If you’re up to it, listen to my favorite nostalgic song as you read the blog.
I wish we had a few days to relax in Antwerp, to drink tea, explore the maze of cobblestone streets, and spend time with the friends I have made on this trip. But alas, we must all continue on our ways. I am pleased to say that I have few regrets and I have made amazing memories on this trip. It’s turned out much better than expected though I must say that I have a tendency of keeping my expectations low so that I can be pleasantly surprised and not sadly disappointed.
And I am pleased to say that I have been much more than pleasantly surprised. First, a wonderful professor Esmée who created a wonderful itinerary and program and is always patiently there for you. And to Toon, an amazing program assistant that I was never expecting – someone extremely knowledgable (and not afraid to share that knowledge!) who has gone out of his way to make sure everyone has a good time. Honestly I feel like “program assistant” really diminishes what Toon has contributed to this program.
This has been one of the best experiences of my life, especially as I had a personal connection to the low countries but have never been. To be able to go to so many places and experience so many things in the land that my family is from is something I am eternally grateful for. And doing this with a group of students from Berkeley is amazing. It was a nice opportunity to meet people that I would never meet actually at Berkeley – we are such an eccentric and diverse group of individuals. I have met intelligent, quiet, engaging, outgoing students and surprisingly we have all come together. We like to joke about each other but there is nobody on this program that I don’t like spending time with. The fact that we can explore such an amazing region with such an enthusiastic group of awesome students (and #1 professor and program assistant) is what makes this program special. Yes in the future I can travel to many different places but it is different going as a simple tourist. Going with a group of diverse peers who are fun to be around and bring different perspective to the table is something that I am incredibly grateful to have been part of. Sometimes a big group of people can be a challenge – we all have different needs and opinions. But it is worth it and the different outlooks and backgrounds make meeting and spending time with the group something fun and new. I also appreciate the student perspective that we had with this “study abroad” because we could still experience all the fun, touristic aspects while learning so much more than any tourist would learn (also I like museums). I contrast this to China where I learned a lot about how current Chinese people live and eat but not much about their history and cultural identity.
Anyway, I’m trying to keep this short and sweet but I’m afraid it will be neither (what else is new?).
I have made some amazing friends that I will keep beyond this program (hopefully 😉 which is something I didn’t expect either. You know who you are 👀 It’s funny because the first week I thought I wouldn’t like anyone and then I started to become very close to some people – it reminds me of living in the dorms in Berkeley when I eventually became best friends with people I never would thought of hanging out with in the first month.
It’s 1am again so I’m not going to go through the past month and talk about what I loved and didn’t love as much. Let me just say that I enjoyed the vast majority of it and had an amazing time. I really love the Netherlands which came a bit as a surprise because I was initially looking forward to Belgium.
It has been a long three months abroad so I am happy to return home in America but I am sad to leave this home.
I WILL BE BACK (aka you won’t be able to get rid of me).