Goodbye San Diego and Hallo Nederland

After I graduated high school, I answered my relative’s repetitive question, “Are you excited to go to college?” with a thoughtless “yes, Auntie.” However, when I look back on that, I wasn’t excited at all. In fact, I was a nervous wreck and terrified of everything college had to offer — the food, people, classes, teachers, etc.

More specifically, I was horrified of living in the residence halls. From hearing stories of unsanitary items left in the communal showers (I won’t go into detail), to nightmare tales of spiteful room mates, I was not at all eager for the roller coaster I was about to ride. I truly felt as though I was waiting in a never-ending line for Déjà Vu at Magic Mountain the first few months before move in day.

I’m not what you call a “Chatty Cathy” and would prefer to be in my own space, nevertheless, I was assigned a triple room and was about to be pushed out of my comfort zone to say the absolute least.

It gets worse.

I was assigned to be on Floor 10 in the farthest hall from classes and the other residence halls. I had some friends going into San Diego State and many of those friends were in the residence halls on the opposite side of campus.

It gets even worse.

I was assigned to be on Floor 10 in the farthest hall from campus and the other residence halls. AND, I was placed on the ROTC-affiliated floor. Naturally, I immediately assumed my mornings would start at the break of dawn due to wake up calls for my new hall mate’s training sessions. I also assumed my hall would be entirely composed of the opposite gender, excluding my two roommates and me. Some girls probably found this information exciting. I am not ashamed or embarrassed to say that I felt my insides tangle in knots when I found out.

Now, you’re probably thinking I’m the most pessimistic person you’ve ever met, but my fear of starting college lasted about as long as it takes to get the smell of an In-N-Out burger and animal fries out of your car. In other words, it took me roughly three weeks to adjust to college, meet and befriend other freshman going through the experience, get to know my Residential Advisors, join campus organizations and to feel comfortable walking out of the shower with a turban-like towel on my head down the hall to my room.

This preface can exemplify just how much San Diego State has changed my life and mindset for the better. It also illustrates the journey I’m about to go on, to some degree.

It is now December 15, 2015, and I’m a junior at SDSU. I live in a house near campus with five of my closest friends. Freshman year, I had no idea I would meet my best friends, nor that I would be roommates with them for a whole semester.

IMG_2019On January 21, I travel abroad to a new continent and it’s safe to say that’s much scarier than going to Trujillo’s in the daylight or to the library for an all-nighter during finals week. I have the opportunity to travel to Maastricht, Netherlands, for the entire spring semester. When I tell people this for the first time, confused looks appear on their faces because most are unsure why I would pick such a small town. However, I chose this university in the Netherlands because my Dad’s side of the family is from there. This school is located on the east side of the Netherlands with a population of about 123,000 people.

I’m born and raised in San Diego and have been to about eight different states on vacations. Each of these vacations has been no longer than two weeks. Freshman year, I would’ve never thought I would see the country my ancestors lived in, let alone live in the same spot they did for six months on my own. But, I’ve had countless dreams of wandering through the tulip-coated fields I’ve only seen antique photos of. Freshman year, leaving San Diego didn’t cross my mind and these dreams I had seemed far from a reality.

I’ve never been out of the country and have flown on an airplane for no more than six hours. My flight to the Netherlands is two days long. I will also be flying into Budapest, Hungary, and will be exploring this unknown territory a week before school starts. My large luggage (I say large because you could literally fit a small human inside my suitcase of clothes) will be in a locker in Budapest and I will be living out of a backpack for my first week and a half in Europe.

Freshman year, I wouldn’t have believed I had the courage to travel this far for so long. And be excited about it.

Freshman year, I brought every last stitch of clothing with me to my residence hall move in day. I am now about to embark on a journey for a week and a half with less than 1/16th of my things.

Considering I was so nervous about starting college, I’m sure you’re thinking that I am terrified for what’s to come and I would be lying if I said this was false. I am terrified to leave my best friends and family who I’ve consistently been surrounded by for 21 years. I’m terrified of budgeting my money. I’m terrified of being lost. I already miss the sand in between my toes and the San Diego sunshine caressing my back.

However, the dissimilarity between then and now is that I am so beyond excited for this spring. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to travel somewhere I’ve never been with one of my best friends, Maddie Pribyl, who I met at SDSU.

Unlike the first few weeks of my freshman year when I would take the stairs to FLOOR 10 of my residence hall just to avoid social contact with anyone, I am now so excited to meet and make new friends in a country and continent I’ve only seen Google Images and old photograph albums of.

For the last four months, I’ve been researching the places I want to see on the weekends and have found different hostels to stay in. Croatia, Ireland, Santorini, and Paris are at the top of my list. Maddie and I have already bought tickets to see Odesza in Paris, which alone feels like a dream. Though I don’t know a thing about geography or traveling, I do know that I am in for the biggest and most life-changing experience. It seems so surreal that the possibility of seeing all these countries is in fact realistic and when I was a freshman I never would’ve imagined that to be the case.

IMG_1024I’m confident that leaving sweet San Diego, the only place I’ve ever really known, is going to be a tough break up. San Diego and I have a lot of history, you know? From eating Pancho’s California burritos at 3 a.m., to hikes overlooking the crystal blue ocean at Torrey Pines, to ice skating in Coronado, we just get each other. But, I’ve heard once or twice that distance makes the heart grow fonder and I think San Diego will understand that I need to see other people, experience new cultures, and find a new home away from home.

It is now January 7, 2016 and it’s really set in that Maastricht University is going to be my new home in two weeks. I recently got an email about the program I’m in with a map of the institution and a list of my classes. There was also a virtual tour that allowed me to see my university visually. I noticed that some of the pictures had antique looking buildings covered in snow. Also, Maastricht University is a Problem Based Learning Institution meaning that the education of this institution will be interactive and will focus on real-world problems in individual and group settings.

It’s finally January 21st. The day is finally here. The day that I’ve been talking about, writing about, and planning for a much longer time than this 11 hour plane ride I’m about to travel on. The goodbyes to my parents and brother ended in an ocean of tears and made me realize I will genuinely miss these people I love so much. Up until this point, my mom has been consistently demanding that I stay away from Dutch men because she is worried I will not come back, but I know I’ll be back in five months with stories to tell and open arms ready to hug her. Directly before I hugged my Dad goodbye I even joked, “this would be a lot easier if I didn’t like you.”

So yes, I know I’m going to miss my family, friends, three wiener dogs, Sunset Cliffs and board and brew Turkados. But, I’m so excited for this journey and feel so fortunate to be given the opportunity.

Let the adventure begin.

Vaarwel Amerika!

HannasmallHanna Van Der Linde is earning a bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Maastricht, the Netherlands, during spring semester 2016.



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