An American Abroad: Wrap-up of 10-day ‘mega-trip’ brings culture shock

 

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My 10-day, three-city-wide adventure is complete. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to go on an insane trip during my study abroad experience. Those 10 days will forever change me, even if I’m not quite sure what those changes entail yet.
My friend Madison and I arrived in Amsterdam last Monday night. As a Canadian and an American, we foolishly believed English would be common throughout the city. It wasn’t.
I never really went through culture shock in England. I finally experienced it as Madison and I sat on the metro at 9:45 p.m., listening to the intercom for the one word we knew to listen for: Sloterdijk.
We watched the monitor above our seats as it announced each stop, and we got off at Sloterdijk. The two of us decided to wander the empty streets in search of someone who could give us directions to our hotel. We eventually found the hotel by ourselves, along with some rabbits hopping around near the sidewalk.
Culture shock ensued the next morning as we set out toward the city center. We had no idea where we were going, and we walked for over an hour before we got into the city.
Things got better, though. Anyone we talked to picked up that we were English speakers and seamlessly switched from Dutch to English. Most of the people we talked to were friendly and happy to offer help.
Tuesday was crazy. We rented bikes and rode around the fast-paced city. We visited the Van Gogh Museum, ate Dutch pancakes in a floating restaurant and ended the night with a walk through the Red Light District.
On Wednesday, we visited the Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market. Madison and I returned our bikes and spent the afternoon walking quiet streets full of quirky shops.
On the walk home, Madison said, “It’s like a busy city, but with a small town mentality.”
I couldn’t have agreed with her more.
We arrived in London the next afternoon. While I loved the openness and laid-back atmosphere of Amsterdam, it felt good to be back in England.
We went out for dinner that night with our friend Jane. I wanted to eat at a pub, so we settled on The Prince of Teck. I had steak pie with mashed potatoes, and Madison and I split a sticky toffee pudding.
We took the Tube into the city on Friday. It felt surreal to walk across the River Thames with Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben behind me, and the London Eye on my left.

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Madison and I spent the afternoon in the vast National Gallery. Afterward, we found Buckingham Palace and walked through Green Park. The sky grew dark as we wandered through Piccadilly Circus.
We ended the night with a Jack the Ripper tour through the East End. It was creepy, fascinating and a great way to see the city.
We found the Natural History Museum on Saturday and the Tower of London with the poppy display for World War I. Volunteers were taking out the ceramic flowers, but I was thankful to see the flowers that still remained.

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Madison and I walked the city for the rest of the day and took the Tube back to the hotel that night.
I loved my time during the “megatrip.” I walked more, I learned more, I ate delicious pastries more. It was 10 days well spent.
Author H. Jackson Brown’s mother once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Until next time, cheers!

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