Our stay in the Netherlands was quite lovely. Going into this leg of the trip I had no expectations (except to see tulips & windmills). The country was full of hospitable locals, beautiful sights in the cities (we got to tour the Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam), delightful drives through the countryside, flavorful food, and historical significance.
After six weeks together in close quarters, our group of 43 college students had most separated into groups of friends and within the friend groups, people were starting to wear on each others’ nerves. For as academically stimulating as IBI was, it also brought out the best, worst, and truly awful in each of us as we all experienced varying degrees of discomfort, loss, frustration, success, joy, and failure. Looking back at my IBI journal, I’m proud of the way I processed life on the road, but I’m also annoyed with my younger self for my somewhat mixed-up priorities. I cared way more about how people perceived me than about what I could contribute to conversations. I cared way more about comparing myself to others than about fully immersing myself in the cultures we were encountering. Many of my thoughts and reflections expressed my fears of the unknowns in relationships, travel, and the rest of my college career; instead of celebrating the joys of experiencing life lived outside of my comfort zone. Fear was inhibiting my personal growth as I repeatedly chose daily comfort over adventure.
Corporate visits to Shell and Ahold (a large supermarket company). Attending a service at the American Protestant Church. Eating at a traditional Dutch pancake house. Royal Delft & Gassan Diamond factory tours. Touring a family owned cheese and wooden shoe shop. Walking through Anne Frank’s house. Canal tour of Amsterdam. Overnight ferry boat ride from Rotterdam to England.
Anne Frank’s family house in Amsterdam was the second visit during our trip that had a direct relation to World War II. I’ve always loved learning about history and have been particularly fascinated by the events of the Second World War. In elementary school I read Anne’s diary and remember being overcome by the idea of living in hiding for fear of death due to religious beliefs. Walking through the house prompted me to consider my own faith and willingness to hold firm even when faced with adversity. Rereading the details of the Frank family’s lives was a somber reminder that humans are capable of devastating actions when they lose the ability to see each other as valuable creations. Thankfully, the world is filled with reminders of the oppression of nearly every ethnicity, religion, political view, age, and gender. After walking through museums and monuments such as Dachau and the Frank home, I believe that it is incredibly important for everyone to observe, acknowledge, and reflect on humanity’s choices in the past to positively change the trajectory for the future.