I sure picked the perfect winter to escape the record-breaking cold in Illinois! And on top of that, I am so lucky to be spending this semester in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Wageningen, Netherlands is an amazing town in the middle of the country that I’ve grown to call home since my arrival at the beginning of 2015. I am here with five other U of I students, each of us living in a different corridor with mostly Dutch housemates. I have had incredible adventures so far this semester traveling across Europe, yet some of my favorite memories have been made getting to know people here in Wageningen. This small college town, situated an hour by train from Amsterdam, is astonishingly diverse with over 150 nationalities represented. Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) is world class for life sciences, and I have found it the perfect place to be learning about Environmental Policy and related topics.
(Just a fraction of the many bikes at the train station – our main form of transportation here in the Netherlands!)
(WUR campus – love biking over the bridges)
(The main walking street in Wageningen on a sunny day)
Classes here at WUR are a little different than they are back in Champaign. Not only am I taking Masters level courses (yikes!), but our classes are taught in blocks, meaning I am already completely finished with my first course! I thoroughly enjoyed my first class, Food, Health and Society: An Integrated Socio-Political Perspective. It was fascinating learning about food policy topics from an international perspective and having an opportunity to discuss these issues with people from all over the world. We also had a class excursion to visit the Amsterdam Institute for Advances Metropolitan Solutions and to tour some community gardens in Amsterdam. It was an awesome day of learning, but it was also fun to stop at a small local brewery at the end of the day to get to know some classmates better!
(A panoramic shot in Amsterdam)
I have also been able to take other trips around the country, traveling back to Amsterdam, as well as seeing new places like Utrecht (one of my favorites) and Carnival celebrations in Den Bosch (its Dutch spelling is ‘s-Hertogenbosch – crazy!). Carnival was an insane experience but it was so much fun! The whole town comes out to celebrate and the town even changed its name to honor the celebrations – ‘Oeteldonk.’
(A canal in Utrecht)
(Carnival in Den Bosch – source: oeteldonk.org)
Last week, my roommates and friends here threw me a surprise birthday party, which I will absolutely never forget! I have been so fortunate to have an opportunity to travel quite a bit on the weekends and over a break period, but I am finding it more and more difficult to spend time away from Wageningen as the semester continues to fly by. I miss you Champaign, but how will I ever leave this place?
(Selfie with my roommates at our annual holiday dinner)