I sometimes come across some songs which were constantly streamed on Capital London Radio back in the autumn of 2012. Those catchy, pop, mainstream tunes (I usually like) that were loudly played through massive speakers in those crazy nights in London clubs throughout my first year in University. I perfectly remember how it was a whole new world for me: new friends, a new city and all brand new experiences which I realise today are truly unforgettable. And it is exactly when you start remembering the past, that you stop and think what you are doing today and what you have achieved. Apart from the clubbing, the pre-drinks and the crazy nights out, there is a lot more. I am just back home from my first lesson of Dutch Language. That was for sure something I would have not expected if I had to even think what I would have done two years from then, back in autumn of my first year in London.
Ik ben Gabriele, ik kom uit Italië en ik spreek Italiaans en Engels. This is basically what I have learnt today: how to say my name, where I am from and what languages I speak. I was surprised indeed by how my limited knowledge of basic Swedish actually helped in the vocabulary. You see, I thought, it did turn out useful eventually somewhere else than in Sweden!
And I do sometimes think what I will be doing two years from now. My Masters in London, of course. But technically this should have been my third year in London, but instead I am sitting in my room in Utrecht, Holland, and the latest events in my life are one surprise after the other.
The past week here has been good but very intense at the same time. Some of my classmates and I have found ourselves agreeing that it feels like months that we are on this course, while we all just got here merely one week and a half ago. But I remember being it exactly the same when I moved to England for the first time. Socialising, getting to know the place and understanding all the basics of your course and of your new life take up lots of effort and sometimes make minutes feel like hours. Do not get me wrong, I am not bored at all, although one would usually associate time passing slowly with complete boredom. But this is definitely not the case.
During this week of full immersion in Utrecht, I have learnt a lot more about Dutch culture than just the bikes.
However while cycling home from my Dutch class this evening I had in mind an expression one of our lectures came up with a few days ago: “Being a bike in the Netherlands is like being an Indian Holy cow”, meaning that everyone respects you no matter what. And it is indeed true. The point he was (also) trying to make was that here you are by far better off with a bike, rather than relying on public transport.
Yesterday, quite spontaneously, I took a train to Amsterdam, the capital of this country. I basically went to a bigger, way more touristic Utrecht with a couple of extra canals and Tram lines running across the city. I had a really good time indeed with my Dutch friend Hugo. We spent most of the day chilling in Amsterdam’s main park “Vondelpark” where all the young tourists go to get stoned.
Everyone sitting on those lawns was baked as a cake, literally.
Apart from having a good time, I found myself somehow realising something I would have never thought before, that I preferred the more relaxing and chilled town-life in Utrecht than the city life in Amsterdam. All the crowd, the big streets packed with tourists and the typical city life did not appeal to me at all, although I usually thought of myself as a city person. After living most of my life in chaotic Rome, then moving to super-lively London, a city which is more awake by night than during daytime, I would have expected “withdrawal symptoms” when moving to a place of just over 300,000 inhabitants. But I am totally loving it and am very pleased to be here and not in the capital.
Although I will be definitely heading back there. I have tickets to see Swedish duo First Aid Kit and the end of the month and Vilja from London will be joining me for a nice weekend. Very much looking forward to it!
What else? Well, just to add another country to my list this year, I have booked return bus tickets to Paris this morning. A couple of close friends of mine from Rome will be there on Erasmus and it will be lovely to go spend a weekend with them in October.
It is all from Dutch-land for now!