Paige and I arrived in Den Haag early on the 27th August and made our way to the Haagse Hogeschool (The Hague University) to collect our luggage from Lieke, a very friendly and helpful employee in the International Center who allowed us to store our luggage in her office while we backpacked. She was even kind enough to let the airport deliver my luggage (since it was lost somewhere between Charlotte and Philadelphia) to her house and she subsequently brought it to the school. We made our way to DUWO, the rental agency, and received the keys to our apartments. Our apartments are reminiscent of Betty Johnson at U of L in that each student has his/her own living space with a bed and a desk, but the inhabitants share a bathroom and a kitchen. The quality and proximity to the school of one’s apartment is pretty much luck. After seeing some other student’s apartments, Paige and I have realized that we were fairly lucky in the apartments to which we were assigned despite the 25 or so minute walk to school and the fact that neither one of us has a washing machine (this has left me doing laundry in the sink with a sponge and hanging it outside my window on clothleslines because I refuse to pay the EU5 – EU7 that it costs to do laundry at a laundr-o-mat). I am living with two other students – a 20 year-old Belgian student from the Walloon region (so French is his native tongue, though he does know some Dutch) who is on a one-semester exchange and an 18 year-old Bulgarian student who will be studying at The Hague for the next four years.
Our IBMS orientation of The Hague University was a three day experience in which the school organized a tour of the building, a tour of the city, bought us a Strippenkaart (which is used to take the tram around the city), a trip to the beach (Scheveningen), and dinner at an Italian restaurant the first day. On the second day, the school bought us return tickets to Amsterdam and took us to the Museum of Amsterdam to familiarize us with the most important city in the Netherlands. We were also treated to the Heineken experience, a sort of Heineken museum and explanation of the brewing process. Part of the tour is that three free beers are included, as well as a souvenier bottle opener. We were treated to lunch at a restaurant called the Pancake Factory, taken on a canal tour of Amsterdam, and then allowed to remain in the city to our vices as long as we promised to be back the next morning to determine our courses. I was amazed and appreciative of the fact that all expenses for these two days were covered by the University. The third day, Friday, was a bit hectic. Apparently, the American students’ mentor would be unable to perform this role due to prior obligations as the MBA co-ordinator and ambassador of the IBMS program. We weren’t alone, though; pretty much everyone was in mass confusion over their schedule. Knowing that we had the full support of the Business School put my mind at ease a little bit and I chose classes as best I could, confirming with the Business School as I went. After about a week or week and a half, things ended up working themselves out, despite some early frustration on my part. As warned by Max though, the building is an interesting, massive, and impressive construction that houses the majority of the courses offered by The Hague University, so familiarizing oneself with it is vital – especially since classes tend to switch rooms from time to time for some reason still unknown to me.
I’ve found it very easy to meet people here, especially the exchange students, and I feel like I’m cultivating relationships that will last a lifetime. I’ve been told by various people that studying abroad truly is a life changing experience. I’m happy to report that through three weeks of my actual study abroad, I think this certainly is the case. Sharing this experience with Paige, though her and I have done a remarkable job of separating ourselves and making this a unique experience for each of us, is a blessing that I can’t put into words.
I’ve had quite a bit of time to reflect on myself – who I was, who I am, and who I want to be, both personally and professionally – and have been taking some steps to making these changes come to fruition. In a rare philosophical state of epiphany, I realized something that I will always be grateful for – that one of the most important things my parents ever taught me was how to laugh. After a few minutes of reveling in this realization, I smiled to myself, relived the entire backpacking trip in my mind, flashed through the past three weeks, and realized that I am in the Netherlands and I literally am having the time of my life. This is the pinnacle, the “good ‘ole days”, and I don’t want to forget a second of this experience. Living in constant awareness of this makes it that much sweeter because, to use a cliche that I’ve been trying to put into practice as long I can remember, life is about the journey.