blog posts A Spring Spent at VU Amsterdam Jan 26, 2018 1:30 pm by Caitlyn JohnsonEuropeLASStudent Spotlight Images Many students would view an extra semester of school as disappointing, but Alejandro Izquierdo saw it as an opportunity to study abroad. Alejandro, who studied Environmental Sustainability during his time at Illinois, spent the Spring 2017 term at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Delete Edit embedded media in the Files Tab and re-insert as needed. align image leftalign image centeralign image right Alejandro had an uncommon experience when planning to study abroad. “In my first semester of my senior year I was told that I was missing a few classes in order to graduate on time and that I would have to take an extra semester. All I needed to do was take credits to graduate so I decided it was as good a time as any to study abroad!” He quickly discovered that his program in Amsterdam cost less than studying at Illinois. “It was a no brainer”. Alejandro was passionate about his experience in Amsterdam and the life-long friends he made there. “There’s a lot more to Amsterdam than most people think. It’s a very relaxed, old, beautiful city.” Part of his love for the city came from the people he met there. “I made friends with people from all different backgrounds and they taught me something new every day. This helped me to understand the world a little bit more by being exposed to different perspectives”. Delete Edit embedded media in the Files Tab and re-insert as needed. align image leftalign image centeralign image right There were things that Alejandro had anticipated about studying abroad, but there were also some things that surprised him. “I learned quickly that Americans are extremely underdressed for class. I was embarrassed by the way I dressed my first few days. Guys would wear suits and ties to class and the girls never wore leggings”. Something that a lot of people look forward to when studying abroad is the new and interesting food choices. Alejandro soon realized how different the food was in the Netherlands. “When I first arrived I quickly noticed that there were shops dedicated solely to cheese and so I decided to take a tour of a cheese shop. Nothing was ever the same after that. Baby Gouda is now my favorite cheese”. Delete Edit embedded media in the Files Tab and re-insert as needed. align image leftalign image centeralign image right After everything Alejandro learned during his time abroad, he felt that his most valuable takeaway was empathy. “We can read the news and watch what’s going on in other countries, but it’s not the same as knowing and meeting people that actually live in those countries. I met one of my best friends, who was from Turkey, in my program and he made me realize that those of us living in western countries take a lot for granted”. In addition to learning a lot, Alejandro felt that another benefit of studying abroad was having the freedom to take classes that peaked his interests. “Being able to take classes that I was actually excited about in another country was liberating”. Delete Edit embedded media in the Files Tab and re-insert as needed. align image leftalign image centeralign image right After reflecting on his experience abroad, Alejandro had one piece of advice he wanted to give students considering studying abroad. “Just do it. It’s better to experience things yourself than to wonder ‘what if?’ later in life. I hate saying this cliché, but studying abroad has been one of the best decisions of my life. I wish I could go back in time. Not to change anything, but to do it all over again”.