Every morning when my alarm goes off, I remind myself I'm in Europe.
"WAAAAAKE UUUUUPPPPP, HANNAH. THERE'S A LOT TO SEE TODAY. YOU'RE IN A NEW PLACE," my subconscious screams at me. That's usually enough to get me out of bed, unless it's raining, in which case I'll hit snooze at least once. Who wants to roll out of bed when the sky is gray?
Three pillows and a plush duvet make my bed the comfiest resting place. I decorated the wall with photographs and magazine pages because I'm not a fan of plain, white walls.
The instant coffee leaves a lot to be desired, but the day can't really get started until I've had a mug full. My breakfast choices vary, but I always eat something because I believe in breakfast. Sometimes I'll stay in the kitchen to eat if someone is there to converse with. Generally, the news and Facebook are my breakfast partners (just so you know, I read the news before I check my Facebook. I am a journalism student after all).
Starting the day right with a giant mug of coffee, egg sandwich and NPR.
After I feel informed and nourished, the day's decisions must be made. My earliest class during the week started at 1:30, which gave me plenty of time to daydream, do homework, exercise, self-reflect, doodle or whatever else stuck my fancy before I had to leave the house.
The first block of my classes are over. I've got a week vacation before the next block starts. A few times, I sat in the park with friends before class because the weather was fantastic. If the sun shines, the Dutch will do their best to soak it up. Wilhelmelina Park's giant grassy lawn fills up quickly, and if you're lucky, the group of Dutch guys beside you will play music just loudly enough to hear. Always bring snacks; something about the sun makes you want to munch.
These ducks were lured to one of our recent picnics by bread bits tossed in their direction.
So, what are classes like in the Netherlands? They're great. Seriously. The program I'm following, European culture and journalism, covered all things culture with the first block of classes. I spent eight hours in the class room a week, discussing different aspects of European culture. On Mondays, we compared and contrasted our respective countries' cultures. Wednesday was film and fiction. We spent the first two hours analyzing literature before watching a movie. Both art history and urban places were on Thursday. Then the weekend began. None of the course work was tedious, and the outside preparation was insightful. I'm grateful for the six weeks of European culture exposure. Sometimes on Thursdays, we would spend some time at the pub on campus. That's right–a bar in one of the campus buildings. It blew my mind, considering the dry campus I come from.
I've mastered cycling and photographing at the same time.
My favorite part of the day is when I hop on my bicycle and zoom down the street. Okay, so "zoom" might be an exaggeration, but riding a bike is liberating. Granted I have to follow the laws of the road, but the wind in your hair is worth it. The only downside? Rain. Maybe Mother Nature is in a good mood this year, but it hasn't rained nearly as much as I was expecting. Even when it does rain, it usually is a light sprinkle. You just pull up your hood and squint. Cycling home, which takes me 25 minutes, is rotten in the rain, but I come home to a warm, cozy room.
Two of my house mates, Hans, left, and Almut, right, cut a carrot cake for dessert after a "family dinner."
I live with about 30 other students, and all of them are international. The largest kitchen, which is on the main floor, is shared by 15 people. There are two stoves, three fridges and one oven. When we're all cooking at once, the kitchen is a bustling place. Sometimes the dishes pile up, but I don't mind washing a few. The activity level here is pretty high–someone is always game for a round of cards or venturing into the city. This is a great home base. And after a couple of weeks, my bed stopped feeling foreign. I look forward to resting my weary head and dreaming peacefully.
Hannah Cather is a senior in journalism and electronic media. She is spending the semester in Utrecht, Netherlands studying European culture and journalism at Hogeschool University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.