Words by Megan Whitfield
Oh Amsterdam, how I miss you.
I miss the winding canals, the flowers lining each doorway, the bikes—however terrifying they were at the start. But most of all, I miss the life I got to lead when I called you home. I’ve been back in Melbourne for a little while now. Afternoons spent eating ‘appeltaar’ and trying to master at least one Dutch phrase are becoming fond memories at a rapid pace.
I’m glad to be back, but it’s like I’m finding my feet all over again. For six months, I called another city home. I spent my Friday nights drinking cheap wine with different friends, weekdays speaking to cashiers in a different language, and weekends exploring new countries.
I knew where my favourite products were in the supermarket, which route to take home depending on my mood—scenic or efficient? I knew who to turn to when I craved a movie night and who to call when I needed to be convinced to go out. My primary mode of transport had become a bike—rain, hail or shine (usually rain)—and I rolled my eyes at the ignorant tourists. Didn’t they know bikes have the right of way, always? And honestly, look before you cross.
I’d found my stride and was no longer telling people I was studying in Amsterdam, I was living there. And then I had to leave. All of a sudden I was packing up the apartment I’d made my own, getting rid of the copious lentils I had left over after I’d been so budget-savvy buying them. I said goodbye to the friends I’d made from all around the world. Suitcase(s) in tow, I pulled up to Schiphol Airport sans teary mother (to be fair, I’d also shed more than my fair share), but with as many nerves as when I’d left.
Every brochure written about exchange talks about the ‘personal growth,’ the life-changing experience that is studying abroad. I didn’t feel different—but how could I not be? What if I didn’t fit in the same way anymore? I’d kept in contact with my closest friends of course, but what if they’d moved on? How would I adjust to living back with my parents after six months of total independence? What do you mean I can’t just ride my bike home from the club at 4am anymore?
Fortunately, the feeling is fading, my fears subsiding with each piece of vegemite toast I eat. My suitcase is firmly locked away, only a vague itch telling me to go and get it out. I promise I’ll stop boring everyone with my stories of ‘when I lived in Europe’ in no time. Maybe.