A SEMESTER ABROAD IN AMSTERDAM IS COMING TO A QUICK END
Since the beginning of my semester abroad in Amsterdam, I have completed half of my course load, traveled around Western Europe, and have formed a love-hate relationship with my bike. The past few months have flown by and I know the last few weeks will be no different. With one last trip scheduled for this Thanksgiving weekend to Geneva, Switzerland, it will be the eighteenth city in the seventh country I have visited. This has been a unique experience of a lifetime. I know that even if I return back to Europe one day, that experience will not be the same as the one I have had this past semester.
While abroad I have learned a lot about Europeans. But I think one of the common threads that cross all of the cultures I have seen here is that Europeans love to just enjoy life. A few months ago when I was in Paris, one of the most amazing things I had ever seen was the number of people hanging out, drinking wine, and just people watching on the grassy area around the Eiffel Tower. Then a few weeks ago while in Florence, I tried to see every basilica, climb every tower, and visit every museum in the day I was there. But when I visited Rome a few days later, I realized how that was such a big mistake as I deprived myself of just slowing down and appreciating the beauty of the city and the people. While visiting a friend from GW studying in Milan, one evening we enjoyed aperitivo for a few hours, without feeling rushed or needing to be somewhere. And while here in Amsterdam, having the ability to just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee at a café or ride my bike down a new street or along a canal has allowed me to just think about and appreciate where I am in the world right now.
In my last three weeks here as I reflect on my study abroad experience, I know that the last few months have been difficult, but yet so worthwhile. When I think about my time abroad, I think about the time I hiked for four and a half miles along the mountainside of Cinque Terre in Italy last month. I never hike, I was alone, I did not know what I was getting myself into, and I was not really prepared. It was one of the toughest afternoons I have had here, but when it was over, I felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride I do not think I have felt in a while. The hike was hard and at points I wanted to turn around and just use the train to get from village to village. However, I persisted and I am glad I went outside of my comfort zone because otherwise, I would never have experienced and seen one of the most beautiful places in the world. I am very thankful that I had this opportunity to go abroad.
Shawn Mok is a junior in GWSB pursuing a BBA with a dual concentration in International Business and Business, Economics, and Public Policy.