The beginning

By Stephanie Hornstra

Packing — my absolute least favorite activity to partake in. Needless to say packing and I have been butting heads for quite some time. So naturally, I began the process of packing for my five-month trip, the night before I left. DO. NOT. DO. THIS. I was on track until we weighed my enormous suitcase in at whopping 55 pounds, five pounds over the limit. I had practically air-tight sealed it with clothes, none of which I was willing to part with, so I was forced to unpack my entire bag and re-pack it into a lighter, smaller suitcase. Keep in mind this is all about an hour before we needed to leave for the airport. Finally, I accomplished the impossible feat of squeezing my clothes into a smaller bag and managed to make it to the airport on time, thus enabling my inner procrastinator. It was a close call, but I made it! And with everything I needed (except for headphones, all of my summer shoes, a backpack and swimsuits…). Moral of the story: Plan ahead, save yourself the time and stress!

After falling victim to the airport scam of overpriced headphones ($25.00? Is that even legal?), I boarded my flight. Ironically, the choice of movie was “Taken 2.” I’m sure the people over at US Airways all had a good laugh about it. The flight was long and boring — let’s just say if solitaire became an Olympic event, I’d take gold. The Amsterdam airport is clean and modern; everything was well labeled in both Dutch and English so I had no trouble getting around. The Dutch are extremely helpful and have very good English, they were happy to answer any questions I had. It took two trains, a bus and a short walk to get to where I live in Maastricht. I am still sore from lugging my bags around and my shoulder is slightly bruised (wimp alert).

When I finally made it to my room, I was so exhausted that I took a nap on my bare mattress using my coat as a blanket. It’s no penthouse suite, but my room is nice and spacious. They gave us a short tour of the city, being the oldest city in the Netherlands, it is home to a lot of beautiful architecture. We had a dinner for all of the exchange students afterwards; it’s amazing how many of us are here and from all over the world! Most can tell I’m American the second I open my mouth, as if it was written across my forehead. I’m trying to work on that.

Today I asked the info desk for a map so I could explore the city, they gave me the smallest map they could find so that I wouldn’t look like a “tourist.” It was raining, so the second I went outside the map was useless, but at least I didn’t look like a tourist, right? Not to mention the streets have names like “Wijnandsstraat” and “Vijverdalseweg,” so asking for directions turns into a lot of “Wijnand-what?” and “Vijver-what?” It made me think, how did people ever survive before Google Maps? Finding my way around has been my biggest challenge. That, or finding out that Europe doesn’t have Netflix. However, I’m managing. Pictures to come soon on a day that isn’t pouring rain!

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