The city of Tubingen is empty. The students have all departed for their homes, but I’ve decided to stay. Home was an option… I could have spent the holiday season with familiar family and familiar friends, but for me, staying offered what a flight home could not. However, I was not alone at all! The city was filled with beautiful christmas lights and offered traditional German markets. Consisting of a few of my favourite treats, those being hot wine and fresh baked goods. The city centre had vibrance very different than before. It was a lazy feeling around town, as the German natives decided to close their shops and gather in the city square to partake in the winter activities. Over the holiday break I had some wonderful experiences, a few of which I would like to share with you below…
During my stay I was offered the opportunity to stay with some of my German friends throughout the country. But I stayed in Tubingen as you already know. One of my most memorable experiences was not a specific experience, but a recap of cultural growth throughout the break. I met with people, many of whom were exchangers who have many different holiday traditions, unlike my own. I learned from these people. I was able to share my stories of home with them and them with me. We discussed different religions and customs throughout the world.
Being an exchanger, and being in Europe offers some amazing travel opportunities. Before leaving Canada I had only known of the European countries through the media. But I can assure you that no medium can capture what a true tangible experience can. My trip to Amsterdam was a memorable one. One I will always remember for many reasons. A few of which I’d like to share with you.
Amsterdam is home to more than one hundred kilometres of canals. I knew that I could expect this going into Amsterdam, but I certainly underestimated the beauty it had to offer. The photo you see above was taken during a walk home on a particularly mild night.
Now, this is an area that really made my travels memorable. The people in Amsterdam are fantastically sociable, accommodating and willing to help out travellers. Hotel staff, bus drivers, shop owners and various other everyday people are not only able to communicate easily with you in English, but almost all of the people I encountered were outgoing and easy to joke around with. What a great culture to get lost in as a foreigner! One local Dutch resident who we met by chance, took the time to show us around Amsterdam, taking us on a path less travelled and making the experience that much more authentic. See the photo of our new friend Goran above!
Food in Amsterdam is fairly priced, but as a student traveller (converting over from CAD) I still had to be resourceful. The number one, no-brainer tip I have for travelling Europe on a budget: grocery stores. The breads, green juices and various pre-made foods are fresh and delicious (and most importantly for me – cheap). However, if you want to go to a more upscale place to eat but still leave with your pockets intact, check out Vapiano. This European gem serves fresh pasta, pizza and soups made in front of your eyes by your own chef. Sounds expensive, right? I was more than able to afford this place, as the staff are mostly culinary students (or in my lucky case, a more seasoned chef). So what’s the downside? Mine was that I discovered it on my very last day in Amsterdam. Trust me, you are going to want to check this place out right away.
In terms of “street” food, I would highly suggest trying the ever so famous “Manneken Pis” chip shop. The servings are huge and the prices are fair. The one budget tightening downside that is consistent with the rest of Europe is that you always pay extra for condiments. Who knew? However, fifty-cents for their delicious homemade french-fry sauce is money well spent, in my opinion.
Lastly, a never forgotten place of refuge from the high-priced euro is the golden-arches. For only 1 euro I could eat a burger and travel for another day in gorgeous Amsterdam. We all like to rag on McDonalds, but the truth is, its exactly what it promises to be. Cheap, fast, convenient. While almost nobody would be proud to admit to this, it can be a real life-saver in a pinch. *cue the angry crowds*
Amsterdam was a memorable experience. Being on an exchange offers a great opportunity to visit many places around the globe. I’ve had a great experience this year. School has been challenging, as it is at Laurentian, but worth the work. The opportunity exists for you to visit the world. Get into see some of our hard working, dedicated staff at the international office. I promise you wont regret it!