Part 2: Surviving the First Week

If you haven't done so, check out the 1st part of my story "Part 1: First Day Jitters in Amsterdam."

The first day anywhere new is challenging, but the first week was more complex. After the first day jitters were over, my classmates and I went grocery shopping and we all came to the same realization; the grocery store is in the Dutch language. It never crossed our thoughts that we weren't able to do something as common as grocery shopping in the Netherlands. We knew the people in Amsterdam spoke Dutch, but we were told constantly that they would speak English and the language barrier would not be a problem. While everyone else got their phones out to translate the language, I thought "I don't want to look like a tourist" and wandered around to see what I could figure out. From looking at the pictures, I could mostly tell the foods I was buying and succeeded in my first transaction at Albert Hein (Amsterdam grocery store). Moving forward, I made lists and translated them before entering any store that I needed to go to. 

The classes while I was abroad were relaxed. I only had two in total for the 9 weeks abroad for school and it made traveling and learning about the culture became less stressful than before. The first day of classes were a bit overwhelming from trying to learn about Amsterdam, having a 7 hour time difference that I'm trying to get used to, and all the other factors of learning the syllabus for class. After the first day of classes, I started crying because I was in a class which I was not the best in and I was dealing with being far from home with no quick access home. It's hard to leave everything you know and feel comfortable with for the unknown. One of my friends on the trip was counting down the days until she could go home to her family. Many people had the same issues of struggling, but after the first week it became a lot easier. 

One thing that definitely helps is keeping yourself active. When I went out and did different activities, it was helpful to keep my mind focused on the now and to enjoy my time abroad. It also helped that I had a friend with me to do things with. We took the metro and tram around the city to visit multiple museums. While going through the museum we learned more about the culture and history Amsterdam had to offer us. At the end of the week, we went to the Amsterdam museum and had some coffee in a little shop next door. Although this doesn't sound exciting, it was a perfect way of easing into the culture. It wasn't an extravagant event, but was memorable from it's simplicity in the foreign area. 

We also went, with our class, to Anne Frank's hiding place during the Holocaust. I was fortunate enough to go again when my mom came to visit me in Europe and it was remarkable each time. It was affordable at 10 Euros, or about $11 for entry and it came with an audion tour as well. We were not allowed to take pictures, but the information from the audio tours and the rooms offered more imagery when reading Anne Frank's diary. The Secret Annex was the most intriguing part because they still had the original bookcase that hid the doorway to the attic. The stairs were similar to climbing a latter by how steep and thin they are. Walking around the same spaces that the people of the Annex had was eye-opening to the amount of effort it takes to be quiet. When reading her book, it didn't seem that difficult because floors (nowadays) are not noisy when putting pressure on it. The floorboards in the attic were noisy at almost every moment which astonishes me about their ability to stay almost two years in a stiff area. I was incredibly grateful to go to the museum and also purchase some books about others experiences during WWII (including Miep Geis' book about her perspective of the what was going on and her interactions with Anne Frank).

The first week was the most difficult part of the trip as I became acquainted with the city and learning the foreign country better. Emotions and lack of sleep will being incredibly overwhelming and everyone will react in a different way. Rarely people will have the same action for dealing with a new environment (or even needing to cope at all), but it was nothing to worry about because I became happier and more excited for the opportunities Amsterdam and Europe had to offer me while I was abroad.