Hi there! It’s been a crazy month (again) and I’m finally sitting down to write about it. It’s now T-2days until the flight home, and on the one hand I’m very sad to be leaving this place, but on the other I’m excited to see my family and friends. It’s been 6 months since I was last in the UK, and I’m starting to miss weird little things, for example, strict queuing etiquette, twiglets, Pimms and just being able to talk to a stranger. However, I think when I leave here it will take me a while to realise that this year is really over, it hasn’t sunk in yet at all. I really can’t say enough how grateful I am to have been in this time and place, and I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person, letting go of whatever construction of self identity I was holding onto before, and realising the true nature of our impermanent reality. Anyway…what was I talking about?
So, June was basically me trying to sit my exams and complete endless paperwork for leaving here, and the next year of university. I passed 10/12 of my subjects this year, meaning that I achieved enough points to receive a grant from the EU. I decided I will spend my money on travelling this summer, and I will go for 6 weeks to Lisbon, Granada, and Seville. I’m very excited about this, as I will stay with Erasmus friends who will show me around their beautiful cities! (it will be on my blog, hopefully lol). 🙂 In the meantime between exams and trying to pass to get my grant, there were many farewell dinners, bbqs and parties, as people have been leaving for the past month. Me and my flatmates decides to stay until the last day possible, because we are HARDCORE aha. During the weekends I did a lot of cycling to check out things around my city Nijmegen, and one of those was a small village called Mook. It took about 30 minutes to cycle there, and it has a lovely river running through it, with a large lock to stop the are flooding. I also went a few times to the River Waal, the main river running through Nijmegen. The current is too strong to swim, however, there are small beaches all along the sides with shallower sections of water, and many people hang out here in the warm evenings. It is a very beautiful place at sunset, definitely one of the best places in the city! Another ‘beach’ I discovered was the lake in Dukenburg, which is about a ten minute bike ride away. It is a series of small lakes to cycle by, but there is also one huge lake, where the locals swim and sunbathe! It is super beautiful, and with all the pale bodies in the sun, I felt at home 🙂 aha. If you are in Nijmegen, definitely come check it out! It has been almost tropical weather here, with highs of 38degrees, but also huge thunderstorms! Its been a beautiful month. Of course in my last weeks here I had to visit Amsterdam, and in the end I went twice 😀 The first time was to visit my friend Nadine, an Amsterdam native who I lived with for a year in Hertfordshire. We went to a local beer festival, in a converted shipping container, and the beer was awesome! The wind was crazy compared to my place in the south, but the malts helped me keep my balance 😉 The second time was actually yesterday, and it was just a trip to kind of say goodbye to the city. Over my time in the Netherlands we went to Amsterdam quite a bit, and it felt right to just chill around. We had a couple beers in the sunshine by the canals, met with random friends, and had a nap in Vondel Park (the biggest park there). We also did an INFORMATIONAL coffeeshop tour, where we learned about the history and commercialisation of Cannabis 😛 overall, an awesome last day in the beautiful capital. Lastly, a couple of weeks ago we decided that we wanted to go to the North coast, and explore the island Texel. It is one of the Frisian islands and it just a ferry ride away from the mainland city of Den Helder. It took us 4 hours in total to get to the island, but it was worth it. After stepping off the ferry, we rented bicycles and set off toward the first town. The island is very small and only has 13,000 residents. Along the way there were many sheep (what the place is known for) and rolling hills of flat countryside. It reminded me a lot of home! And the coolest thing was getting to the beach, as only a small distance on the other side is East Anglia! The North Sea smelt and looked exactly how I remembered it, scummy, grey and salty, and it was awesome! The girls I went with were all used to Mediterranean seas and so did not join me when I ran down and stood in the shallow parts, in the stormy weather 😀 While cycling back the biggest storm I have ever seen started, and we all had to cycle 20K back to the boat. I have NEVER been so wet in my life, the rain was hammering on my face and it kinda felt like I was drowning, but, riding with your friends, battling the weather and laughing the whole way was one of the best moments. All in all, would 10/10 recommend for visiting, but no more than 2 days as its only small! The Netherlands is such a beautiful country, with a peaceful and calm atmosphere. The architecture is breath-taking, and the nature even more so. I truly never expected to love it so much here, but I can really see myself living here again one day. My year here has been indescribable, and ever new person I met and place I went to taught me something. I’ve made some lifelong friends, and I’m eternally grateful to them for all the have given to me. When I signed the paper for the year abroad, I had no idea what I’d be doing, and there is so much beauty in that alone. I am also thankful for everyone who sends me love and support from the UK, you made me strong enough to feel that wherever I am, I have your love and spirit behind me. Tonight I will go to my lovely Vegan restaurant, and for the last time in my city centre. Tomorrow will be spent doing the final packing and cleaning 😦 Thank you again for reading my journey on my blog, and I will speak to you when I’m in Portugal! Blessings, Zara xxxxx