I've made a few friends both in and outside of school, hooray! I was (and remain) a little worried about the whole science of friendships. One of the harder bits of exchange is the social difference. One minute you're surrounded by people you've known for years, and then poof - that entire support network is two oceans and a continent away. There are no Inflatable BFFs, unfortunately, and friends take a while to make. Going to school the first day was overwhelming because there's so many people, and all of them already have established relationships years in the making. It's hard to be dropped in the middle! Especially when there's language difficulty. I know I don't have that part as badly as others though, so at this point I can at least communicate a little bit. and even if they don't really understand why I'm here, people have been really nice - helping me translate schoolwork, partnering with me in P.E. etc. So dank je to Iris, Sharon, Francis, Ishmael, and Floris for making me feel welcomed :)
One thing I've found really interesting is how as an exchange student, I'm totally blind to cliques and social borders. Because that dividing line is gone (to me), I and all other foreign kids end up making friends from all different social groups. On one hand, this is kind of a drag when you find out that two of your friends don't like each other; but on the other it's amazing how easily lines are transcended when you ignore them.
Some things I love about Holland (patrick, i'm stealing your theme!):
1. Bikes. There are so many bicyclists here, it's amazing. everywhere you look, there's clusters of them: old omas en opas (grandmas and grandpas) in skirts and tweed jackets, mothers with babies strapped into seats on their handlebars, business men with bluetooth headsets, and lots and lots of teenagers. Cars are very watchful of bikes, no one wears helmets, and there's always a bike path next to the road. and another great thing? the cobblestone streets. I still haven't gotten over them :)
2. Beer. The drinking age in Holland is 16, and the Dutch believe that responsible drinking begins at home. Grolsch pilsner is brewed in nearby Enschede, and so that's what most people drink in the area. That's all I've seen anyone drinking. and it's good!
3. Proximity. The Netherlands is a small country, so all of the villages/towns/cities are really close together. I can bike to Borne's city center in three minutes, Hengelo's in fifteen, and Enschede in thirty. When it's too far to bike, there are trains that go everywhere. Thery're quite expensive, but AFS gave me a card that gets me a 40% discount. I'll break it in with Lauren (another American AFSer) this friday when we go to the orientation!
4. Fashion. As predicted, Europeans are on average much better dressed than... anyone else. Nobody wears just jeans and a tshirt to school, and i'm pretty sure anyone wearing sweatpants would be shot. Think layering, boots, lots of bracelets, and skinny jeans. I was terrified at first, being among those who enjoy fashion as long as it's on other people. However, after a couple trips to Blend and H&M (best. store. ever.), I think my more fashion-concious friends would be proud of me! The value of dressing well has skyrocketed for me because as I can't speak Dutch yet, I need to make good first impressions and show my personality through how I dress and act, rather than my words.
5. The fact that I haven't heard a single song by Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers, or any other Disney star since I arrived. Yes, the Dutch do like Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne - but I can live with that. But the lack of shit-tastic pop by over-sexed fifteen year olds is greatly appreciated by the likes of me.