Why go abroad? Why leave Madison? Why go to Netherlands?
My answers to the previous questions are not intuitive or traditional. My ancestry has no ties to the Netherlands. My previous European travels have never stepped into Dutch territory. Nor am I a foreign language fiend, anxious to seamlessly become fluent in a new language. (My mediocre high school Spanish grades would back up that argument.)
The beginnings of this conversation remind myself of a previous time in my life. As an 18-year old Kansas Citian ready to embrace a new challenge roughly 8 hours north in Madison, WI, I heard similar sentiments from friends and family. They inquired about my decision and my motivation. I found it difficult to put into words. Sometimes emotion and gut feeling are near impossible to convey to others.
Utrecht is my Madison for 5 months. Just as I came to Madison cold turkey, not knowing anyone, I will approach Utrecht the same. Throughout my short 20 years, I continue to discover that I learn the most about myself while stepping out of my comfort zone. Although it is uncomfortable, often awkward and sometimes a little painful, these situations have shaped my adolescence and young adulthood. I have been privileged enough to have the opportunity to study abroad for a semester and with that opportunity, I can’t think of a better chance for myself to continue to stretch my boundaries.
The similarities between Madison and Utrecht go far past just my personal perspective. With only a 60,000-person population discrepancy, and highly touted research universities within the city limits, the two cities are quite comparable. I have been lucky enough to establish Madison as my home for the past two and a half years and I hope to do the same with Utrecht.
The concept of establishing a “home” is tantalizing and profound. A home is a place of comfort, familiarity and joy. 5 months will go by fast as hell. I know this and I know how difficult it will be to establish that sense of home. However, I’m confident and enthusiastic to explore, travel and discover the treasures that Utrecht, Netherlands and Europe have to offer.
Maybe I answered the questions I presented above or possibly I haven’t answered them fully in my head either. To be frank, the answers aren’t on this page. They aren’t in this country. They’re abroad and I’m going to go find them.