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The Kasteel Well study abroad program is one of the reasons I chose Emerson College. I mean, the chance to spend three months at a 14th century castle in the Netherlands is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How could I not go? 

I was obviously excited, but I was also anxious about living in a different country for so long. From new people to different cultural customs, it was a huge shift. And for a fun added bonus, my ex, who I broke up with only a week and a half before winter break, would also be in attendance. 

Breakups are hard enough under normal circumstances. Throw both people into a picturesque modern-day fairytale, and you have an even bigger challenge. When both people are trying to heal and stay friends, these aren’t ideal conditions. 

At least it’s a lovely place to cry yourself to sleep.

All jokes aside, I think I’m coping fairly well. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that only a tiny percentage of breakups (if any) go through this particular situation, and we’ve been finding our rhythm. In Boston, my ex and I share a lot of the same friends, so there isn’t much space for healing apart from each other. We found our own groups at the castle and have been fostering friendships and memories that don’t involve each other, a healthy first step. 

We still see each other, but not like we used to. Just to meet up for lunch with others or to share a quick conversation in between classes. These small interactions are comforting because after everything, we’re still best friends. Losing a partner and best friend all at once is a lot to handle, so I don’t think cutting each other out completely would have been helpful for either of us. 

The Netherlands requires all visitors to quarantine, so as of right now, we are still stuck within the castle limits. We have less physical space apart, but have more time to figure out our dynamic on campus. We will hopefully be released soon to travel into the town of Well and eventually go on our own adventures around Europe. 

I think travel is a great opportunity for personal growth. You have the chance to go out of your comfort zone and try new things in new places and meet new people along the way. While I’m not healed yet, I’m excited to continue to learn about myself and leave feeling freer than when I came. 

Maddie Browning is a journalism major with environmental studies and publishing minors at Emerson College. She has written for other campus publications, including Your Magazine and Atlas Magazine, as well as Colorado Community Media.
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