Europe, netherlands, Uncategorized

Windmills in Wageningen

It’s winding down. I’ll be done with classes on the 18th of December and then have a month to travel. It’s been fun. I’ve met some great people, explored the Dutch culture, traveled across Europe, and learned things too!

Since arriving in the Netherlands, I have done some traveling. I took a weekend trip to Oktoberfest in Munich. This was a memorable event. I purchased a traditional dirndl, the dress worn for celebrations in Bavaria.


Eating traditional Bavarian meal

I spent a week traveling around the Netherlands and Belgium. I saw the beach in the Hague, ate Belgian waffles in Antwerp, and did a little shopping in Utrecht. In Eindhoven, I attended GLOW. It’s a festival of light displays created by artists, local and international. It was absolutely beautiful, and much better than the Amsterdam Light Festival. Because Wageningen is so small, there isn’t always much to do. It was nice to see what the rest of the Netherlands had to offer. For my birthday, I treated myself to a trip to London and


Gardens of Versailles


London Eye

finally had Diet Coke (it’s the little things you miss). London was one of my favorite trips, thus far. It is the most culturally diverse city I’ve even been to. More recently, I traveled to Paris for COY11, a youth conference for climate change that preceded COP21, the UN’s climate change forum. Soon, I will be visiting Cologne for their famous Christmas markets, hiking Ireland’s beautiful parks, and eating delicious tapas in Spain.

If I could do it over again, I have no idea where I would choose to study abroad. After experiencing so many different countries, meeting the people, eating the food, and seeing the sights, I could not be satisfied with choosing any one country. My study abroad experience would not have been worth it without my travel adventures. I have enjoyed planning new trips, running to catch my next bus,and being absolutely culture shocked in a new country. Every city is a new challenge. Before studying abroad, I had never been outside of the US. Now, I’ve been to 15 other beautiful countries. I’ve met some of the most inspiring people that make me want to work hard so that I can travel even more. The wanderlust is real.

Fly you high,

Jessica Mondello

Europe, netherlands, Uncategorized

Windmills in Wageningen

First, excuse my generalizations in this post. The University of Illinois has educated me enough to realize that my statements below do not apply to every person in the country referenced.

After settling down (unpacking my belongings, meeting my hallmates, and mapping out Wageningen) I feel at ease in the Netherlands. Right from the beginning, I had a group of students I spent a week with during AID, the new student program. They’re the cuties in the picture.


Brunch picnic at AID in Wageningen

AID was a quick tutorial about how life works in Wageningen from classes and grocery shopping to social parties and Dutch traditions. Because it such a small campus, I still see them around the Forum, the main building on campus.

The Netherlands is a gorgeous country. The huge amount of precipitation leaves everything very green. The countryside is covered in green fields and pastures full of cows and sheep. The cities have fantastic architecture that make each town feel unique. The Dutch seem to have a pretty simple culture. Many are not religious. Their politics are boring as several students have pointed out to me. They are very proud of their country, language, and traditions. For example, many “hate” Flemish, a language known as Belgian Dutch. It sounds like Dutch with a French accent. Another example is when I ask about a festival or tradition from another country, I’ll get a response like “Oktoberfest is a German thing” or ” Hamburgers are an American thing.” I mistook


Cows grazing in Wageningen

Heineken as a German beer and the Dutch students I was with got very offended. Know your Dutch culture!

Living here isn’t too different from the US. I’m a bit of an odd ball when it comes to eating habits, so sorry to all the US citizens out there. They think you’re weird because of me. Here are some small, very common differences I have come across:

USA vs. Netherlands

  • We eat chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. They eat rolls with butter and chocolate sprinkles.
  • We drink 0-2 cups of coffee in the morning. They drink at least 3 cups everyday.
  • We buy 2 weeks of groceries at a time. They buy 2 days worth.
  • We have copious amounts of cars. They have a staggering number of bicycles.
  • It rains sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t rain.
  • We have umbrellas. They have rain jumpsuits.

There are tons of similarities, though! Organic products are still way expensive, waking up in the morning still stinks, and everyone loves Adele! The Netherlands has some quirks. Their food palate is a little dull and holy moly does it rain, but it’s my quirky little home for the next 3 months.

Fly you high,

Jessica Mondello

Europe, netherlands, Uncategorized

Windmills in Wageningen

I, Jessica Mondello, am from a tiny, agricultural town of 5500. The kind of town that all you Suburbians think of when you think “Southern” Illinois: cornfields on all sides. I always felt I was too ambitious to stay in a town like that, however, I have realized that it is not ambition that drives me but satisfaction. Staying anywhere for too long makes me unsatisfied. I become comfortable. I have nothing against comfort; in fact, I quite enjoy sitting down for a Netflix binge in my sweatpants after a week of tests.

But soon, comfortable becomes…comfortable.

You settle for comfortable. You settle for staying in on the weekends with a bottle of wine with the same people watching the same show. For me, though, comfortable becomes unsatisfying. I start to get a twinge that I am wasting time, that I am missing something great. That feeling starts as loneliness or maybe even sadness. It’s a confusing feeling. Then one day, I’ll be walking down the sidewalk, listening to some tunes when it hits me. It often hits as the desire to learn how to fly an airplane– I don’t know why. I guess my subconscious associates learning to fly as living life to the fullest. This great feeling of satisfaction and confidence just rushes over me and I realize I need a change.

Anyways, that’s why I decided I need to travel the world. I need to see new places, a change of scenery, so I don’t get comfortable and get stuck in a loop of Netflix and wine. Luckily for me, I attend a university with a large option of study abroad programs. I chose the Netherlands (mostly due to the accessibility to other countries). But studying abroad was not enough, my first time out of the United States needed to be epic. So, I decided to road trip to the Netherlands.

I purchased a one-way ticket to Istanbul, Turkey (with many ridiculous comments from my peers about ISIS and Taken 2). And that was that! During two weeks of non-stop travel with night busses and cheap hostels, I was able to see:

and a couple places in between. It was a crazy ride and I learned much along the way, mostly about food (hence the 5 lbs I’ve gained since leaving the US). However, there is at least one important thing I learned on my two-week adventure across Europe: I don’t want a career, yet. I always thought I was going to “find myself” when I went abroad. That’s what is supposed to happen, right? Sure, I have learned some things about myself, but I feel I have more questions than answers at this point. Even with a new-found appreciation for the US and several more countries under my belt (and even a day trip to Asia), I have no idea where I want to live for the rest of my life. I don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life. BUT, I have become more comfortable with the idea of not knowing.

So, here I am! I am at last in the Netherlands for my study abroad program, and quite comfortable not knowing what I’ll be doing next. Currently, I’m planning my next trips across Europe, looking at work abroad programs and internships, and enjoying the Dutch culture. I don’t know where or what I’ll be doing in a year, but that sounds alright.

Fly you high,

Jessica Mondello

netherlands, travel

IBIP goes to the Netherlands

For the next leg of the IBIP tour we traveled Leiden, Netherlands, a small town about a 45 minute drive from Amsterdam. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by our Dutch guide, Neik.  Neik informed us that this tiny country (only 320 by 170 kilometers) has the 16th largest economy in the world and one of the highest standards of living. We were surprised to learn that the term ‘Holland’ only referred to two of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands, and that the Netherlands is home to both Dutch and English speaking citizens. Also, that Dutch people are the tallest in the world on average. I was also amazed by the environmentally minded culture. There were bikers and bike lanes everywhere, a windmill on every corner, the cleanest streets and public facilities I’ve ever seen, and recycling everywhere there was a garbage can.

IMG_7215 IMG_7197

The next day the whole group departed for a day out in Amsterdam. We received a walking tour all over the city and hear about the unique history of the city, and gaze at the breathtaking architecture. For lunch, we dined at a restaurant with a canal view. Since 2/3 of the Netherlands is below sea level, many of the cities feature canals similar to Amsterdam. These thousands of kilometers of dykes are have the same distance as the Great Wall of China! After the lunch, we took a boat tour of the city and were able to admire the architecture from up close. We saw the smallest house in all of Amsterdam, it was only as wide as a window! Our guide referred to the owners as the “happiest couple in Amsterdam” since they both lived on separate floors! On our free time during the day some of the group decided to take a tour of the Van Gough museum, however I decided that this was out of my price range and happily walked around the city for the rest of the day.



Maggie Benson

#IBIP2015 #ACESabroad