Den Haag Hollan Spoor Train Station
I’ve been in Den Haag for a little over 26 hours and it’s been a very interesting journey so far. I’ve come to love this place even though I don’t understand Dutch at all.
My flight path was from Cincinnati to Philadelphia to London to Amsterdam. Upon arriving Amsterdam I was to purchase a ticket from the train station located directly under the Airport. There are multiple yellow machines that dispense tickets. However, they only accepted Chip + Pin card or Euro coins. As fate would have it, I only had cash so a wonderful person guided me to a booth where I could use cash. I bought my tickets for €9 and headed towards the platform.
At the platform I initially took the wrong train because I was supposed to go to the station called “Den Haag Holland Spoor” (HS) instead of “Den Haag Central”. Luckily I stepped out at the right time and was able to get on the correct train. After about 40 minutes I reached Den Haag Holland Spoor and my directions were to call the pick-up service and then head to the pick up spot near the train station. After dragging my main bag (51 lbs.) and carry on (25 lbs.) for about 1/2 a mile and struggling to use a pay phone for 30 minutes I realized it wasn’t my fault at all. Apparently the new number was sent out to all the students and I somehow either didn’t receive it or missed it. Despite having to walk around with my luggage for an hour, I finally found the building where the wonderful people from InterAccess made things so much easier. Dennis drove me to my apartment along with Romina.
A few things that I’ve noticed so far:
- People in The Hague love beer, are kind, and very helpful.
- They also drive on the right side of the road, which isn’t something I was expecting.
- Almost everyone rides a bike regardless of whether you’re a 5 year old kid or a business woman in her 40s wearing a suit.
At this point I’m all settled in and am slowly starting to find my way around the city. I got a new Dutch sim card and the OV-Chipkaart which is used to pay for trams, trains, and buses in the Netherlands.
I’ve also decided to rent a bike so I can explore the city a bit faster!
Check out the few pictures I’ve uploaded so far here
My journey to Italy has drawn to a close and I am now less than 12 hours from being at home with my family. The experience I have had in the past 11 weeks is one that words can only begin to describe. I never imagined how great the impact this experience would have on my personal growth and my outlook on the world around me.
I immersed myself into the Italian culture the best I could; I learned some Italian, ate more pizza and pasta than I care to admit, and became a functioning “local” once I finally understood the metro, buses, business hours, and cultural norms.
You always hear that study abroad changes people, and I spent the majority of my time wondering what would change about me when I got home. But now I’m beginning to realize that studying abroad does not change you, it simply brings your inner quirks to the surface so they can’t be hidden away. Growing to accept these quirks and let the world shed light on them has been gratifying. One small change I do hope to see come back with me to the States was my development in social settings; it is amazing how much you actually hear when you are really listening—without the noise of social media and technology buzzing in the background.
On my trip, I visited so many places that I’ve seen in movies and read about in books. Seeing the canals of Venice, spending time in Portofino’s yacht country, hiking the trails of the Cinque Terre, wishing my dad a Happy Father’s Day from Pisa, listening to Pope Francis speak in St. Peter’s Square, relaxing at Lake Maggiore near the Italian Alps, revisiting the beaches of Cinque Terre to celebrate my birthday with old and new friends, and relaxing before finals on the nice beaches of Nice were all luxuries for which I am grateful.
I never thought the goodbyes would be so hard. Two sessions of friends, each leaving after 5 weeks, made for twice the goodbyes and toasts to newfound friendships. The bond that I developed with my classmates is monumental. I’m already planning my trips across the United States to revisit new friends. This summer has been the most surprising, heartwarming, eye-opening experience I could have ever wished for, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My study abroad experience was completely different from what I expected. The classic lessons you expect to learn about how different a culture or how to grow as a person do happen but the most wonderful experience I had while abroad was the people I was able to meet. Whether it was the local kebab shop owner right under my apartment or the amazing people in my program every single one of them affected my experience positively and have gave me a lastly memory that will be with me more than anything out of the whole trip. This has been such an amazing experience I can’t possibly try to explain every thing is have seen, felt, and have been blessed to be a part of this last month. Though my experience abroad has ended the effects it will have on my life never will. I can honestly say my time in Italy has been one of the best experiences of my life.
My next great, short adventure following Madrid was Toledo, Spain. Toledo is a very historical city with extensive history from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures. As we arrived into Toledo by bus, all of us were in awe at the incredible wonder that is Toledo. As you arrive to the foot of Toledo, one immediately views many homes, antique buildings, and grand churches in the middle of a desolate (but beautiful) area. It is amazing to see because amongst a much uninhabited area, is a marvelous city as Toledo.
As soon as we got off the bus, we saw a wonderful river, the Tagus River. Tagus River is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula, at 645 miles long. It was amazing to view something so beautiful because I have not had the chance to view many things as powerful as this in my time in America. From here we began our four hour long walking tour, and I was not the smartest in this sense because I wore sandals as I was unaware of the distance of the walking tour. We walked approximately six miles on this tour, and by the end of it my feet were torn to shreds. This is one of the times I would have changed in order to make my time a little more enjoyable, but all in all the tour was still absolutely amazing.
We began the tour walking over a grand bridge called the Alcantara Bridge (pictured below) over the Tagus River. This was an incredible bridge built originally by the Roman Empire in 106 A.D. Through the tour we were able to see many astounding Gothic style buildings, including the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary. The Primate Cathedral was my favorite site in all of Toledo (and maybe in all of Spain) because of the amount of its historical value and the astonishing size of the Cathedral. The Roman Empire built the Primate Cathedral in the 13th Century. Over the years the Cathedral had been changed into a mosque, then into a Jewish temple, and then back into a Catholic Cathedral. It is interesting because there are still Jewish and Muslim traces within the city of Toledo, and the Primate Cathedral itself.
One of the most beautiful paintings I have ever viewed was on the ceiling of the Primate Cathedral. Pictured below, is an incredible painting created by Luca Giordano in 1697. The miraculous thing about the painting is that Giordano created this masterpiece in roughly 3 months. I could not believe this as the painting was so large and beautiful. Toledo has been an incredible part of my trip in Spain, with it being a very relaxing city while involving much historical significance and many beautiful sites.