I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I'm a really sentimental person. And the combination of the end of SPICE coming and all the reflections I've had to do for my classes at Viaa is putting me in a very sentimental mood. So, for this blog, I'm going to try and ward off the sappy, but sorry if if leaks in there some places.
When I think about this semester, which has only a few weeks left, I wonder how I could have done so much in so little time. And sometimes I wonder if, in all my scurrying from place to place, I forgot to learn anything. Am I going to bring anything home besides pictures and postcards?
Well, here is where I'm thankful that we were made in such a way that no matter how hard we try, it is pretty hard to not learn anything for a whole semester. And I while I did learn a few (okay, more than that) things in my classes about the Netherlands and culture and business and stuff, I also learned a lot of off-the-book knowledge--the kind I didn't realize I was learning until I looked back and realized I knew it.
As an example: traveling. It's good; great, even. But it is exhausting! I don't want to stop traveling, but I think I'm ready to pause for a little while. And while we're on the subject of traveling and taking pictures--wait, what? They're definitely correlated. Anyway, I am so thankful for the pictures I took this semester, even though I tend to be the person who thinks a) "The picture doesn't do it justice." or b) "Can we just enjoy the moment, please?" And while both of these perspectives are valid, it is really nice to have pictures later on. On the flip side, though, sometimes I'd walk away from something and realize that in trying to get a good photo, I had forgotten to really look.
So, traveling: Do it, but don't over-do it. Take pictures, but don't forget to look.
What else have I learned? Well, living with a new family is hard. It's hard in the beginning when you feel like you're always in the way and you're nervous to go down to dinner and have to talk with your host family. It's hard later on when you're more comfortable with them and you didn't get much sleep and you're busy but you can't just ignore them all week except to come down for food. It's hard when you just miss your own family. But as my coach once told me, it's usually the things that are hardest that are the best. And when I think about how my host family opened up not only their house, but also themselves to let me stay here, and how I can come home and drink tea and ask them any questions I like, and how they buy ice cream just because I like it, and how I can be sassy with them because usually they were sassy first, I am incredibly thankful that I was placed with this family.
So, living with a host family (applicable to roommates): Hard. Rewarding.
I'd also say I've learned a few things about friendship--with friends present and those across the ocean. With both, it's as important to talk and share your stories as it is to ask questions and listen. The best conversations I've had with friends back in the US were the ones where I could ask them about their semesters and catch up with what's happening at Dordt, and where they also asked me what I'd done that week and how I was doing (it's surprising how often I or the people I was talking to could forget to ask that question).
Beyond talking to old friends, I learned that I can be friends with unexpected people. (Okay, I realize that sounds like a script from a little kids' show.) At Dordt, as in any social setting, there are just certain groups and categories that people fall into and often stay in--not that we aren't friends with people who are different than us, but it's not uncommon to hear something to the effect of, "That's not really my crowd." But our SPICE group had people from all sorts of different "crowds," and because we were all kind of stuck together, we had to either become friends or go crazy. And now I can say that I am friends with and genuinely appreciate people who I am sure I never would have done more than say "hi" to if we had a class together.
So, friends: Tell stories and ask questions. Talk to people who aren't part of your crowd.
I could go on, but I think it's time to stop. After all, I'm not the first person to learn these--really I'm just repeating advice that I've heard that I've found to be helpful. And so, I'd also encourage you to take some time, sometimes, to think about what you've learned when you weren't trying to learn anything.