Author: Dakota Kampmeier
Location: Utrecht, Netherlands
Utrecht, Netherlands (pronounced oo-trecht) has been a pleasant surprise and the epitome of culture shock. I have been here for one week today, and the rollercoaster of emotions has kept me from writing an intelligent sentence about this place I am now starting to call home, but I finally feel ready to attempt to emulate what this place and its people are like. Everything is still all so new, so fresh, but slowly some elements are starting to become routine. Slowly I have unpacked my suitcases and laid my makeup out on the windowsill. Slowly, I am settling.
I could sugarcoat my experience thus far and say that it has been nothing but a dream, that I made lifelong friends on the first day and that I slept like a baby the first night. However, I am not here to sugarcoat. This experience has been wholly and completely mine, which is fantastic, but part of that experience includes telling the raw truth. The raw truth is that I wanted to come home when I was still on the plane. The raw truth is that I woke up the first morning in a foreign place and an unfamiliar bed and wanted my mom. The raw truth is that I felt more alone than I’ve ever felt before, and for a while I thought I had made a mistake. Sure, this has been my lifelong dream for who knows how long, but what if I’m not actually cut out for it? I was terrified this week, and there are still moments when I miss my couch and American cereal and Midwestern weather. Now that it has been a week, though, I can already see how far I’ve come and how far I’ve still left to go.
I have made friends (don’t worry mom and dad, nice people are everywhere). They’re from all over the globe, from the coast of California to the surprisingly developed city of Nairobi, Kenya. I’ve met people who make me laugh, people who taught me how to bike “correctly”, people who make me feel like the well-travelled soul, and people who rekindle the excitement about being here that I felt before I left home. The trick to homesickness, I’ve discovered, is throwing yourself into the situation you’re in totally and fully, without reservation, without shame. The water is cold, sure, but it’s so refreshing. On my campus, especially, there are so many people who felt the same way I did when they arrived, so many people just trying to make their way in a foreign country and find friends to ease the lonely nights. The UCU campus is a bubble, as they say, but the kind of bubble that makes me feel secure instead of trapped.
While there is an abundance of things to do on campus, everyone encourages newcomers to venture off campus and meet people in the city centre or through community events. There’s truly no limit to possibilities here, which is precisely what makes it as equally daunting as it does electrifying. The person I have always dreamt of becoming is starting to emerge the longer that I am here. I biked to the store by myself today, and I am now sitting in a small café drinking green tea surrounded by the smell of books and lavender. The first day of classes has rekindled my desire to learn, and although school will not be easy by any means, it will certainly be more steady than last semester. Overall, as the homesickness wears off, a sense of finding home in this adventure is taking its place. By May, I suppose I’ll already recognize myself, but in the best way possible.