We have all heard about the 21-year-old college student that comes back from their study
abroad a different person. They fully immersed themselves in the culture and traditions of another country and felt changed by their constant weekend travels. Here to tell you its completely true, but not for the reasons you think.
Yes, is seeing the Eiffel Tower in person absolutely amazing, I really think so? (Going there in a few weeks… so sure hope so). The experience of living in a European country is so much more than just seeing that one country, and quick train or plane rides to countless others. It has to do with truly seeing the differences between everyday life abroad and back in the United States, not only through your own eyes but through your interactions with everyone you meet while living away from your home country.
When meeting people at Binghamton often the first question you ask someone is where they are from. As we all know too well the answer New York, or even Long Island, is just too vague. Even saying just Upstate is not enough. If we didn’t know New York State geography before Binghamton, we will all certainly graduate with more than just the basics. When meeting other International Students in Utrecht its more like a world geography lesson. People come from all walks of life and different backgrounds for the same reason of experiencing a new culture in a new place with new people. I have met people from cities and countries that I could not have pointed out on a map beforehand. After this experience, I will truly have friends from every corner of the world, and that is so much more than traveling to London, Barcelona or Rome on a weekend.
Often stories I tell about my life back in New York get responses like “That is totally not what we do at home,” or “What? You have a car?”. A simple telling of a memory to a fellow international student can turn into a huge conversation going back and forth with differences between our two cultures. The introductory question of what is your major, an everyday question back at home, often holds no weight. Explaining to people that we have the opportunity to take a minor or a double major can often lead to a whole slew of other questions regarding cultural academic differences. When people ask me what year I am in school, answering with 4th year gets a lot of questions as most undergraduate programs in Europe are only 3 years. Beyond academic differences there is an endless list of simple everyday things that are just the slightest bit different, and I hope to hear about as many of those differences as I can.
While living in the Netherlands I am not only getting exposed to the Dutch way of biking absolutely everywhere and never beating around the bush but I am also getting exposure to holidays and traditions from across the globe. Here’s to hoping my next two months in Utrecht are filled with many more culture and geography lessons in places I least expect them. Thank you Utrecht, and Thank You BingAbroad.
Abigail Katz, a Psychology and Economics major, is currently studying this fall 2018 at Utrecht School of Economics through Binghamton University.