284 days. That's how long I've been in the Netherlands as of tomorrow, the day I get on a plane and leave, for god knows how long. In those 284 days I have experienced more ups and downs than I ever have in my life, and it has left me feeling more refreshed and confident in myself than ever before. It's hard to chronicle the last day, the last weeks, because at this point it's all a blur. I woke up this morning, opened my shade and looked around my room - everything is basically packed. I biked to the city with Tine and Jeroen to get bread for tonight, we stopped by the watermolen in Genneper Park (which was actually working) and I chased ducks for a while.
I now see how much all the people around me matter to me, they are my world here, created from nothing, ending as everything. From the host family who has changed my year, given me the caring and loving home an exchange student needs to thrive in the often harsh world of foreign exchnge, to my friends at school, the rocks that are one of the few things that have been steadfast in this year, always there, always good for an ear and some cheering up when things were down and always good for a night out when things were up...or down for that matter. My AFSers, the genuine, caring souls that AFS Intercultural Programs somehow roped into doing something you have to be a little crazy to do - a year in the Netherlands. We griped together, laughed, partied, traveled, ate, drank, biked, bused, and especially trained throughout the whole of this country and sometimes other ones too.
A year abroad is a hard concept to understand until you experience it. We don't think about the end really, or at least it's never actually feasible, until the day comes when you're hugging everyone goodbye and watching the train ride out of the station. AFS is a finite time, an experience in parenthesis, disconnected from what you know and what you will know. The bonds we make during our year stay with us forever, but when the time comes to say goodbye, we have to understand we asked for this and can be nothing but happy to know the people we now know and to have seen and breathed what we did - it's unforgettable, for better or for worse.
Tomorrow I'll get on a plane in Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and leave a country I have grown to love and feel very passionate about. I can't say for certain when I'll be back, but I will come back one day. AFS is not for the faint of heart. An AFSer is a traveler by nature, bound to explore the endlessness of the world and take it in for all it's worth - that's why I'm not worried. Ivy, Crystal, Caitlin, Francesco, Zudik, Tine, Rien, Moniek, Jeroen, Timo, Maya, Joss, Maria, Andria, Agustina, Sinead, Nikki, Hayden, Felipe and especially David, Kelvin, Caspar, Dustin, Koen, and Lisanne - we'll meet again, I know it.
This blog may have become something I never predicted, and at this point I still cannot really look at it with objective eyes and decide what I have made of it. Obviously I will always been somewhat subjective because I have wrote it, I have experienced these words in person. From day 1 to day 284 I have lived what you have read, and I wouldn't trade my life in Nederland for the world.