Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

*And to wrap up my account of journeying from the United States to Maastricht, Netherlands…
Leaving the British Isles and coming into the Netherlands was essentially one giant, 45 minute leap into the clouds and back to the Earth. I didn’t get to see much from my window seat while onboard the jet plane, save for a few glances of the North Sea and the coastline of Europe. My view didn’t clear up until we began the landing approach for Schiphol (Amsterdam International Airport), where I saw the strange sight of seeing dozens of electric wind generators placed just off the coastline, literally out in the middle of water. Definitely was a sight I was not expecting.
Heading from the plane to the baggage claims was a bit of distance to reach, though not unmanageable. Before getting there, I took the time to get my US Dollars exchanged out for Euros, a very simple process to do. As the exchange machine dispensed my new money out, I took the moment to hold the bills and coins in my hand and go, “Wow, my first time seeing Euros.” Yes, it was a cheesy and ridiculous moment, but how often does one need to change currency in their lifetime? (Unless your name is Jason Bourne, of course).
With money in hand, I stepped my way through the passport line, getting my first stamp ever, with the ‘ker-thump’ of the stamping machine being an immensely satisfying sound. And there just beyond the passport booths were the baggage claims; surprisingly, I was able to spot my giant purple checked suitcase immediately, so I grabbed that and went on my way to find my train to Maastricht.

First Passport Stamp

My first passport stamp. That’s rad.

Getting a ticket for my train was easy enough, getting to the right train was a different story, however. The lady at the ticket counter told me that if I hurried quickly enough, I could make it downstairs to the train that was departing for Maastricht. However, with a 50lbs suitcase, another 20lbs carry-on case, and about a 15lbs backpack, ‘quickly’ is a relative term (23kg, 9kg, and 7kg, respectively, for my European friends who may be reading this). By the time I reached the platform for the train, the doors for the cars had been shut, with the train promptly moving out and away.
I knew that there was another train heading out for Maastricht, so I had to do some searching and asking around before figuring out which platform that train would be arriving/departing. Once I knew where, it was another workout going back up stairs and down again to reach the other platform. A short wait followed before the train rolled to my platform, where I then bordered and began my journey…
… Until the conductor said the next station was the end-of-the-line for the train. “Erg! Now where do I go?” Obviously, I needed to change trains to continue my journey, but I didn’t know for sure which train to catch. I quickly found a sign for some train that said ‘Maastricht,’ so I presumed that was where I needed to go to be on my way. Thankfully, it was the right train, so my journey continued…
… Until I once again found I needed to change trains again. “This is madness,” I said to myself. “No, THIS IS UTRECHT!” Okay, I didn’t really say that, but there I was, standing in the middle of the station at Utrecht, unsure of where I needed to go. Traversing the massive platform, I eventually came across a train that once more said ‘Maastricht,’ which I again (correctly) presumed to be heading towards my destination. I climbed aboard and went on my way.
For being my first true train ride ever, the experience was surprisingly calm and smooth, much different than what I was expecting. I spent most the time writing some of the earlier entries for this blog (how meta of me to mention that), as well as reading 2001: A Space Odyssey (still in progress of reading as of this writing). After nearly 2 hours onboard the train, with numerous stations passed, I made it to my city of destination: Maastricht.

 

*A random note on the title: no automobiles were involved on my journey into Maastricht, but the reference to a certain Steve Martin film was too good to pass up.

To Study Abroad…

I'm here!

Maastricht, all the way at the bottom of the Netherlands

Studying abroad was not something that I had intended to do during my college career at Northwest Missouri State University. I had chewed over the thought of possibly going somewhere, at some time, but those thoughts never amounted to much. “I’ll travel someday,” I told myself.

Things began changing, however, in early 2012 when a chance moment of correcting German pronunciation with a professor led me on the path that I am currently on. “No, it’s not ‘Kreeks-bergs, it’s pronounced ‘Crikes-bergs,’ with a long ‘eye’ sound,” I was telling to Jacquie Lamer during the annual Off-Broadway Tour into Kansas City on Groundhog Day 2012. I was assigned to lead a group of my fellow peers through a couple of the agencies in the downtown KC area, one of which included Meers, where my group would be meeting with an (awesome) gentleman by the name of John Kreicsbergs. Upon learning of the dude’s last name, I immediately recognized it as Germanic in pronunciation, thanks to two years of learning German back in the far-off age called “high school.” Similar to my own last name of ‘Meier,’ when there is an ‘ei’ in the middle of a word, the ‘I’ sound is pronounced. The reversal happens with ‘ie,’ wherein the ‘e’ is then pronounced.

“Why haven’t you studied abroad?” Jacquie asked me directly after I gave a lesson concerning German pronunciation. I sat there for a moment, wondering what I should say. “Because I would get homesick really bad,” I believe that was my (lame) response. She nagged at me a little bit more as we continued to journey into Kansas City, though I shrugged off the suggestions for the duration of the day. But therein a seed had been planted.

As the day progressed during the Off-Broadway Tour, I continued to ponder the thought of possibly studying abroad. “Where would I go? How hard would it be? Would there be hamburgers there?” Those were but a few of the thoughts that were swirling through my mind during the tour. A few days passed before I finally found the initiative to find out more concerning studying abroad. A quick email questionnaire to the study abroad office at Northwest brought back answers that I sought, most importantly where I should go. Part of the questionnaire included asking what countries I was interested in, which I believe I gave the United Kingdom and Germany as my choices (Europe has been on my bucket list of places to visit). Of the few choices given, one school did strike my chord: Zuyd Hogeschool.

Zuyd Hogeschool, located in Maastricht, Netherlands, first popped up on my radar during the Fall 2011 semester at Northwest. An exchange student by the name of Tim, who hailed from Zuyd Hogeschool, was then studying at Northwest and shared Web Publishing with me. He gave a song and dance speech about his university and the city he came from, which I found to be quite interesting. During that time, I also learned that Jacquie, as well as my advisor Jody Strauch, had both done a short teaching gig at the school; these connections only furthered my interest in Zuyd Hogeschool.

And Zuyd’s offering of courses catered perfectly to my major, Interactive Digital Media: New Media. While here in Maastricht, I’ll be taking four fairly intensive courses, which should only help sharpen my skills and grow my knowledge.

As of this writing, there are still a couple of weeks to go before starting up classes. More to come regarding those matters!