Wisselweek: Back 2 Basics
Back to basics, that really is the essence of this week. Right now I’m on wisselweek, a sort of exchange week within my exchange year. Instead of being in Brabant this week, I’ve headed on up to North Holland, specifically the little village of Wognum. If you don’t really know the Netherlands, think north of Amsterdam and you should come somewhere close. Unlike Uden, a pretty sizable village, Wognum is a little town of 6,000 people and it definitely has that small town feel; everyone knows everyone and you constantly have to stop along the street to talk to some old friend or neighbor.
With this exchange week also comes the opportunity to live with a different host family for a week. It’s a great chance to meet some more people in a whole other part of the country that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to. While I’ve learned a lot about the Dutch culture from my normal host family, a new group of people can only expand on that!
For me, this week is a huge reminder of when I first landed here in the Netherlands. Now, after 8 months, I’m so comfortable among my family and friends that it is easy to forget how those first weeks felt. The constant sense of uncertainty, not knowing what to do with yourself, and just being plain nervous. I also have the issue where I am super shy but I feel like I’m acting completely normal, or so I’ve been told. With a new family, you never know what to expect or quite where you fit in. It can also be difficult to feel like you are not completely intruding, but that’s just something that just gets better with time. One major difference between this wisselweek and first arriving here is the fact that now, I can speak Dutch! It is so much easier to talk to everyone and settle in quicker when nobody feels pressured to try and speak English.
Since I’ve been here, I have also built up a strong network of good friends and my incredible host family. When I first arrived, loneliness was something that I struggled with majorly, but as the months went on that quickly diminished. While I definitely wouldn’t say that I’m lonely or anything along those lines, there is definitely that feeling of being much more on my own this week. Living with people who don’t know you, you’re naturally going to be a little on your own.
Above all, the biggest thing this wisselweek has shown me is how far I’ve come in my 8 months here. I’ll talk about it more in a separate blog post, but it really is the weirdest thing ever to look back on who you were 8 months ago and see so much change in such a short time. Not once this week has my heart rate spiked, such as on the first day of school in Uden, or have I felt genuinely scared. Just 8 months ago, the thought of walking into a room full of people that I don’t know would have pushed me to the verge of tears but now it honestly excites me.
I’m now well over halfway through this week and it really is one of my favorite experiences this whole year. You may think that the Netherlands, being such a small country, wouldn’t have so many differences from province to province, but that is simply not true. Here in North Holland, you can clearly hear a difference in dialect as well as in mannerisms. The province is also much closer to the water and has an abundance of cute little villages. The host family is also incredible and in my opinion, the wisselweek is an incredible opportunity to get involved with exchange students and AFS without having to take someone in for a whole year. Without host families, none of this would be possible. Host families make the world go ‘round. It’s definitely something I’ll be bringing up to my parents back home...