I AM (STER) DAM glad we came!

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A week off from school before exams? It’s every study abroad student’s dream, except maybe mine. I was absolutely swamped. With 6 final papers (2 assigned last minute) and 6 exams, I was spending every waking minute in the library and turning down every social opportunity.

Luckily though, I had booked my trip to Amsterdam back in October, so there was no getting out of this one. I was so excited to meet up with my friend, Kerry, from Cranford. She spent the semester in Jordan studying abroad, so we had not seen each other since August.

We me at the airport and managed to get on the right train to the center of Amsterdam. Our hostel was only supposed to be a 10 minute walk from the train station…easy enough, right? Nope. Google maps failed us completely.

An hour later, we made it to the hostel! Mission accomplished. Next, we needed dinner, and we picked a winner. We sat and drank and chatted over some delicious Mexican food—between Kerry’s adventures in the Middle East and my travels in Europe, we had a ton to catch up on. We ended our night by walking around the city and admiring all of the beautiful Christmas lights.

The next day was cloudy, but luckily not too cold (by Amsterdam standards). We took a canal tour through the city. Amsterdam has more than 100 kilometers of canals, lined with around 2,5000 houseboats. A houseboat seemed like a cool way to live, until our tour guide mentioned that if you live in a houseboat, you open yourself up to being photographed at any moment by tourists…even at 7am in your pajamas!

We then headed to the Anne Frank House Museum, which I think has come to be one of my favorite memories from my entire semester abroad. The first section of the museum was just a few empty rooms with videos…so I started wondering what all the hype was about. But then, we reached the bookcase. The bookcase was a section of the wall that was moveable—it hid the entrance to the part of house where the Frank family hid. The moment I touched the original bookcase that Miep Gies moved each day to get to the Franks, was the moment everything became real.

The Frank family left Germany after the Nazi Party won the elections in 1933. Otto Frank set up a business in Amsterdam, and he moved his family there. On her 13th birthday, Anne Frank received a diary, what would ultimately become the most important thing she owned. A month later, the family went into hiding in a secluded part of Otto’s office building.

I walked through the rooms where the Franks hid for two years, and still couldn’t imagine what their life had been like. Imagine not being able to go for a walk for two years, not being able to feel the sun on your face, eat your favorite meal, or see your friends…all because of one fascist, racist person who somehow managed to poison the minds of millions while so much of the world stood by as guilty bystanders or, maybe even worse, in utter ignorance.

At the end of the museum, there was a video of celebrities talking how they were inspired by Anne Frank’s story. The most moving quote came from actress Emma Thompson: “All of her would haves are our possibilities.” Let that sink in. We will return to this later.

Day 3 began at the A’DAM Lookout, an observation deck with a panoramic view of the city. Kerry and I took a thrilling ride on Europe’s highest swing “Over the Edge.” Next we hit the bar with a view for some afternoon wine. Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?! You can’t go to Amsterdam and not visit the Heineken Experience, so that’s exactly what we did. A tour, a movie with moving seats, and three beers later, it had been a great day. We ended the night with a yummy dinner, Mexican again, and just like that, our last night in Amsterdam was over. What amazing trip with one of my best friends!

“All of her would haves are our possibilities.”

Anne Frank wanted to be a journalist. I’ve been seriously considering journalism, as I have come to really like writing. Maybe that’s one of her would haves that can become my possibility.

I know Anne Frank wanted to change the world. She wanted to make people kinder, spread love, and demolish hate. I hope those would haves become our realities. Here’s to a brighter, better, and kinder 2017. Make it happen, it’s on us now.

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