Two nights left to sleep in my own bed before I fly away to 1) a country I’ve never been to 2) learn a language I rarely hear in America 3) meet a completely new group of people, and 4) add a whole new dimension to my life that I never would have imagined.
Why Amsterdam? I chose to study abroad in Amsterdam for a variety of reasons. First, my vacation a few years back to Denmark and Sweden changed my thoughts of what a city and society could be, and I’ve been driven to experience those lifestyles more fully since (this includes societies that are sustainable, clean, happy, pay for their students to go to college (Denmark knows what it’s doing!), you know what I’m getting at). Although I have dabbled in Spanish, Mandarin, and Russian throughout my academic career, no languages (or countries that speak them) really stood out to me; I wasn’t destined to study in a specific language-speaking country based on what language I’ve learned, so I took advantage of this freedom. Since I started college (and even in high school), I knew pursuing the environment was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. As an Environmental Policy major, I knew travelling to a country with high sustainability standards would be a great way to enrich my course of study.
Pitzer College offers a wide variety of study abroad programs, ranging from Pitzer-taught classes in Nepal to homestays in Ecuador, and also offers exchanges with universities throughout the world. Once I discovered I could be an exchange student at Universiteit van Amsterdam, with no ties to my American college and could live on my own (as opposed to using a host family), I knew I was heading in the right direction. I wanted an entirely new experience as a student learning from a Dutch perspective with no American influence. I became even more set on Amsterdam when I learned about their “Future Planet Studies” faculty/program for exchange students, taught in English, with the first semester focusing on sustainable food production. When I talk about my program, many assume I’m studying space… which is always funny but easy to clarify. “Future Planet Studies” is exactly what it sounds like; I’m working towards the future of our planet, an extremely necessary thing to consider.
Why a full year? Quite frankly, I decided to go big or (literally) go home. At the start of my sophomore year, which is when the study abroad application process starts at my college, I was in dire need of a drastic life change. I started to feel claustrophobic at my small school and knew the only way to rejuvenate the love I had for it initially was to leave. At this time, I also didn’t quite register what going for a full year would mean. I would miss out on a whole year with my friends and partaking in beloved Pitzer activities, I would have to work extra hard in making sure all of my classes transferred correctly, I would be planning my senior year and thesis with my academic advisor through a 9 hour time difference, and oh, I would be alone in a foreign country for 11 months. Despite all of this anxiety, I still applied for the full year and knew I could only stay for one semester if I thought that was better for me. Every person I have talked to about studying abroad for a full year has told me I’m making the smarter decision. I now believe them and am confident in my choice.
After two years of studying American environmental policy, sustainable agriculture practices, environmental justice, policy in the European Union, and a summer spent researching Dutch fashion, I’m ready to go. I wish good luck to all of my friends back at Pitzer and to my Dallas friends that are joining me across the pond. Don’t hesitate to contact me and I look forward to returning with plenty of stories and clogs for all. Peace.