Two weeks ago I finally arrived in the Netherlands, and I have received an amazing welcome.
The flight here was long but incredibly exciting. I had never travelled internationally before, so the gargantuan airports and security were a little intimidating, but I travelled along the way with a group of other Rotary Youth Exchange students. All bound for our own destinations, the long flights were a fantastic opportunity to share our excitement for the year ahead.
Arriving at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam was a surreal experience. I was welcomed by my third host family, who then drove me through the picturesque Dutch landscape to the home of my first host family; where many of the wonderful people I’d been talking to for so long were waiting for an afternoon tea.
On Tuesday I was given a tour of my school and was kindly greeted and shown around by some of the staff of Cambium College, the school I’m attending for the year. I’ve been placed in VWO [Voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs] 5 classes, which is the second last year of the Dutch school system, and designed for students going on to a university education.
Wednesday was an adventure into the city of Den Bosch, the closest large city to Zaltbommel, which is about eight minutes away by train. There, my third host sister and I explored the beautiful city and tasted the local delicacy of Bossche bollen, along with many other Dutch treats.
Saturday was another big day, where I ventured into Utrecht, a wonderful and much larger city, complete with canals and a bustling marketplace; where I finally ate my first warm, freshly cooked Stroopwafel.
On Monday I had my first day of school! I wasn’t exactly nervous but I was anxious and excited to meet all my classmates for the year, and the day ended up going wonderfully well. I was warmly welcomed and kindly helped along by my new classmates who have been showing me the way to classrooms and translating what our teachers are saying, as well as helping me with my Dutch. I’m amazed by the fantastic English everyone speaks. While in Australia learning a second language is something unique and challenging, the people my age here are already able to speak two (or more) languages to an incredibly high degree.
I have been biking to school every day, a facet of Dutch culture I really enjoy and something which is far easier and much more popular to do here because of the extreme flatness of the landscape and plentiful bike lanes. Although, the nearly constant wind and rain, which always seems to be coming from the direction you are heading, can make riding a little more difficult.
Other than that, my first two weeks have been spent getting to know people, eating delicious food, (I may have developed an obsession with Hagelslag and Speculoos) and soaking up the atmosphere of this beautiful country.