Welcome to Rotterdam

I cannot think of a more perfect way to start this blog than by saying that I have officially settled into my new home in The Netherlands, specifically Rotterdam. I chose to study abroad in The Netherlands because I wanted to truly immerse myself into a new culture and discover life elsewhere in this amazing world.

Despite popular belief, Amsterdam is not the only place that exists in The Netherlands. I say this because more than half of the people who find out that I am in The Netherlands think I am partying it up in Amsterdam and attending the Red Light District every weekend. Although not as popular as Amsterdam, Rotterdam is a very vibrant city and has a lot to offer.

Rotterdam is simply amazing. It is actually the second largest city in The Netherlands and it’s a great place to be. Adjusting to the life here as a “Rotterdamer” has been quite a challenge, but nothing impossible that one cannot grow to love. The weather is so different, you are not guaranteed to see the sun everyday which will definitely take some getting used to. You no longer have to worry about looking ridiculous for wearing layers and layers of clothing and carrying your favorite umbrella around. Although I do have to say, the people here who don’t look warm do not have a problem at all.

I quickly got used to the ways of the city, especially getting around. Bicycles, bicycles, and more bicycles. Pedestrians have their own crosslight, but so do bicyclists! I learned this the hard way when I crossed the street and a pedestrian struggled to pass me. No hard feelings (she sounded pretty angry, but I went ahead and acted like I didn’t hear her – which I technically didn’t because I do not speak Dutch).

Within a couple of days I truly felt as if I earned the title of a true bicyclist in such a bike-friendly city. I always smile when I ride my bike because I still find it hard to believe that so many people depend on bicycles for transportation – it is a dream come true! I am used to seeing students bike around campus in San Diego, but unlike San Diego, the people of Rotterdam bike no matter what the weather may bring – wind, cold, or even rain.

Funny story: I saw that the weather was a bit crazy, my roommate even warned me that it was very windy, but I decided to challenge myself and bike it out, literally. Halfway through my ride I got off my bike and walked it because the winds were literally pushing my bike and I backwards. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself.

One thing that I am definitely learning is how to laugh at myself and my mistakes. When you are in a new place you are bound to make mistakes, but it is all part of the experience. I am excited to share more about my journey in Rotterdam with you all.

Thalia Bernal is earning a bachelor’s degree in Economics at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, during spring semester 2016.

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