Home > Blogs > Robert Study Abroad, Spring 2007 > 27 January 2007 - On the ground and settling in

27 January 2007 - On the ground and settling in

Posted by admin on January 27, 2007

Mitch and I have been on the ground here in Delft for two days now and we're working on getting used to life in Holland. The biggest thing that's giving me trouble is rearranging my sleep schedule. My body still wants to be awake & sleeping during normal Illinois hours. Last night was better than the first night, though, so I hope that I will soon be sleeping "normally".

The trip over had some interesting moments. It started at the ticket counter in Minneapolis when we were asked to present our visas. The Netherlands allows Americans to stay 90 days without a visa and there is an exception to this for students studying abroad, but it took 20 to 30 minutes for the ticket clerk to get this straightened out. Visas are not required for Mitch and I, but we have to register with the municipality shortly after our arrival and apply for a residency permit.

The flight from Minneapolis to Washington-Dulles was pretty boring. We arrived at Dulles only to find that our plane to Amsterdam was now scheduled to leave at 7:30 pm instead of the original 5:37 pm. The Boeing 777 was late leaving Munich (causing the initial 2-hour delay) and they had to fix some issues after it landed. This meant we didn't leave Dulles until 8:15 pm. Once in the air the flight was uneventful. The music and movies setup in the 777 was pretty sweet. Each seat had its own LCD display and some sort of filter on it so that the people to either side cannot see the screen. We had something like 20 XM radio channels to listen to and 7 movies. There was also a "map" option which showed the plane's current position and flight details (such as ground speed, altitude, outside air temp, etc.).

Navigating the Amsterdam airport was very easy. All the signs were in English and it was child's play to find the baggage claim. All of our baggage made it through and Mitch and I were waiting on the train platform within an hour of landing.

 The Schipol train station is located directly beneath the airport so getting to the train was easy. We had to guess at the actual train to get on, though, because the Dutch train system runs differently than Amtrak. Whereas Amtrak has train numbers and clearly-defined destinations, the Dutch system is a little more ambiguous and flexible. Basically, the trains are identified by destination rather than by a number. We got on a train that appeared to be going in the general direction of Delft and with the help of a friendly passenger determined that we needed to get off in The Hague and board a different train. The dutch train system runs amazingly on time (this is a foreign concept to Amtrak) and the ride is incredibly smooth and quiet.

There are also no railroad crossings, either. All roads either go over or under the tracks. These overpasses are likely among the highest points in the nation as the landscape is so flat. Holland makes Iowa look like the Rockies.

Another interesting feature is how the countryside instantly changes to urban sprawl. There doesn't appear to be "suburbia". Instead there is a distinct line between the cities/towns and the country.

As Mitch and I were walking around Delft yesterday (we covered about 7.5 miles on foot) we realized that Delft appears to be a 3/4 or 7/8 sized city. Everything is just a little bit smaller than the US. Streets are narrower, cars are smaller (and completely fill the lanes), buildings are seemingly scaled-down. The vertical dimension remains unchanged, though. This only adds to the narrow effect.

Mitch and I will probably do some more Delft exploration soon and our classes start next Monday (5 February).

Song of the Day: Danger Zone - Kenny Loggins (due to watching Top Gun at Dulles while waiting for our flight to Amsterdam)