As I sit in my living room in small-town, Washington State, USA, scarfing down Cheetos and guzzling Coke Zero, I could not feel farther away from my home of the past four months. And that's okay.
Of course, leaving my barren room and boarding a plane yesterday was tough. It was truly a goodbye and not a "see you later," as it had been for months when I would whisk away for the weekend, only to return Sunday evening relieved and content to be back within the confines of my sanctuary of a dorm room. This time, I don't know when I'll be back to Amsterdam. But, I walk away completely at peace with my time in the Netherlands.
Like any relationship you enter knowing it will have to end, my European lover and I made the most of our time together. I accomplished everything I wanted: visited every restaurant, bar, club, museum, park, and country on my list (for the time), learned an unbelievable amount about a new continent and myself, and made some of the most interesting and meaningful relationships of my entire life.
I finally understand what all people who have studied abroad seem to have, an intangible new way of looking at the world and even yourself. Its something you hear in the voice of previous travelers, right before you leave for your own abroad experience. It usually takes shape in the phrase, "You are going to have the most amazing time; it's going to change your life."
I thought, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Until it did.
I am easily a more independent, adventurous, appreciative, insightful, culturally-aware, worldly, and humble human being, thanks to my time abroad. Landing smack dab in the middle of Dutch culture and society forced me to expand my understanding of the world at large and, more importantly, turn a reflective eye on my own country. I learned that most Europeans don't think very highly of Americans, which is why it is so important to strive to be the best version of yourself when it comes to interacting in the international community. I think I won over a few people (looking at you, Dutch Buddy!).
It's easy to feel like nothing has changed, having already aided my transition back into the U.S. with pedicures, PopTarts, and my car. But with each glance at my phone's screensaver (the Dam) or encounter with a bike lane (scarce in Camas, WA), I'm reminded of my perfect experience across the pond and the personal transformation that it entailed.
To all the people that made this experience possible - Mom, Dad, grandparents, friends - WOW, THANK YOU. I am so blessed to have had your support, both financial and emotional. To all the people that I met along the ride - CIEE peeps, my "Rage Fam," international friends - you have contributed to the best four months of my entire life, and I will never forget you. xx