As incredible of an experience as going abroad was, I was very happy to land safely in the United States. It was great to reunite with my parents. It took a few days to recover from jet lag but once I was home and back in my regular routine I had time to full process the experience. I am so grateful I was able to travel and experience the Netherlands. I never thought I would be the person to say “oh when I went abroad” constantly, but here we are. I am so grateful to everyone involved with the planning and execution of the trip. Without the hard work of everyone behind the scenes this trip would not have been possible. I have taken with me a memories that will last a life time. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to read my blog!
Today was a great day because we were able to sleep in! I acquired as much sleep as possible and had a quick breakfast before meeting in the hotel room lobby at 9:00 sharp. We had a bike ride tour scheduled in the quaint town of Kinderdijk in the later morning. In order to get to our destination we took a train and a water taxi. The bike ride turned out to be more ambitious than I had realized. Our bike ride turned out to be a 10K that took us through the country side and the small village. Despite the incredible workout, the scenery was incredible and we were able to view some of the original windmills that helped reclaim land from the sea. When our bike ride was finished we were treated to a hearty lunch. I have never been so grateful for a meal! I had worked up an appetite on the bike ride. After our water bus ride back to Rotterdam, Rose our interpreter gave us a walking tour of the city. She showed us a few of the remaining buildings that had been left standing after the Germans bombed the city during the second world war. I had no idea that most of the buildings in the city were essentially brand new. Once the walking tour was finished, the students were let lose on Rotterdam. Bethany (my roommate) and I took off like a horse out of the gate. We explored as much of the city as we could in the three hours we were given. We went to a small bar called Bierboutique where we had a Bitzenballen sampler. It was absolutely delicious! After a quick lunch we found a great souvenir shop by the waterfront. We stocked up on gifts for our families and ourselves. Once our main objectives were finished we just walked around the city. We came across some amazing murals and took pictures in front of them. The day was over all amazing and I am so grateful that we were able to experience the city!
I am happy to update everyone on how the first day has gone so far! Getting to Newark airport was less stressful than I could have ever imagined. I was lucky that my parents were able to take off work so they could make the drive up to Newark and I did not have to pay for a week parking pass for my car. Leaving them was a little more hard than I thought it would be. Almost every vacation we have gone on together, (whether in or out of the country) has been together. So, it was a little strange to leave them behind at the flight gate so that I could journey through security alone. The line to reach security seemed to never end. When I finally got to the end of the line my heart was in my mouth. I was terrified that I was not going to make my flight in time! Thankfully, it moved quickly and by the time twenty minutes had passed, I was at the front of the line. I probably made it through security and lines in about an hour. It was great relief to see my travel mates at our flight gate. Everyone was excited and anxious to depart. Thankfully everyone made it on time to the airport! As we boarded the plane I couldn’t help notice how big the plane was. I have flown in planes before but never in a plane where there was a large middle seat section. The flight was very relaxing. Passengers were fed two main meals; dinner and breakfast. I drank tea water and coffee. I hardly slept at all on the flight. I have a feeling it was excitement. We landed safely, grabbed our bags (and some coffee) and we were ready to start the day ahead of us.
Once our translator Rose arrived, we were allowed to board the bus we would be on for our duration of the stay. I remember everyone’s faces when we first boarded. It was a mix between shock and pure astonishment. This was the most luxurious bus I had ever been on. The seats were plush, we had tables, and multiple TV’s. I ended up sitting with Bethany Stacey and Kayla. As soon as we boarded we were off to our first destination: The US embassy!
I had never seen or been in an embassy before, but I was shocked at how tight security is. It was honestly very intimidating. We were told no phones, cameras, or video recording were allowed. We presented our United States passports and the head security guard kept them until we departed. The building was beautiful and brand new. I was taken back by the amount of greenery that was involved in the landscaping of the embassy. Our purpose at the embassy was to listen to a talk on agriculture economics and trade policy between the United States and the Netherlands, Sweden, and Scandinavia. It was an interesting talk and everyone asked questions.
After the embassy, we went to The Hague and were set free to have lunch in the city and to adventure around the city on our own. Stacy, Kayla, Bethany, Katie, Lily and I all set off to find a place to eat lunch. The city was well manicured; it had tight streets and tall buildings. As a group we decided not to stray too far from the meeting point. The city seemed maze like. I had a delicious salad with a gigantic piece of goat cheese. I was in total shock from the amount they gave me. I shared it with some of the girls but easily devoured the remaining block myself. After completing some shopping; we met up with the rest of the group. Rose gave us a walking tour of The Hague. We around the parliament buildings and the Royal manor. It was interesting to see that the presidents office was sitting virtually unguarded. I was able to take a picture in front of it. A tourist from another country would not have had the same access by the White House. Rose bought us all herring and onions. The herring was fresh caught; and while I could appreciate the freshness of the seafood, I did not ask for seconds.
The next stop on our list that day was a rooftop garden in The Hague. The rooftop garden was also a fishery created by Urban Farmers. Our tour guide was lovely. She kept a tired group of us engaged and asking questions the entire tour. They grew all sorts of vegetables; some of which I could not identify. Some of the more recognizable vegetables were zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, string beans, kale, all types of herbs and more. Next, was the tour of their fishery. All of the water used from the plants is filtered and cleaned. It then goes into the fish tanks where it will be cleaned and reused on the plants. There were multiple tanks filled with Tilapia. Our tour guide assured us that the fish were not over crowded in their tanks; she explained that they needed to be this filled or the fish will get territorial and fight among themselves. The guide told us that this entire operation was organic and that it was all one large experiment. She urged us to try things out like this in America, and we were all definitely inspired.
While the tour was interesting and engaging; we were all dragging by this point in the day. We had aboutt an hour drive to dinner and we all took advantage of this by taking a nap on the bus. When we arrived at the coast and saw the ocean I was unimpressed. I guess that is the downfall living in New Jersey. We have miles and miles of beautiful beaches. After eating dinner we boarded the bus to head towards our hotel in Rotterdam. When we arrived at the Art Hotel of Rotterdam our roommates were announced! I was lucky enough to be paired up with Bethany! We went straight up to our room and fell asleep. The marathon day was complete!
As I get ready for my departure, I figured I would sit down and share some of my thoughts and feelings. Preparing for this trip was easy. I am luck to be well traveled so packing in and of itself is easy. I have learned that layering is key. In our Ag Leadership class we were told that the Netherlands’ weather has a tendency to be chilly and rainy. However, when looking at the weather ahead on my weather bug app, I saw that sun and temperatures in the seventies were expected. So I packed a bunch of T shirts and two jackets and a sweater. We are allowed one checked back and two carry on bags but I was able to fit all of my weeks clothes in my brand new suitcase. My great friend Susan gave it to me for my birthday. It is a Montana West bag with a stunning Native American horse on the front. It is safe to say that this bag will not blend in at the baggage claim! I just hope that I have enough room to bring back gifts! Preparing my phone for this trip was surprisingly easy. Apparently Verizon Wireless offers $10 travel passes so that you can use your phones regular data when traveling. All I had to do was to call Verizon and let them know where I was traveling and they added it to my plan! Getting Euros was tricky. My bank (PNC) charged me an enormous fee to convert the United States into Euros. I truly hope that I have enough money. However, I do have my debit and credit card if I run into any financial troubles. I am normally not nervous when it comes to flying but when I fly it is normally not over an ocean. I don’t know why but the idea of something going wrong over the water makes me nervous. Well, it is time to depart to Newark! I have a bit of a drive from my small town in South Jersey! Talk soon 🙂