Well, in case you didn't get the memo (such as a news feed full of graduation pics), our semester and school year is done! And that means that so is our SPICE semester--the last of us are back in the US! Coming home from school is always an adjustment, and I think this semester it is especially so. All of us are still trying to process everything that we learned in the Netherlands.
Before coming home, I had a few conversations with some of my fellow SPICE students about how we were feeling about going home, leaving the Netherlands, trying to tell people about our semester, etc. Then I thought it might be nice for you to hear a different voice than mine--so here you go! (-Tori)
Hello there, I’m Cory, and I have been asked to be a guest writer for this edition of the Dordt Life blog! Not wanting to bore you with a long formal introduction about who I am and how I came to be writing this blog, I’ll give you a quick overview. My full name is Cory Van Gilst (see it’s Dutch, that proves I attend Dordt). I am about to enter my senior year at Dordt and am praying they will allow me to graduate with a major in Business: Marketing. Why am I writing this blog? Well, like Tori, I have just wrapped up the SPICE semester and just wanted to share with you my thoughts and experiences on coming home from such an incredible adventure. So… Well… Here it goes, I guess…..
The first of my two main topics (I promise I won’t try to run off on tangents) pertains to the expectations, disappointments, and surprises of looking back on this semester. By this, I don’t mean to review what I thought the Netherlands was and what it turned out to be; rather it is more about the things I wanted to do, and didn’t. Let’s just look at three things I pondered as I soared over the Atlantic back home to Oskaloosa, Iowa: I wanted to be able to speak Dutch with locals. I wanted to be able to complete a ten-mile run around my neighborhood before I departed Zwolle. I also wanted to go live in Madrid for a week on my own. I failed to accomplish any of these items. Cory, aren’t you super bummed about not reaching your goals? Honestly, not really. And for a couple of reasons.
First is that Dutch is incredibly difficult. I realized in the first week that it would be an accomplishment to not have people laugh at me when I try to pronounce simple words. Secondly, I enjoyed racing across the Dutch countryside with my host dad so much more than running by myself, even if it was in shorter segments. The third reason is that sometimes a greater adventure lies at your doorstep, not somewhere exotic. In the end, I did know enough words to purchase food from the Jumbo (a Dutch grocery store full of great prices). I did run a 5-mile race with my host dad THROUGH our neighborhood, not around it. And I saw some parts of the Netherlands (the immaculate Dordrecht as an example) I wouldn’t have if I had decided to give my wallet its death sentence and fly to Madrid.
So the point here is that when you’re traveling abroad, going to college, or even planning your weekend, expectations and goals are important, but they aren’t what defines your journey. I think they act more as a guide as you enter a wide world full of everything. To not have goals this semester would have led to me sitting in my room, pulling out my hair, completely overwhelmed by endless possibilities of the Netherlands and Europe. I can’t discount my adventure because I failed to do some things, I can only appreciate everything I got to do and how my goals helped get me there.
My second point (it will be a little shorter, I promise) shifts from that flight home to actually being home. I dreamed about doing specific things as soon as I got home. As an example, I dreamed of sitting in Smokey Row, my favorite coffee shop, drinking some iced spice chai, and getting to write something for someone. (I’m doing all three of those things and it’s amazing.) There are things I missed dearly about Iowa and my home, and other things that I could still do without. I think the adjustment has been a good one, but at times it is frustrating. Much like being at Dordt, you grow, experience important events, and ultimately change. It can be tough coming home and trying to show your family and childhood friends these changes.
Everyone asks how my semester was and I respond with the classic, “It was really fun. Truly a great experience. I loved it all.” None of those really cover what I learned and saw, but it is what works best for going through the greeting line at church. That is what is so frustrating about coming home: You have no avenue to sharing everything the semester taught you. But that is not the point. If one person could convey the total experience of studying abroad to someone else, then there is no longer any point for that person to go and try it out themselves. This semester has and will continue to reflect itself in how I carry myself, make decisions, and grow. Some memories are okay staying with their host; not all are destined to be stories. The people around you will also get a snapshot of your semester by spending time with you, and that’s cool too. You don’t have to set up an elaborate presentation and diagram to enable others to share your experiences (trust me, I’ve been really tempted to try).
So that’s it! Basically, I highly recommend setting goals and allowing them to guide you on whatever adventure you have planned next--just don’t be disheartened if they don’t all come to fruition. I also recommend being content with knowing the adventures you go on may never be able to be expressed to others. That is all the cliché memos I have for you today. I hope you enjoyed!
P.S. (Tori again) Both of these pictures are from other SPICE students. Thanks, Nicole and Cory!