroad the night before I left the U.S., it shocks me now how uneasy I was about coming to Italy. My anxiety was so strong that it almost prevented me from getting on that flight that Wednesday afternoon. Looking back at the past six months of my life, I can only be grateful that I had the courage to go through with my decision. It makes me laugh now to think that I almost chose not to leave New York; I loved my experience so much that I decided to extend my stay in Europe an extra two months after the semester ended. I’m returning to the states next week filled with memories from an amazing seven months spent abroad.
During my semester, I traveled all across Italy as well as other parts of Europe. My previous articles done on Siena, Venice and Paris can only describe the tip of the iceberg of the experiences I’ve had here in these past months. My travels have taken me to places that expanded my views on the world, both on the European front as well as the American. Rivaling with my previously proclaimed “favorite city” in Europe (Paris), I have recently added a new love to that list: Amsterdam. I first traveled to Holland in April, and I was completely enthralled that I revisited on Memorial Day Weekend. The Dutch culture is unlike anything I have ever seen. I truly felt as if I was in an alternate universe. Similar to Venice, Amsterdam has major water-way transport throughout the entire city by way of canals. However, what makes Amsterdam unique is that there are many other various forms of transportation. In addition to the canals, Amsterdam is a city intertwined between alternating roads and canals which form a circular pattern leading to the city-centre. This design makes for easy navigation to any destination with the city limits. You can hop on a boat, catch a cab, step on the metro, jump on a Tram, walk, or ride a bicycle (which is among the most popular mode of transportation of the locals). However, it might be hard to spot a taxi; you won’t see any big yellow cabs -- all taxis in Amsterdam are Mercedes-Benz! With the less-than-obvious taxis throughout the city, in addition to all the other modes of transportation, it is amazing to see such a large city as Amsterdam flow so smoothly. Everything seems to be in sync. There are designated bike paths with bike racks every few feet along the streets; cars yield to pedestrians while the pedestrians yield to the cyclists. Even with all the excitement during the night hours, not once had I heard any noisy, disgruntled locals or even tourists; it seems as though the Dutch have perfected the art of synergy and have passed it onto visitors who quickly pick up on the peaceful vibe.
As much as I like to spend time in these European cities and just soak in the culture, when there’s an attraction I truly want to visit, sometimes I have to force myself to play the role of a tourist. Having read The Diary of Anne Frank several times since the fifth grade, the Anne Frank Huis (House) was one of the places I had my heart set on seeing. The outside, including the lobby, is restored and modernized so it’s difficult to immediately realize that you’re in the same building that Anne Frank spent the last years of her life in hiding almost seventy years ago. But before long, as you embark upon your self-guided tour, the life of Anne Frank as portrayed through her diary truly comes to life. As I passed by the famous bookcase that opens up to the stairs leading to the annex where the Frank family lived in hiding, I was unaware of the historical journey I was about to undergo. The most fascinating of all rooms that I wandered through was the bedroom of Anne Frank herself. It was almost haunting in a way that all the pictures and photographs hanging on the walls that are described by Anne in her diary are still present to this day.
With Anne’s actual diary on display, in addition to other artifacts and interviews being played on flat-screen televisions, the Anne Frank Huis is not one to miss. Places like this are important in today’s society so we can remember those who endured such sufferings and to learn from those past mistakes so people in this world can move past hatred and look forward to a day when differences can be looked at as nothing but uniqueness.
My trips to Amsterdam have truly given me a new perspective on the way others live their lives. The peacefulness and serenity in such a metropolitan area still captivates my mind to this day. Including all of the places I have visited, I have met a great number of interesting people along the way who have only heightened the experiences I’ve had and who have affected my life in one way or another. Being abroad and truly adapting to the European lifestyle is something that I will carry on with me forever. My seven months spent here were so remarkable that I have decided to broaden my horizons even more by traveling next semester with the DTW Africa group. I can only sit here and imagine what is in store for me next semester as I travel back to Italy and then on to Cameroon. One last, and most important, aspect is that I’ve learned not to ever pass up any great opportunities; life’s possibilities are endless and one decision can change your life forever. My decision to study abroad in Europe has truly changed my life and I would do it all over again if I had the chance. And I am!

About the Writer

TheTruth is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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