Groeten Uit Rotterdam! Greetings from Rotterdam, Netherlands. My name is Salvador Terrones and I am a third year interdisciplinary major at San Diego State University. Although I have barely spent my second day in the Netherlands, I feel that I have much to share about my last days in California and my first days in Rotterdam.
With only a week left in San Diego, I had many friends and family members asking me how I felt about leaving in less than a week. My answer was honest and consistent—“It has not really hit me yet that I am leaving. I know it will, but I don’t know when that will be.” Until I found myself in the backseat of the Uber that was taking me to the airport. Slowly it started settling in with me.
In the back of my mind I was questioning my decision to leave the only place I have ever known, San Diego. What was I thinking? Six months abroad in a foreign location with no personal relationships or idea of where anything was at. What was I thinking? It wasn’t too late to turn around and just not go. I was only in Los Angeles. I was only two hours away from home.
But for what?
To run away and never know what it is like to be self-sufficient or foreign? I felt like I had much to prove to everyone, including myself. At the same time, I look at other individuals with similar demographics as myself—first generation, low-income, former foster youth—and I remember my “why.” I remembered that my trip was inspired by two factors:
- I want to experience life abroad and indulge in a new culture.
- I want to inspire others within my family and community to one day take a leap of faith, travel and live out of their comfort-zone.
The reason I felt that it was essential for me to write my first blog only two days into my experience abroad is because I think there is a lot that I have experienced, personally, that I don’t quite remember reading others blog about.
Yesterday was my first day in Rotterdam and I can share that I was depressed. Although it was my first day in the Netherlands, I slept all day. Now some might believe that the reason why I slept all day was because I was experiencing jet-lag, but I firmly believe that it was really caused by a mixture of reasons. First and foremost, yes I do believe I was jet-lagged, as I am sure anyone would after sitting on a plane for 11 or 12 hours. However, I know myself well enough to know that wasn’t the only reason why I slept all day.
Another reason why I know I didn’t do anything yesterday but lay in bed and sleep was because I felt scared, unfamiliar and intimidated. The girl who was nice enough to let me live in her flat until I move on campus works during the week. This meant that there was really no one I knew who could show me around. I was intimidated and afraid of being somewhere that I knew nothing about. Although it was mentioned to me several times that it is a safe city, exploring the city alone is still intimidating. So instead of me getting out and roaming the city, I felt safer just sleeping all day.
This also was an utter disaster because I didn’t eat anything all day. I didn’t want to leave the flat and I didn’t want to barge into the refrigerator of a person I just met the night before. Thus, I found it in my best interest just to sleep my hunger away. When my host came home from work she yelled at me for not going in the refrigerator to eat. To best summarize my first days in Rotterdam, I can simply say that I was hungry, scared and intimidated … not to mention cold!
The night of my first full day in Rotterdam, I gave myself my own pep-talk. I told myself that I didn’t care how scared, intimidated or cold I was; I needed to face my fear of the unknown and go out somewhere … anywhere. So this morning (Day 2) I woke up and got ready. I told myself that if I just wanted to slowly adjust to Rotterdam, that all I would force myself to do is go to the super market two blocks away. BUT, if I was feeling extra adventurous, I would walk about 15 minutes to the Metro (sort of like the trolley in San Diego), get on until the next stop, and then walk to Erasmus University.
On my way to the supermarket I found myself in awe with how beautiful the city I am living in is. Although it was about 25 degrees outside, I was amazed by the nature of the suburban town I was living in. The people I interacted with while walking the streets were extremely friendly and welcoming to young man who traveled to their country to study at the Uni. My tensions lowered and slowly turned to comfort. I decided to take the long journey of the day, only to end up at Erasmus University. Once at the university, I was able to connect with my peer mentor, job and program coordinator, Emma. Both whom welcomed me with open arms! I got a small tour of the university, ate in the food court, and received my student ID.
By the end of my journey to the university, I felt much less uncomfortable and much more at ease.
Now the moral of my story is simple. I found myself reading blogs from other students who studied abroad, as well as reaching out to friends who have studied abroad for advice on how to cope with the transition. Although their advice was taken into consideration and respected, I learned that everyone adapts differently. For myself, I had to take a leap of faith, trust in the community around me that I would be fine, and just go for a journey.
I have already experienced a large array of emotions in just the two days that I have been abroad, but I am transitioning smoothly. For any student interested in studying outside of the country during any point of their academic career, do it. Will you find yourself uncomfortable at times, sure you will. However, speaking from experience I must say once you start figuring things out little by little, you feel amazing personal success.
I know that some days will be better than others, and that some days I will miss home more than other days, but at the end of the day it is all a cycle that will soon be over.
Doei voor nu!
Goodbye for now!
Salvador Terrones is an interdisciplinary studies in three department (IS3D) student with an emphasis in SDSU leadership, counseling and social change, and a social work major. He is studying Spring semester at Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication in Rotterdam, Netherlands.