Monday, January 31, 2011

dear belgium, i like your waffles but not your bald customs man.

Before you read this post please be understanding, as it is written under the influence of severe jet-lag.

After saying our goodbyes and going through security at the Detroit airport we finally took off for our big European adventure. After a quick flight to Philadelphia and an hour and half layover we were finally on our way to Brussels, Belgium! The flight felt really long but it was cool taking off at sunset and landing during sunrise. We were so relieved and I was beyond ecstatic to finally be walking on European soil!

Our next step was getting through customs. For some reason I was really nervous. As soon as I handed my passport to the balding customs agent and he saw that it was American, his whole entire attitude changed. He had a dirty look on his face the whole time and was very crabby and spoke sharply towards me. I told him where I was going and he replied with "Out of all Europe you're going to Maastricht? What's so great about the Netherlands?" I then told him that was our home base and we would be traveling all over. He was not happy with this because I didn't have our whole itinerary put together yet. He then continued to ask "So you're just going to smoke marijuana and pot the whole time?" I said no, of course. This man was making me mad. He then said that if I was in Europe for too long and got caught that I would never be allowed back. He also said something about America, but I was to frustrated and nervous to really be paying attention. For a good two minutes I was convinced that he wasn't going to let me into Europe and I couldn't breathe. I think it was a pretty legit reason to be freaking out a little. He was upset with me and giving me a ridiculously hard time, all the while Fran had gotten through no problem with her Dutch passport. She saw what was going on and came over. When the customs agent saw that she had a Dutch passport he started speaking Dutch to her and she had to explain to him that she didn't speak Dutch, but her dad was from the Netherlands. This did not make him very happy and he continued to give me a hard time but finally said stamped and handed my passport over. What a lovely welcome to Belgium.

After collecting our luggage, which included probably close to 200 lbs spread out through four bags, we got train tickets and made it to the Brussels - Noord (North) station. We were just getting ready to hop on  our next train when we realized that they decided to switch platforms at the last minute. We hauled all 200 lbs of our luggage down and up a set of stairs rushing through the crowds of people to arrive just in time to see the train depart. We were pretty upset. Although our arms were getting a great workout, we were not impressed with Belgium so far. A girl, that we recognized from our flight over came up to us and asked if we were going to Maastricht too and we all expressed our frustration with the unannounced changes. But we finally got on the right train with a little help from our new friends, who are studying abroad in Maastricht from Penn State, and were on our way to the apartment.

When we finally got to Maastricht we had to haul all of our luggage through cobblestone to the apartment about 10 minutes away. We probably looked pretty funny. But we finally made it and are working on settling in and adjusting to the time :)

Missing everyone from home and school!

Monday, January 24, 2011

six days

6 days! 6 days! Ah! Adventure starts so soon! Taking off from Detroit next Sunday and landing in Brussels, Belgium on Monday morning :) This time next week I will probably be getting ready to go to the Netherlands! I'm so excited! Last night me and Fran got together, at our usual spot, to discuss packing... although we ended up talking about all the places we want to go and everything we want to do, which is much more exciting than a packing list. We have plans to hit the UK first, with a return trip for the royal wedding of course, explore Stockholm, and my personal favorite - spend an entire day in the hills while in Austria. And those are just a few of the place that we talked about! Well, all this dreaming will become reality within the next few weeks! A bientot!

Monday, January 17, 2011

ok, this is like real.

So up until now, as I am sitting in my dorm room taking down pictures and packing up books, this whole thing just felt like a crazy dream or a great idea that would never really happen. But now it feels real. This is the part when I say "see ya later" to Gordon and all of my friends and memories that are here before I take off for Europe. Although "see ya later" is a lot easier than "goodbye" it is still very weird packing up my second home. This is the 'no turning back because this is really happening' part of this whole experience and its kinda sad but super exciting all at the same time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

when opportunity knocks

A very good friend of mine from high school, Francesca, and her sister had been living and just traveling in Europe for the past several months. Jealous? Yep, I was too. Every time there were new pictures on Facebook I would look through them with envy and a growing desire to one day go to Europe and see all the places that I dreamed about. One evening my friend came over and as we were talking she mentioned that her sister was not returning to Europe with her and she was going back alone. My immediate reaction was, "If my parents would let me take a semester off of school I would drop everything in a heartbeat and join you!" Although this is what I said out loud, I knew that never in a million years would my parents agree to this or even consider it. The next morning, while we were all driving to watch my sister's Senior Recognition at my high school, I casually brought up this absurd idea to my parents. Expecting to be shot down immediately, instead, the car was silent as both my mom and dad pondered on the idea. They then asked if I was serious and if it was something that I would really want to do, which I of course responded with "Heck ya!"They expressed that it was a great and once in a lifetime opportunity. I then talked to my friend about it and had lots of discussions with my parents and made lots of phone calls. We also had a little meeting with my friend and her parents and learned that Francesca's family has a lot of connections and family in Europe and that we would be very well taken care of and completely safe. This cemented my parents mind about the idea and then Gordon said that I was fine to go and that I would be all set to come back in the fall. Financially it sounds unrealistic, but actually it will cost a whole lot less than a semester at Gordon and I will most likely be able to finish school in two years without staying an extra semester. All of the pieces fell together perfectly and we could not have planned it better. I'm not quite sure what I did to be blessed with this once in lifetime/ dream come true opportunity and it is probably the craziest thing I will do in my entire life but I am so excited I can't even sleep at night!