I meant to update you sooner, but ACK! I always forget how insane the first weeks of the fall semester can be. I have all the usual tasks for starters – buying books, finding classes, scheduling, last minute emergency class registration issues, finding school supplies, worrying about how expensive I am, etc. But on top of it, I’m in a totally new country this year. It’s a brand new campus, a different teaching style, a new language, a new city, and a lack of community. It’s been a wild ride already.
The first week was an insane high of international student week, thrift store adventures, and starry-eyed exploration of Groningen. After that, reality set in. The starry-eyed moments are still popping up regularly, but the more difficult aspects of this move are weighing heavily on me.
Moving inter-continentally ain’t a piece of cake, folks.
Even back when I was traveling with my family and didn’t have to deal with the logistics, it was always difficult. The first few weeks of a big continental shift are hard, period. The food is unfamiliar, there are always unspoken cultural laws you learn by trial and error, changing languages can be shocking to the system, and the unknown is scary. It’s always scary. After traveling for a bit, most people seem to learn that it’s a normal cycle and find ways to ride it out, but it’s still hard. So I’ve spent this last week have anxious meltdowns about stupid little things, panicking about my budget, feeling homesick, and enjoying a culture shock rollercoaster. Yep, even though I’ve been traveling for a decade. It’s all good.
On the bright side, I fall more in love with this city every day. My physiotherapist requires me to go for a 2-3km walk every day, rain or shine, so I’ve spent some time wandering. The canals are perfect. The city can be packed full of people and still have a quiet, peaceful air. The streets are dominated by bicycles, cars don’t pass through often. We have this amazing little open-air farmer’s market three days of the week. All of the produce is incredibly fresh (like, picked this morning) and cheaper than the grocery store, if you can believe it. Heck yeah. I’m going to be a spoiled foodie by the time I get back to Canada.
My attic nest is a little oasis of peace and comfort. I’m in love. I’ve collected 10 plants to freshen it up, invested in plenty of pillows and throw blankets, and now it’s the ideal place to study, nap, and escape from the crowded streets below.
And! I already have a community here. Crazy how that happens. I participated in introduction week and gained a network of buddies instantly. I’m off to see a movie with them in a few minutes. I’ve also met people in classes and meetups that have stuck. Why was this so difficult back in Kingston? I’ve spent two years trying to build a community back home and I found one within two weeks here. My theory is that it’s because travelers have a greater incentive to build connections and to reach out to one another. We all need community equally. We’re all alone in an unfamiliar environment. However, at home most people bring their communities with them to uni. It’s just a theory.
So yeah. A rollercoaster of ups and downs. I’m still sorting out some class-related issues and I’ll have to take the train to Zwolle to get my residence permit finalized, but in all: I’m pretty much living the life of my dreams right now. It’s worth the hassle. All of my hard work to make this happen has paid off and I’m feeling pretty proud of myself.
More to come soon!