Cliff Hull ’11 – I’ve just finished up my first month studying abroad in the Netherlands and it has been a whirlwind so far. I am studying in Leiden, a town of 120,000 people on the Old Rhine River only a thirty minute train ride from Haarlem, Den Haag, and Amsterdam.

Like Wabash, Leiden University has a very rich academic history; it lists among its alumni John Quincy Adams and the current Queen Beatrix of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Furthermore, the town of Leiden has been a university town since William of Orange founded Leiden University in 1575. Even though the weather has been pretty chilly, it has been bearable riding my bike to class on cobblestone streets lined on one side by canals and on the other by five and six hundred-year-old buildings.

For my first three weeks here I took an intensive Dutch language course. One of my academic goals for my study abroad experience has been to learn conversational Dutch. Dutch is one of the parent languages of Afrikaans, which is one of the national language of South Africa. I was born in South Africa before moving to America as a baby, so I never got a chance to learn my mom’s native language. Luckily for me, I had no idea that I would get such an intensive language course. We spent four hours per day for the better part of three weeks learning Dutch from a renowned Dutch language professor. All the work paid off, as I have had a few conversations with my mom over Skype in Dutch, not to mention with many Dutch people around Leiden.

Because the Netherlands is such a small country, I’ve had a chance to travel on the weekends to different parts of the country. This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to the original Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam with the University’s International Student Network. We went to the Heineken Experience, where we got to tour the original 1867 Heineken Brewery, see the famous Heineken Shire horses in their stables, as well as go through an interactive museum detailing the bottling process as well as the history of the Heineken family.

And on the weekend leading up to the beginning of Lent, I was able to celebrate Carnaval in the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, one of the biggest of such celebrations which are most prevalent in the southern Catholic provinces.

The rest of my classes are starting this week, so I’ll hopefully be checking back in with more updates soon.

Next Wednesday I’m going to see the Netherlands play the United States in an international friendly soccer match, and then I’m headed the next day to Barcelona and Valencia to visit Derrick Yoder ’11, Adam Auter ’11, and Chris Beedie ’11.