How Not to Study Abroad: Volume 1

I would say that I do not have many talents. I have never been very good at games – real life or virtual – or anything artistic, I can’t play any instruments and I don’t do anything exceptionally well. But since a young age, I have been an outstanding procrastinator. I don’t know whether it is genetics, my (sometimes) crippling fear of failure or a combination of both, but I can put stuff off like a Greek God.

I even wrote this blog post almost two weeks later than I was supposed to – my apologies to the great SDSU Be International team – because I was unsure of what to write. That is the first thing you need to know about me to understand the root of my struggles studying abroad in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The amount of prep time for the study abroad experience is overwhelming, and my serial procrastination did not make things any easier. I didn’t even finish the simple and essential task of getting my passport until mid-December – about a month before my flight to Heathrow. I took even longer to book my flight from Heathrow to Amsterdam, and wouldn’t have done so if someone hadn’t forced it on me – and then bought the tickets for me. In part from my naivety, and in part from my unnatural talent for putting things off until the stress becomes physically unbearable, I made the whole process much harder than it had to be – which is saying something, because the process is already challenging as it is.

When I finally reached Holland, my first few weeks were a regular crap shoot. My first night, after traveling over 5,500 miles and staying up for over 24 hours, I jumped on the wrong shuttle to the wrong hotel. After I made my way back to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, I hopped in a cab, with a driver who clearly knew I was a cold, delirious, inept American traveler – which I think anyone would be after that much time in the air – and grossly overcharged me for the cab ride.

I think that night, stretching to the next morning, was the one time that I truly felt alone and scared in my near month that I have been in the Netherlands – sitting wide awake at 3 am in a hotel, with a dead phone, dead computer, no money and no idea how to get from my hotel to Rotterdam. I pride myself on being adaptive and keeping calm, but that honestly scared me senseless. The one good thing that came out of it was having to learn the public transportation system quickly, on the fly. Additionally, any problems with public transport don’t scare me much anymore – because nothing could have been worse than that first day.

But nothing got any easier once I made it to Rotterdam.


Zach Engberg is a junior journalism major. He is studying abroad at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands this spring.

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