18 Truths About Life As A College Senior

Even though I’m abroad for my last semester of college, life is not all full of glitter and wild escapades. More often than not, I find myself wallowing in the depths of college senioritis. Okay so maybe I did spend spring break in Egypt but that’s besides the point of this post. Studying in a foreign country the last semester of college does not mask the reality of an ending college career.

18 Truths About Life As A College Senior

1. After years of mastering the art of the microwave and running hot water it’s safe to say I have graduated to the minimum possible, also known as the fridge. Seriously, sometimes I just leave food in the grocery bag by my desk and eat from that. And who needs plates, right?

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2. Time is a cycle between food and sleep, anything in between has little priority.

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3. Waking up, remind me again for what exactly? The youngsters irritate you by their sleeping habits. You sleep early and wake up late and they sleep late and wake up early. WHY?? I need to sleep from 10pm to noon why you no understand?

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4. Laundry gets done when the undies are none. Because life has been winding down to the bare necessities, it seems only underwear needs washing these days.

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5. Going to the grocery store is a major accomplishment, even if just for toilet paper.

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6. Parties are no longer interesting, you only go for the free alcohol and to pick fun at the youngsters. And when someone tries talking to you this is how you feel:

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7. While your flatmates have a party, you binge watch Homeland on Netflix because you know it may just be one of the last times you can stay up until 4am without feeling guilty.

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8. Being asked ‘what are your plans after graduation?’ immediately yields anxiety and the need to punch someone in the face. Like really, did you just ask me that. Because I’m pretty sure you had no clue where the hell your life was going before you graduated.

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9. Because your general face at this point is fairly expressionless due to the masquerading of impending doom, only your true friends know how you feel and when you’re happy or upset.

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10. No one gets why you constantly turn down offers to go out. ‘Please just leave me alone, I’m attempting to sort out my life by scrolling through the lives of others and eating this whole box of pizza in solitude, thank you and have a good night’.

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11. Boxed wine no longer makes the grade, time to get classy. Seriously store brand wine you continue to disappoint.

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12. Every club turns into a horror show as you overestimate your youthfulness and resort to drinking instead while unknowingly spend every last dime in your wallet.

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13. Class. Once a week. It just happens. You look at your schedule and panic as you notice that you only have a one day off. That’s quite preposterous. Better flip that around and go for a six day weekend.

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14. While I’m isolated abroad, I can’t even imagine how I would go about applying for jobs. Major panic. Skype interviews?? It’ll have to wait until I settle back in with my parents. Crisis averted.

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15.  After spending the past 3+ years working towards graduating with honors, somehow you couldn’t careless about grades. All this neglect of school work is somehow justified. Sleeping in and doing nothing is such a relief.

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16. You would rather watch re-runs of Seinfeld than leave your apartment.

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17. Exercise? What exactly is that, an excuse to eat more unhealthy food? Well I do that anyways so that’s that.

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18. However, you’ve come to the realization that you are no longer a little booger messing around and life is about to get real. It’s scary, sad, freeing, shocking and miserable all at once. To handle these fluctuating emotions you indulge in some much needed Ben and Jerry’s as you cry alone while watching the Lion King, reassuring yourself that your diploma is just around the corner.Image

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Peculiarities and other small things

I’m learning to appreciate life a little more as time goes by. Waves of silence often wash over me in the most unexpected places. Sometimes solitude brings a moment of reflection and often a token of appreciation follows. It can be challenging to take a step back and appreciate the little things that make up life. Not the job, the schoolwork, or the obligatory excursions, but the little moments that are often unpredictable yet somehow stay with you long after and as you replay them over and over again they make you smile, wonder and feel blessed to just be. I’m realizing it’s no longer the big events or life milestones that mark my existence but rather all the little trinkets I gather as I move through time and space. Don’t get me wrong, milestones and achievements are wonderful and laudable but something about the smaller moments that illuminate the creeping darkness of the daily motions in life make my heart flutter in sunshine like warmth. A two hour relax on a park bench listening to First Aid Kit over and over again while staring out onto the stretched canal lined by lopsided brick houses, the fabulous date covered dark chocolate I never knew was a food, the old lady in a red fedora kindly feeding a flock of pigeons, or a walk with a friend in complete silence. These little things pile up and if you track them you may possibly find it in you to appreciate life a little more. Everything big came from something that was once little.

About a week ago I visited a few cities in the Netherlands as part of an organized excursion by the university. I’m not fond of crowds or for that matter organized treks with strangers. The trip was a weekender, yeah I know that means overnight; I’m still in one piece. We ventured to Delft, a small town that used to be the main port for trading before the war. As we walked into the hostel *gasp* I uncovered the glory that is sharing a tiny space with 24 occupants. Not about to induce an anxiety attack, my friend and I promptly exited the people ridden cramped space to the tourist office. Off to the luxury that is a small Delft hotel! Dodged that bullet I did. It wasn’t too expensive but oh lord was it worth it. I’m sure at this point I just may come off as highly conceited but as an anxiety prone human, close contact with others in small quarters spells disaster. My friend has full fledged panic attacks, so there was no way a room with prison style triple decked bunks was going to happen. Being your own guide in a foreign city is very rewarding. We detached from the group and wandered around Delft for a while, a long long while. Into an old church, the miracle that is a chocolate covered date went down here among other things. Straying from the pack has its perks. We spent the next glorious night in Rotterdam, a much more modern city not much to my liking. It was bombed in WWII and thus was rebuilt from the ground up throughout much of the city. Our tour guide was a little too interested and I don’t think he got the message that the sleep deprived zombies trailing behind him walked for two hours before the tour even began. Despite the little hiccups along the way Rotterdam was alright. After engulfing the provided whole pizza I’m glad I passed on the expedition for a stroopwaffle mcflurry; who knew such a thing existed. My mind and body was capable this time of sleeping in a hostel as the room only had four people. The latter part of the trip comprised the Hague, which I thoroughly enjoyed. My friend and I furiously escaped the grasp of the bus and I felt a sense of freedom being released from the confines of the groups clutches. No crowds and group following this time, Rotterdam did it for me.

I figured out over the course of these weird, delightful, rash, anxiety ridden, people crowded three days that groups are not for me. I prefer the solitude of the park bench and the serenity of silent creepy people watching from the cafe on the cobblestone streets. I don’t feel a need or an urge to pack my days to the ‘fill until here’ line. I spend quite a plentiful amount of time taking in my surroundings, like a baby in stroller, blank face and all. I find myself getting off the tram a few stops early so I can just walk and view the world around me and the best thing is that it’s more than enough to occupy my mind with prickling curiosity.

My creepy photographing of the sweet lady feeding the pigeons
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The Hague
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When all else fails…wait I don’t have a plan b

It seems counter productive to mention the myriad of issues and troubles that plague an international student. I’m sure it would deter a select few who feel the world is out to get them; a sort of paranoia that cannot be cured.
I feel obligated to lament on my mistakes and qualms, at least to make sure I know them.

But I must say things are looking up in general. I’d like to be able to convince myself that I fit in here but my social ills point otherwise.

1. When your bike chain falls off, just turn around and go back. I think the tram and I are officially best friends.

2. When your stumbling out at 4am do not take mints from a cab driver. Ever.

3. Do not stand at one section of the supermarket for more than 30 seconds, you’ll get pushed around and a big sign saying tourist looms on your forehead.

4. Tip well. Don’t be that person.

5. Drunk Dutch guys are very vocal, it’s best to just walk away.

6. Europeans dress nice. Fact.

7. Dear street names, you are no help. Canals are the way to find things.

8. Friends quickly become family.

9. Things you wouldn’t even attempt to do with friends at home you’ll find yourself doing with your international friends turned family. And it’s totally okay to go from laughing to crying to enraged in five minutes.

10. It’s all so foreign but it’s damn beautiful.

11. Ordering mayonnaise and fries at a bar is like ordering coffee at Starbucks. It’s meant to be.

12. No matter how many times your apologize it still doesn’t seem to be accepted. Nod and move on.

13. Getting brushed by a bus is totally normal.

14. Bar cat. It happens.

15. Trying to prepare for the weather is like trying to predict the weather. Not possible.

16. Waking up before 10am because you have these elaborate adventures planned? forget it.

17. Jackie Chan your room door open because in all honesty the lock is so old it’s falling apart.

18. Finding someone from your country and almost crying from joy.

19. Fried balls in a jacket…cuisine terribly lost in translation.

20. Hearing a group of people speaking English, anywhere and anytime immediately signals a moment of utter glee.

21. It’s okay to look up sometimes, like literally, sometimes you need to make sure of what you just witnessed.

22. When nothing makes sense and all else fails…sleep. It works every time.

Bar cat, it’s so beautiful.
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Finally Stitching Along Humanly Seams

Just for my own affirmation I must continue to un-box everything that shapes me as a human. Fear of life and fear of death. I can’t say I have always feared the unknown, but one sure-fire way of figuring out limitations is traveling so far beyond your boundaries that limitations are the last hitches stopping you. The world takes on a whole new meaning and perspectives are constantly challenged and reconstructed, often times more than an expired 60 watt light headed brain can handle. Life is now, life never WAS I start telling myself. I’m a walking, breathing, eating, sleeping, contemplating, mistake making, reality hugging, day dreaming indecisive being. Nothing is shaped in uniform, and nothing is definite. So much appreciation sits in that which we have yet to discover. All this is temporary, but for now it’s permanent. In the moment it becomes life, and life in the now is permanent until it passes. Over the course of time it’s in fact temporary but as you live it for that small period of time it feels more permanent than anything that came before it. All this time I was living with the belief that each moment is a transit stop to the next, but living in such a way rips the life out of the very occasion being felt and every day lived.

I love imagining every beautiful and breathtaking moment as permanent, realizing that for that period in time I’m not a fugitive escaping time’s dirty grasp but I’m sedentary and completely encumbered by the humbling touch of permanence. So when the past silently washes over me, I can tell myself how much permanence touched my life. Nothing lasts forever, but discounting the value and trying less because it’s merely an interim state filters out the magic of every moment, it becomes a stale passing by memory. But then again, I have always been a wanderer and wanderers are fugitives who are never sedentary in the bigger picture. It’s a state of mind and a way of viewing the world.

I always try to live in the present, because the future sometimes is just overwhelming and paralyzing.
What’s the whole idea of life? If I’m here to live, I will take each moment not as a step up or down a ladder but just take it as if it has always been that way, horizontally if you will, not as an opportunity to take advantage of the situation but to be the situation and live in it freely and unshackled to the idea of constantly reaping benefits to move to the next checkpoint in life. To just be and see things through my lens of life without calculating and checking off points to be completed and places to be. But at the same time remaining introspective of my surroundings, taking pleasure in smaller things.

I’m not a fan of structure or rules. I’m quite a messy person actually, in my mind as well of course. That’s why I love fantasies, there are no rules or standards, they can be permanent or ever changing, they can cure sadness and bring happiness to the most sickly of souls, and best of all if they ever become a reality I don’t think there is a better beauty in the world than the coming to life of a fantasy. It’s possible to live in a real fantasy that you never created and it’s only when you’re living in that moment that the beauty transcends beyond reason. Yes we grow and change but sometimes looking back in the past as a once permanent state can bring infinite joy. Temporary has always been a scapegoat for lack of progress or a justification for being on the ‘right track in life'(I hate tracks as well), or the remedy to see past a disaster brought on by life, but who knows what progress is anyways. You give longevity to those days you love the most.

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College on Crack

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Nothing compares to walking on old cobblestones and passing ancient medieval buildings while strolling across canal bridges on the way to class. It’s beyond a fairy tale because it’s reality. I feel so incredibly blessed to be here right now and the fact that Amsterdam is foreign multiplies the craziness of it all by a thousand. Being essentially, a temporary expat, leaves so many doors open and paths to be tread upon. A simple leisurely bike around the city somehow unfolds into an unexpected encounter with the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum as well as a ride into Vondelpark where people take pleasure in little things. From the seat of my bike, life passes me by. Over the many canal bridges and passed an old church, a guy slaps me on the back and then rides ahead and smiles, uttering some Dutch to my face. I smile to myself like he complimented me, hell I have no idea what was said. Little dribbles of rain fall as I bike faster to make it home. This is college for me, college on crack.

Coffee here is amazing, so just forget the Starbucks on the corner and try a Dutch locale instead. Small and mighty. I was sitting on the stoop, which no one here does, of some random 1800’s looking flat with a friend while we waited for another friend to meet us on her bike. People watching is extraordinary! Never have I just sat and people watched for so long. The lady peddling a wheelbarrow bike with a puppy happily sitting at the front in the wheelbarrow, or the old Einstein guy with a cane giving not a care in the world. Another old man riding a bike turned motorcycle straight through the crowds of people in a small alleyway. A bewildered middle aged man standing, looking up at the sky and then walking and turning around and walking back to point A. The cute vespa driving girl in the bike lane all bundled up or the mailman coyly parked on the sidewalk like it’s no big deal. So many faces flushed around me as we waited. Unfortunately my friend somehow, not surprising though with her luck, managed to mangle her scarf in her bike tire. We head over to her bike and sure enough the horrible winds have tangled the scarf in the wheel pretty bad. But like the bad ass I proclaim to be, I have scissors and after about 20 minutes of snipping and pulling, the bike starts working again. Into the canal the scarf went!

I’m really starting to adjust here. I’m enjoying my time both in class and outside of it. This is my last semester of my bachelors and to be spending it abroad just yells escape and adventure. I have never been so sad and so happy all at once. Being able to share it with others feels great, especially since most of us exchange students came here as misfits, expats and mostly adventurers and runaways. Leaving life behind for something bigger. Getting lost at 3am, taking the wrong tram multiple times, being ejected from the tram for not having the right bills, looking like a fool when asking for directions, eating food you can’t pronounce the name of, sleeping the whole day, going to the Anne Frank Huis on Valentine’s day, realizing you are banned from using the restroom because you don’t have a euro but then your friend spots you, trying to pay in dollars, taking a cab like an idiot because you thought the tram stopped running, trying to unsuccessfully steal a toaster and then waking up and realizing everyone is talking about it, walking into a restaurant sitting down for 10 minutes and then escaping through the back door because you are too poor to buy anything from it, being conversed with in Dutch, nodding then walking away, calculating directions by number of canals you have to cross, being offered cocaine twice within 5 minutes, planning weekends abroad like it’s totally casual, going to the supermarket and picking out everything based on the picture, such is the life of an exchange student abroad.

A slice of cheese, never mind I’ll take a wheel

Classes started last week. So far I feel good about them, especially my class on India. Yes, a class on India and India only. All of it’s magnificence, turmoils, plights and wonders bundle into an 8 week long class. My other course this quarter revolves around humanitarianism and what it means in a global perspective to be on the ground delivering relief to the suffering as well as the politics and objectives behind any relief.

I need to stop taking advantage of eating out. Yes, it’s so much easier than cooking but it’s burning a hole in my ability to spend. I tremendously enjoyed the pancake place I ate at recently. The pancakes are the size of a pizza and are extremely thin but so much tastier than fat spongy American pancakes. They even put a big ceramic tub of some bad ass syrup on the tables; something between molasses and maple syrup and so beyond delicious. It’s sort of like tasting stroop waffles for the first time. And apparently Paris Hilton and Miley Cyrus were their a few weeks back, like that matters, pfffft. I have never been surrounded by so much delicious food in my life. It’s a little overwhelming. Cheese and bread is my fridge’s best friend.

I managed to purchase a bike a few days ago, which I rode once. I almost got hit by a double decker bus. A slew of cars were occupying the bike lane so a trail of bikes suavely passed around the cars, and me, thinking not to worry, followed suit only to realize a big ass bus was behind me; thankfully I pulled to the side. That in no way improved my biking confidence as I was already very apprehensive. It has been raining so I have simplified my life by taking the classy tram. Classy because it’s 7 some euros for a 24 hour ticket. The hole really doesn’t want to close. The wind is no help either, but it’s not as bad as it could be.

The bar scene here is the least of my qualms. But, I must say it’s like a drunk orgy. A few days ago, three old men were sitting on a bench watching young 20 somethings dance on each other in a bar turned club. They looked like judges, inappropriately of course. Not sure what to make of that. The music selection was irritatingly terrible. I was excited to see, although not hear, Stevie Nicks serenading on the back screen while some shit rap music forced people into a grinding frenzy. Around 2am like a moron, I attempted to ride my friends bike. I told my other friend to sit on the handle bars and she did. You can imagine the rest. Two meters later we smashed on the ground with a bunch of drunken creepers laughing at us. Stupid Americans. A few days later, that same bike got stolen but that’s another story.

Ah today, well today I went on a day trip to the countryside of the Netherlands. Ate some fish, tasted and saw some cheese and windmills, dressed like a traditional Dutch lady from the 1800s and well that’s pretty much it.

Some pictures for the curious kitties.

Cheese at the local Albert Heijn (supermarket)
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Myself in the countryside

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More cheese…in the countryside

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Bridge back to my apartment +sneaky lady with suitcase on bike

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Double decker bus, the likes of which I almost got run over

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Encounters of the Third Kind

It’s been almost a week now but I’m starting to become a little more comfortable. I’m finding it rather difficult to set time aside to write, but anyways here I am. I arrived safely, but seriously the Schiphol airport signs are of little help. My housing is wonderfully located in the city center which is very convenient for my non existent navigation skills of Amsterdam. Everything is in Dutch! The only relief is the Dutch English speaking population. The other day I tried to buy some draino from the Albert Heijn (main supermarket on every street corner), and all the product labels are in Dutch. Luckily, I received some help from an English speaking Dutch lady! They all speak English, it’s so bizarre. After explaining to her that my shower was clogged and my sink wouldn’t drain she handed me an orange bottle of well, an unclogging substance. After realizing that bags are not free, I carried two orange bottles of draino back to my apartment. I felt pretty good actually; accomplished and ready to unclog what needed to be unclogged. 

I attended a few (most) activities and orientations for the University where I met a bunch of exchange students like myself. Shit got crazy fast. Trying to find central station from the university cafe, a few group members and I accidentally stumbled upon the red light district rather late in the night and it wasn’t the best experience. Creepy, old, sleazy men catcalling were lurking in the shadows and some rather rude and inappropriate words were spoken to my friend, she responded quickly which the old creeper was not expecting. Apparently women just take trash from catcalls without saying anything. I felt sick walking through the place. As long as my sense of direction exists, never again will I walk through the red light district.

My sense of direction is being extremely challenged. I got lost more times then I care to count. I never look like I know where I’m going and the tram system, well, still confuses me. I feel like I have been all over the place and all on accident. Walking the unfamiliar streets at 4am in the morning after a party is not the greatest idea. Freaks come at night, I swear. I went into a hotel cafe to buy a coffee with my friend and this guy sits down with us (dressed like some half ass security guard and licking a lollipop) and starts asking the most random questions, so I told him to please leave us alone. He continued asking us if we were lesbians! Oh wow, I was not expecting that. I told him to stop talking to us and go away and he started bitching me out so I told him to fuck off and I left my unfinished coffee at the table. My friend was still inside talking with him but she quickly scurried out. He apparently told her some nasty stuff and she told him off. Lots of strange encounters I must say!

Bikes! So many of them! I still have not bought one. I’m a little nervous to ride with all these pro Dutch bikers. I swear the city was built for them. I almost got ran over multiple times. Holland has provided seriously huge biking lanes which hug the sidewalks and are apparently equally appropriate for the likes of a vespa. It’s also totally acceptable to have three people on one bike, some even have front wheel barrows which carry multiple children.

The food is so much fresher, and so much more delicious compared to American food. It’s by no means French cuisine but it tastes wonderful. 

I feel like I’m in a fairy tale. The city is so much more beyond what I expected. It’s magical. I start classes tomorrow so hopefully things will straighten out.