Hello all, it has been a hot minute since I’ve updated my blog, mainly due to the fact that I have been traveling a whole lot less and studying a whole lot more. In August, I moved to Netherlands to attend Leiden University College, a liberal arts college focused on solving global challenges. It has been an amazing experience, but has left me with little time to travel and write. However, living in Europe has its perks, and I’ve been able to travel quite a bit during my breaks, such as hitchhiking from The Hague to Budapest last Autumn, or traveling to Esslingen and Regensburg in Germany for winter break, and to Prague for New Years. I’ll expand on those adventures in a different post, but for now I’ll discuss what living in The Hague has been like, since I finally have time to write again due to the whole Coronavirus situation. On that, I hope you are all staying safe, healthy, and at home.
College Life: There are a lot of firsts that one experiences in college, such as the first time living alone, but thankfully I got some practice with this during my gap year. I live in a studio apartment in The Hague appointed by my college, and have worked hard to make it feel like home. With the help of a mural by my sister, as well as items from thrift stores around The Hague, and a jungle of plants, it feels like a home for me. I live on a floor with around 25 other students, and we frequently meet for dinner, games, movies, and going out.
Nature: I am blessed to be living right next to Haagse Bos, a forest in the city. I go there almost daily for walks to see the swans by the lake, or for picnics, and even studying as the weather gets nicer! I knew living in a city secluded from nature would be difficult, but being able to see animals in Haagse Bos always makes my day better and is a major perk.
Sightseeing: Now that I live in The Hague, the international city of Peace and Justice, there is lots to see and do. There are so many beautiful buildings in The Hague, such as the Binnenhof, which is where Parliament is located. I’m also close to so many other great cities in the Netherlands, and have been able to spend some time exploring those as well, such as Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam.
The Beach: The Hague is situated on the coast of the Netherlands, along the North Sea, and I have loved living near the beach. It’s cold most of the year, I quickly found out, but I still have enjoyed taking the tram or biking here almost every other week this year. There are tons of cafes and restaurants that I can’t afford, so I’ve started to picnic a lot more often, but sometimes I’ll spoil myself with fries and peanut sauce or with mayo. Yup, I eat weird Dutch food now.
Parties: Most notable is the Halloween party when my sister was visiting. I was an 80’s workout girl inspired by last season’s American Horror Story, and she was a cat.
Protests: Protests are frequent in The Hague. Climate strikes and marches, farmer protests, builder protests, you name it. As the capital of governance in the Netherlands, The Hague gets it’s fair share of demonstrations of all kinds, as people aim to get their voices heard. I participated in a march for climate justice in October with some friends.
Cafe-hopping: Discovering cute new cafes is one of my favorite things to do, and I’ve developed an expensive habit of studying at cafes. There are so many places to try in The Hague! One of my favorites is Barista Cafe, because they have a lot of fun drinks, but I also love House of Tribes because they have really good coffee. Or there’s Lola’s Bikes, which is a bike-themed cafe and bike store/ recently added a barber shop, and it’s a fun place to study for several hours.
Food: I mentioned before that I’ve begun to eat some Dutch favorites, like french fries with mayo, some other favorites are poffertjes, which are like baby pancakes, and kibbeling, which is basically fried battered fish. There are tons of Suriname and Indonesian restaurants in the Netherlands, so I’ve begun to eat quite a bit of that food too and it’s amazing. I also cook for myself a lot, and my brother got me a great vegetarian cookbook for Christmas that has been assisting me. There is a great and huge outdoor market in The Hague called Haagse Markt, and it has everything from fruits to clothes to cheese to cosmetics to fresh vegetables. It’s a wonderful place. You can buy a bowl full of nearly all kinds of vegetables and fruits for 1 euro. I often buy 10 avocados for a euro, or 4 mangoes. I used to try and come here once a week before lockdown to buy my fruits and vegetables for the week because it is way cheaper than grocery store prices.
Festivals: The Netherlands of course has many traditions and holidays that are completely new to me but I had great fun celebrating this year. Most of them involve beer and bad Dutch music, and are very fun to watch. I also was able to go to some Christmas markets in The Hague area, and even on a free carriage ride around the city. Sinterklaas was a fun Dutch Christmas tradition, he is kind of the Dutch version of Santa Claus and appears in November. There were a lot of fun spring traditions I was anticipating, such as King’s Day on April 27th, which is a national celebration of the King’s birthday. Due to coronavirus, I’ll have to wait until next year to see what it’s like!
I will be updating with more soon. In the meanwhile, hope you are all staying safe and healthy and at home! I'm still in my home in the Netherlands at the moment, finishing up my last quarter online, but I plan to go home to Madison, WI this summer. With love, Leonie
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