AmsterDAM.

In order to severely worry my parents and all of my loved ones, I decided to take a solo-trip to Amsterdam this past Monday and Tuesday. As I have mentioned before, I cannot resist a cheap flight ticket and quickly booked the 60 pound ticket approximately 2 days before leaving.

I will not lie, I was extremely nervous about doing this trip alone. Before abroad, Blair and I made “Study Abroad Bucket List” and one of the items was to take a solo trip, so I decided to bypass the nerves and do it anyway.

I went into vicious planning mode so that I would be too busy to worry while I was there and was on a flight out of London Luton Airport at 8:30 AM that Monday morning.

Let me just start by saying this, Amsterdam is so much more than the Red Light District and legal weed, although they are both fascinating to see. Many tourists have marked Amsterdam as a place to go for partying without consequence, but the city is charming in such a different respect.

Stepping out of the bus at Amsterdam Centraal, I was welcomed by a view of the expansive canal and beautifully crafted buildings. In order to get a lay of the land, I joined a “Hop-on, Hop-off” Canal Cruise that navigated through the city, giving history and fun facts along the way.

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Just all of my best friends and me enjoying a romantic canal cruise.

Starting at the main harbor, we passed first through the Jordaan, one of Amsterdam’s most popular residential neighborhoods, and cruised all throughout the city.

The canal is lined with houses and houseboats, which people rent and reside in all- year round. The houseboats are especially adorable and similar to a one floor studio apartment that you could find in the large cities of America. Most were decorated with flowers and, glimpsing their insides, had a minimalist and modern interior design.

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Shout out to that swan for posing so professionally for this photo.

After becoming an expert on the Amsterdam landscape (just kidding, I got lost about 8 times over the course of this trip), I set out to accomplish all that was on my check-list, starting with the Albert Cuyp Market for some food and shopping. Right next to the Heineken Brewery, this market encompasses about 5 blocks and contains all sorts of merchants and food vendors, though not as much food as you would imagine, but I quickly was able to find a stroopwafel.

The market is conveniently located near the Museum Quarter, where you can find the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and the Moco Museum. I hustled straight to the Moco Museum, where the work of London’s most famous street artist, Banksy, was being displayed and revered. Banksy is a famous Bristol-based graffiti artist that questions the status quo and uses his work as a political commentary on modern day society.

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If you were ever wondering who created this iconic piece of art…

This museum also displayed the work of American pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein. Providing a stark, and brilliantly colorful contrast, to Banksey, Lichtenstein’s work was a joy to explore. They even had an interactive room where you could sit on the art and pretend you were apart of a comic

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I had to hunt down a couple and awkwardly ask them to take this.

The Netherlands was home to famous painter, Vincent Van Gogh, therefore a large collection of his work is fittingly displayed at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It is hard to believe that one artist could have produced enough work to fill a 3 story museum, but Van Gogh achieved this feat with paintings to spare for other museums. Some of his most famous work resides here, including “The Potato Eaters”, “Sunflowers”, and “Self-Portrait”, which were all incredible to see in person.

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It is also hard to believe that he literally cut his ear off and gave it to someone as a gift.

With my artsy side satiated, i ventured out to see some of the most famous things that Amsterdam boasts of, including Vondelpark, the Red Light District (WHOA), and shopping along the Jordaan.

My favorite thing about this entire trip was the Anne Frank House. I was required to read The Diary of Anne Frank during elementary school, and this introduced me to the hardship and severity the Jews experienced during Hitler’s regime at a very young age. Her emotional and thorough diary instilled in me the realities of the war that no history book ever was able to teach and I made it a priority to see where she experienced it all when I visited Amsterdam.

Maneuvering through the narrow hallways and hidden bookshelf passageway of the “Secret Annex” that protected the Frank family for several years forced me to reflect on how lucky I am to have the freedom to think, and express, my beliefs without fear of persecution. Anne Frank acts an inspiration for those to speak their voice and not hide from the harsh realities of life. I cannot imagine what she would think if she knew about the expansive critical acclaim and widespread audience her book has reached, but I would like to think that she would be proud and satisfied at how much of an impact it has made.

Amsterdam is one of the most walkable cities that I have visited so far, so the bulk of the rest of my trip was spent wandering along the streets and avoiding being hit by bikes when I unknowingly stumbled in the bike lane.

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They were also starting to put up Christmas decorations so naturally I dedicated about two hours to looking at that.

At the end of my solitary trip, I could not help but give myself a little pat on the back and acknowledge how much study abroad helps with personal growth and confidence.

It is hard to describe a city in just one word, but…

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*DAMN.

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