Thursday, July 23, 2015

Being back in the U.S.

Okay, so I know that I probably should have posted this a while ago, but it turns out the second you get back home to the U.S., you are crazy busy! I have been back in the United States for about 2 weeks and it feels like I never left. Things are back to normal as they were before I left, and it feels like I have been here since January.

Since being back, I have not gone through a post-study abroad depression mode like most people tell you that you will go through. Since I have been back, I feel like I don't ever think about being in the Netherlands, but I will often speak Dutch in public places (instead of saying "thank you" I seem to say "dankjewel" way too much), I say "when I was in Europe" or "when I was in the Netherlands" not as much as I thought I would, and I talk to my abroad friends often!

I miss my friends. It took a few days to get used to not being with them every day. Another thing that is weird is how far everything is; not that I didn't know the distance between things already, but I feel like it was so much better where you can just walk to city center. I do miss walking around Breda city center with my friends. Now, I have to drive to Glendale or Scottsdale to go shopping.

For the past week or so I have been living with my boyfriend in Phoenix, and the heat here has really been getting to me! I am not used to this heat at all, that's for sure. I still have the temperatures on my phone to see what it's like in Breda, NL, Frankfurt, DE, and Lahti, FI.

You know, while I was away, I read a few different blogs with posts talking about things that people wished they did while they were away. A lot of things were talking about how they wished they spent more time in their host city, or how they traveled more, made more friends or even learned the language. Honestly, I feel like I did it all. Yeah, I wish I could have traveled to a few more countries and had a bit more money in my bank account to do awesome things, but at the end of the day, I cannot be more thankful for that experience.

I have talked to a few people about how I studied abroad in the Netherlands and they all say "oh my gosh that is so awesome, I am so jealous" or "how cool! I really wish I had that opportunity when I was in school". It really is something I am proud of.

Being back in the United States is better than I thought. Yes, I miss sitting outside at a terrace drinking a beer with my friends, or hopping on a train and spending the day in Brussels or Amsterdam, or even just walking to Albert Heijn for some groceries! But the U.S. is where I belong. In'n'Out has never tasted better, the Mexican food has never been more wonderful, and the shopping has never been more cheap. I may be a bit broke, but I am happy.

I don't know if I will post anything else on this blog, but I am more than happy to if anyone has any more questions or want to do a discussion with me about studying abroad or studying abroad in the Netherlands to be more specific. So for now, doei!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Learning Dutch

When you are in the Netherlands, you will be around very minimal English, and 99% Dutch. Before you take off, there are a lot of different words and phrases that are good to know, so you won't be struggling at the train station, grocery store, or even a department store.

General words to know:
Hello - Hallo
Hi - Hoi
Bye - Doei
See You - Tot Ziens
Yes - Ja
No - Nee
Please/Here you go - Alsjeblieft
Thank You - Dankjewel
Sorry - Sorry
Good Morning - Goedemorgen
Good Afternoon - Goedemiddag
Good Evening - Goegenavond
How are you? - Hoe gaat het?
Good - Goed
Good, and you? - Goed, en met jou?
What is your name? - Hoe heet je?
My name is____ - Mijn naam is____
I am__ - Ik ben__
I want__ - Ik wil__

1 - een
2 - twee
3 - drie
4 - vier
5 - vijf
6 - zes
7 - zeven
8 - acht
9 - negen
10 - tien

At the train station:
Track - Spoor
No Boarding - Niet Instappen
To (direction) - naar [ex: Intercity naar Eindhoven]
Day card - Dagkaart

At the grocery store:
Chicken - Kip
Shrimp - Garnaal
Salmon - Zalm
Beef - Rundvlees
Cheese - Kaas
Bacon - Spek
Multi-grain - Meergranen
Milk - Melk
Bread - Brood
Eggs - Eieren
Salt - Zout
Sugar - Suiker
Organic - Organisch

At the department store:
Sale - Sale (usually will be in English) or Koop
For Sale - Te Koop
Discount - Korting
2 for the price of 1 - 2=1
Free - Gratis
Would you like a receipt? - Wilt u een bonnetje?

Q&A - You ask, I answer

When I was away in the Netherlands, and even now that I have returned, I have had many questions come in about studying abroad, living abroad, and everything in between. Well, now that I am back, and a lot of people are getting ready to leave to go abroad, I thought it would be the perfect time to answer everyone's questions.

Q: I don't really know what to pack, what are some good packing tips!?
A: Before I left for the Netherlands, I had no idea what I was doing, and I had no idea what to pack either. I looked online and checked out the average temperatures for each month, and then thought about what I would need for clothes. Packing is hard, especially for a long amount of time in a country you have probably never been to before. When you are packing though, remember that you will more than likely buy things when you are away. Here is a list of things I packed:
  • 4 pairs of pants
  • 5 pairs of yoga pants/leggings
  • 6 tank tops
  • 14 long sleeve/t-shirts
  • 2 dresses and 2 skirts
  • 3 jackets
  • Just about all my socks and underwear and bras
  • 2 pairs of converse, 1 pair of flats, 1 pair of tall boots, 1 pair of sandals, and slippers
In case you were wondering, my answer would be, yes, I overpacked. I had no idea what I would need or want while I was away. The biggest mistake I made, was overpack. I ended up buying a lot of different things, like more shoes, pants, a jacket, t-shirts, tank tops, dresses, and skirts. At first you think you won't buy anything, but you will, I guarantee you. So my best advice is to bring the least amount of stuff. Obviously you will need things like jackets and pants and probably a pair of shorts, but don't overdue it. When I was packing, there were plenty of times that I thought, "hum, I kind of wear this, maybe if I bring it I will wear it." Worst mistake. If you won't wear it all the time, then leave it behind.

Q: Is there anything that you wish you had brought with you, or wish you left at home?
A: I brought a lot of things, I really did. I brought two suitcases that I checked, along with a carry-on bag with all my electronics in it. I could have left a lot of toiletries behind. I brought extra toothpaste bottles, shampoo and conditioner, and more. Honestly, I should have left a lot of that stuff behind. There are some of the same brands that you can buy in the states, like toothpaste and some hair products, and then there are others that you have never heard of, but you can work around. I can say that it would have been best to leave behind all of the extra things like that. If you do not like spray-on deodorant, then make sure you bring plenty of stick ones because they are hard to come by, and same goes with make-up girls! Make-up is very very expensive, so bring plenty, unless you are okay with paying 15 euros for mascara. Things that I wish I brought? My nikes. I left them at home and I really regret my decision. You do so much walking, that you need good walking shoes cause your feet get tore up.

Q: How much money should I plan on spending while I am away?
A: You know, it is really hard to say how much you will spend vs. save while abroad. Before I left, I never even put that into consideration. What you need to keep in mind is that the euro to dollar difference will change constantly while you are away. Also, you will get charged a lot of money for everything - taking out cash, using your debit card, everything. I really can't tell you how much you are going to spend, but just remember that you will be paying for things like:
  • Traveling
  • Groceries
  • Clothes
  • Going out to eat or drink
  • Misc. things

Q: How do you prepare for that long flight over-seas?
A: You know, you can't really prepare yourself for that long of a flight, especially if you are like me, and have never gone to Europe before. I flew from LA to Amsterdam with one stop in Philly, and I can't say it was the best way, but it was a long day. You know, from LA to the east coast it is 5.5 hours, and then it was another 7.5 from Philly to Amsterdam. But no matter if you have a stop like me, or if you are going direct, you just have to dress comfy, make sure you sleep on the flight, and stay hydrated. Also for you girls, don't wear make-up on the flight. If you want to look pretty when you land, then put make-up on with like 2 hours or so remaining of your flight before you land to your final destination, otherwise your face will feel disgusting.

Q: When you get to the Amsterdam Airport, how do I get to where I need to be?
A: When I first got to the Netherlands, I was so lost and so confused. The airport is so different than what I am used to in the states, I really wished I had a manual! Here is what you will do. You will land, get off the flight, and follow everyone to customs where you will get your passport checked, followed by continuing to baggage claim. After you get your bags, you will go out to the exit. It is a bit strange the way it is, because there are a lot of shops and people and it seems very hectic. If you get really lost, you can ask the information desk (you will see when you are walking out) but otherwise, it's easy. Now, no matter where you are going, you will want to take the train; it is the cheapest and easiest way to get to your destination. Here are the steps to getting your train ticket.

  • Find the yellow kiosks near the Arrivals and Departures board. There are so many of them, and pretty hard to miss
  • When you go up to the kiosk, on the bottom left corner, there is a British flag, click on that to make the language in English
  • Next, you will see on the screen say "I want to go abroad" and "I want to buy a ticket" (or something like that.) Since you will be traveling to another part of the Netherlands, click on the box to buy a separate ticket. 
  • Next, there will be a bunch of yellow boxes on the left side of the screen, click on "Buy a one-way ticket"
  • After you click to buy a one-way ticket, there will be more boxes to show up, so you will then chose your destination. Some places like Amsterdam Centraal, Breda, and Rotterdam will more than likely show up, but if you are going somewhere else, then you will have to type in the destination. 
  • Once you have chosen your destination, make sure that it is for that day, rather than any other day. 
  • Next, click on "2nd class", because if not then you will be paying more for your ticket. 
  • It will also ask you how many tickets, and as I can assume you are probably traveling solo, then you click one, and then you will proceed to pay.
  • Note, this kiosk does not take cash, so you will pay with your card, and if you are paying with your American debit or credit card, then you will have to pay an extra 50 cents. 
  • After you pay, you will get your ticket. Now, if you are traveling to Amsterdam Centraal, Rotterdam, or Breda and planning on taking the Intercity Direct train, you HAVE to make sure you get your second supplement ticket - if not then you will get charged on the train. 
  • ** Also, a few of these steps while using the kiosk might be in a different order - I apologize ahead of time **
Once you have your tickets, you then need to check the Train Departures board and find the right train, and the right track. Once you go down the elevators to the tracks, you will see another set of departure boards, along with a screen at the track you are at saying which direction and type of train. If you are going somewhere that you can't take the Intercity Direct train, make sure you take the Intercity, because if you take the Sprinter, then it will take a very long time to get to your destination.

Q: How long did it take getting used to living in Europe?
A: Living in Europe is very different compared to living in the United States. I am a firm believer that it also depends on where you are studying abroad. If you are going to somewhere in the UK or Ireland, then I think you will be fine. If you are going somewhere like the Netherlands, then it will be a bit different. For me, it took me 6 months to get used to living in the Netherlands, and I know I am not the only crazy one because a friend from Aruba said the same thing. You have to remember that moving to another country means that there will be a different language, a different lifestyle, no more driving you car, and a lot of walking. I don't think I have done so much walking in my entire life! I think that every person is different, really. For me, it took me all the way until I pretty much left the Netherlands, to get used to it. You know, growing up in the U.S., you learn to do things a certain way, and when you are put in a situation where you can't do things that way anymore, it takes some time getting used to it. It is a good change, and it won't be easy, but that's all part of the experience of living abroad.

Q: How long does it take to get used to the Dutch language?
A: Before I left for the Netherlands, I actually downloaded an app onto my phone that taught me some Dutch. I highly recommend it too because it made things a little easier for when I got to the country. Obviously it is different being around a different language constantly. If you are somewhere in the UK, you just have to deal with accents, but anywhere else, you have to try and learn the language. It took me a while to get used to it though, I went through a stage where I would get so frustrated anytime I would go out to eat with friends because I would have to Google Translate everything on the menu! A lot of times I would ask for an English version, but places didn't have any. If you actually try to learn the language and speak the language, then it will be easy. Eventually, you get so used to being around the Dutch language, and you are so used to speaking only Dutch, that when you go somewhere else, it confuses you a bit; well that at least happened to me. And even though I am back in the States, I still say things like "dankjewel", "nee", and "alsjeblieft".

Q: What is it like going grocery shopping?
A: Grocery shopping is very different in the Netherlands. I have always been used to getting in my car and driving to Safeway, but when you are abroad, you can't really do that. I was lucky enough to live right in city center in Breda (pretty much like a downtown where everything is). If you don't get a bike when you are in the Netherlands, then walking is the next best thing, but luckily, things are not far away. There are a few different options for shopping for groceries in the Netherlands. I always went shopping at Albert Heijn (if you go, make sure you get a bonus card to save money on groceries). There is also Lidel and Jumbo that you can go to, but depending on where you live, Albert Heijn might be the closest to you. When you are in the store, you will notice that it is kind of the same as American grocery stores, but everything is in Dutch. It took me a little bit to get used to things not being in English, so this just goes back to how you need to learn the language so you know what things like, kaas, kip, spek, meergranen and so on actually is! Another good thing to remember is that wherever you live will probably have a really small refrigerator, so you have to go to the grocery store like 3 times a week or so. Oh, and when you get up to the register, don't freak out when they speak Dutch, if you say, "I'm sorry, English?" they will speak English. And if you get like me and go to the same Albert Heijn multiple times a week, the people remember you and remember that you are the American (:

Q: How different is school in the Netherlands, compared to the United States?
A: School is very different, but I think that it all depends on the person, the field of study, and the level of learning you are one. I went to NHTV and was a part of their International Media and Entertainment Management (IMEM) program. Compared to what I was doing at NAU, it was totally different. At NHTV I was able to take any classes I wanted - these classes ranged from production classes, business classes and more. If you work better alone in class like me, then you might have a bit of a challenge because NHTV does everything as group work. Unfortunately group work does not always work out as planned, but it teaches you to work better with different people. Since NHTV is an international school, there were a lot of students from all around the world that study there for all 4 years, along with exchange for 6 months like me. I worked with a number of students from the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Germany, and the UK - these were the students that studied for all 4 years. I think that school all depends on the person because I was not a fan of the way school was, and did not enjoy my time studying at NHTV, but everyone is different because I know friends that did the Tourism program absolutely loved it.

I hope I have answered as many questions as possible! If I missed any, let me know!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A day of traveling

On the day that I was traveling back to the United States, I wrote down everything about how it was going back...I know I am late, but here it is!

6:30 am - On the train

Intercity Direct naar Schiphol. That's it. That's my final destination within this country. No more traveling by train to go here or there. My time in the Netherlands has finally come to an end. 6 months ago after I got here, I wanted to go home; and now I am leaving and I want to stay! It is funny how that works. It's weird knowing that I am traveling somewhere, and not coming back to Breda after. I have gotten so used to doing that, and now, no more. My adventures in the Netherlands are over. Time has gone by way too quickly. What will I miss? The feeling of being out there. I loved the feeling like I was always going somewhere new and exploring somewhere different. I already miss my friends, they're like my international sisters. It is going to be so weird not living with them! Like I don't know what to do when I can't just text Heidi and say "lets get coffee, 10 min." I keep telling myself that this should be exciting because I am finally going home, but I seem to just think about what will be missed about it here in the Netherlands. I don't really have anything left here anymore. All of my friends are gone and back to their home countries, there is good coffee back at home - even though it won't be from Bagels and Beans, it's okay. I keep thinking about how I will be with Alex (my boyfriend) again when I get to LA. Oh, the thought of it makes me so happy. Like mom said, which I totally agree with, "this is just another chapter in your life." Maybe I'll return to the Netherlands again, who knows! All I know is I will most definitely return to Europe!
- On de train naar Schiphol -

8:15 am - At Schiphol Airport

I'm on my way home. Yep, it's final. I am 99.99% sure I didn't leave anything in the room in Breda, and I am so dang excited! When I said good-bye to Agata this morning at the train station and had all my bags with me, all I could think about was how I wanted to get rid of them! Well now they are all checked, and I don't have to worry about them until I get to Copenhagen. After I got off the train and made my way over to check my bags, the lady was so nice! She put the tags on, gave me my boarding pass, and told me about some "priority" thing I was a part of I guess, and how I can hang out in the SAS Lounge and stuff since I am business class for this flight. I am curious if it will be like first class or not. It's nice not worrying about my bags for a little while, I don't have to even think about them until I get to Copenhagen when I will have to re-check my bags, and then wait for the ridiculously long flight home. Sitting here in the airport is a bit weird. I feel like I am going on a short vacation to visit friends or something...I am so used to always coming back to Breda, and now that I know I won't be anymore, it's a bit strange. I just want to chill on these flights - read my book, drink some tea, and listen to music. Before I know it, I will be back in LA! But first, Copenhagen. (: I am secretly really excited, only because I really like the city, even thought I will only be in the airport.
- Doei Nederland! -

1:00 pm - Copenhagen Airport

Well, I finally made it. It feels like the longest day ever already and it's only like 1:00. I am still trying to grasp the concept that I am going home! On the flight to Copenhagen from Amsterdam, I sat next to this really nice German girl. We talked the entire flight, and it was nice to have the company, and get my mind off of thinking about a million things. While we were taking off, it was a bit sad. I was just looking out of the window as we flew away, and I was thinking about everything! Thinking about what it was like to live in the Netherlands, all the memories while I was there, and everything I will miss. It felt like just yesterday that I got on the flight to come here, and now I am leaving. It really is surreal. I honestly felt like I was leaving home all over again. But after I got here to Copenhagen, it was kind of a pain in the butt. I got off the plane and went straight to the baggage claim. Now, when I talked to my mom about it when she flew from Italy to LA with a stop in Copenhagen, she told me it was really easy to re-check your bags and that you wouldn't have to go through security again and all this stuff, well flying with SAS, that isn't the case. I had to re-check my bags, go through security again and after an hour of doing all that, it took me another 30 minutes just to walk over to my gate and go through passport check. To say the least, its good to just be here by the gate, I just am actually dreading this long flight...we shall see how it goes.
- I will miss you Europe! To America I go! -

??? - On the plane

This is the longest flight of my life. Oh my gosh. I get on the flight, and of course it is packed with people, it takes off, I listen to music, watch some cartoons, listen to some music, eat a hot meal, take a nap, and wake up to find out that there is 7 hours left of this flight!! Um, what!? This flight is not fun.

??? - Still on the plane

I was crazy to say I was excited about this flight. There is still like 4 hours left, and I keep trying to stay busy. I have read my book, I have taken a nap, drank water, watched plenty of TV on the tablet screen in front of me, I feel like I have done it all! I think the highlight of the flight so far has been flying over Greenland and seeing all of the cool ice burgs and such. Otherwise, this flight is just too long. I have seen plenty of people doing yoga and stretches and walking around on this flight. I tell you, if I didn't have a window seat, I would be standing up, walking around and all of that. Sitting here for so long really makes your bum hurt and your legs hurt. I am counting down the hours until I finally land!

After I finally landed and got off of that flight full of people, it was the best feeling ever. I felt like Forest Gump and could just run like there was no tomorrow! It felt so nice to stretch, and move, and not sit anymore! It took a while for the plane to get to where it needed to be for us to get off, and when we finally did, we walked what felt like a mile to customs, and then I got my bags, went through customs again, and then walked out to see Alex (my boyfriend) and Tyler (my brother) waiting for me! It was 6 long months without Alex, and I tell you, there was no better feeling than giving him a big hug and kiss. It was weird though, because once I saw them, and I was in the car with my dad too, it was almost like I was ever away. It is good to be home.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Pack you things, because you're going home!

Wow. Six months ago I was nervous as hell to get on that plane to come here to the Netherlands. Here I am today packing everything up, and ready to leave tomorrow. I am at a loss for words. I feel like everything I missed about home has suddenly left, and now I am just so sad to leave this place I have called home here in Breda.

Before you leave for your study abroad experience, you have no idea what to really expect. You think it will be like this or like that, but when you are actually here and living there, its something totally different. I am sad to leave Europe, I really am. This place is filled with so much history and so much wonder that you feel so happy to be able to say "I'm actually here."

Now don't get me wrong, I am excited, really excited to go back home and be with my boyfriend and my family again and tell them all of my stories and cool experiences, and show them all of my pictures, but I feel like when I leave, I will be leaving a part of me here in Breda. Being away for a certain amount of time changes a person. I am still the same person, but it changes the way I feel about certain things, and my outlook on life. It gives you a better understanding for the way things are.

A part of me wishes that I could stay here, and didn't have to go back home, but then the other part of me is saying "Kaleigh, come on. All of your friends are gone back to their home-countries, and there is nothing for you here in the Netherlands!"

I think that since this experience is all done, it is the perfect time to say thank you. Thank you to my family who has supported me through all the bad times, and all the wonderful times. I wouldn't be where I am today without them. Also, thank you Netherlands. Thank you for showing me that there is so much more to the world than what we might think.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

American holiday's in the Netherlands

Being abroad means that you miss certain things, and I am not talking about missing all that delicious food from back at home; I'm talking about missing holiday's. Since I have been in the Netherlands, I was lucky enough to only miss Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, and the 4th of July. Now I am not saying that they are really important holiday's, but it sure is better missing those like Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas.

Now it does suck missing some of these holiday's because you are not with your significant other or your family, but your study abroad family will do just the trick. What I have learned is that holiday's spent abroad are really alright! Yeah it's different not being with your family for Easter, but you and your friends can totally rock the holiday.

Right now it is the 4th of July. That is just another day of the week to everyone here, but for me, it's America's Independence day! For some reason I have always loved this day. All the family getting together, BBQ, pool-side, good music, crazy conversations, and finish off the day with fireworks.

It's different not being with your family, having a BBQ, chilling out by the pool, and watching fireworks at night here in the Netherlands, but your international friends will love the idea! It is something they have never really celebrated or experienced before! That's when you can swoop on in and save the day.

This 4th of July, I am making hamburgers and BBQ brats, we're making mixed drinks, going to listen to some country music, I am going to teach my friends how to country two-step, it will be great.

I think when it comes to missing a holiday that is celebrated back at home, the best thing to do, is make the most of it. Have fun, and know that it is going to be different, but different is alright because I mean, come on, you came abroad for something different, right?!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Exams and Re-Exams

Exams suck, bottom line. Nobody enjoys taking tests in school. But the moment when you are thinking "okay, I did good in the class all semester, but the exam I am not so sure about", you start freaking out! Especially when your school won't give you any credits if you fail just one class abroad.

For my PR10 (international producing) class, that was exactly the case. I got great grades on all the assignments, but when it came time to take the exam, well I just wasn't prepared. Back at NAU, if you fail the exam, you have an opportunity to do extra credit work, or depending on your grade in the class, you might still be alright in terms of passing.

Here at NHTV, they definitely do things a bit differently. For one, I wasn't able to see my grade all block, I only saw it when final grades were posted. Second, apparently if you pass every assignment, but bomb the final exam, you fail the class. Luckily these Dutch have a thing called a re-exam!

At first I though how lame it was that they gave students a second chance to take the exam, but now that I see that you won't pass if you fail the final, I sure am glad they have re-exams. The only problem with taking have to take the exam again!

Here are some tips for if you were like me and just didn't quite get that grade you were hoping for on that final test:

  • Stop, think, and try to remember everything that was on the test. If you think back to what was on the test the first time, you have a general idea as of what could possibly be on the next one.
  • Find someone who didn't pass either and throw a little pitty party for the both of you. My friend Mimi and I both failed, so we went to Bagels and Beans and studied like the exam was tomorrow!
  • Make a study guide. They suck, yes, but they can also come in handy. I like to make tests study guides. So I will make a set of questions with their answers, and then make another sheet with just the questions, and when I feel I am ready, I will take the test! Think of it more as a pre-test kind of study guide.
  • Take breaks! My idea of a good break includes coffee, find your best break from studying and make sure you take time for it. But remember, when the break is over you have to get back to studying!
So you might have to re-take the exam, the way I look at it is like this: okay I have nothing to do for what, 9 more days before I head back to the United States, so at least this will keep me busy and give me something to do as the days slowly go by.

Make sure that you give yourself an incentive for studying, like tell yourself "when I am done with this studying, I am going to walk around, or go window shopping, or better yet, watch Netflix!" Just remember, if you are in a situation like me, passing that re-exam is crucial, so take it serious!