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Studying Abroad in the Netherlands: Notes on Adventure

August 26, 2016

Photo Credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

This article was written by Garrett Cruzan, who is studying abroad in the Netherlands this year with his partner. Garrett is a college student and artist. See his work here.

As I sit in this airport with my partner, silently waiting to board a plane bound for Amsterdam, I wonder how many others here are flying to the rest of their lives. I turn to my side, imagine I'm living out Simon and Garfunkel lyrics from 1968; the balding man to our left is here on business, off to a convention or corporate something-or-other he’ll be miserable at.

“...She said the man in the gabardine suit is a spy…”

The off-duty stewardess behind us is going home for a few short days, though her husband won't be able to make it.

“…[T]here's no laughs left ‘cause we laughed them all, and we laughed them all in a very short time…”

But the young woman behind us has something the others don't. Saccharine. Soft spoken affection reveals her affair with the woman she’s talking to in Minneapolis. Perhaps she, with her slightly tempered covetous excitement, her youthful laugh – perhaps she knows where she’s going. Does anyone else see how easily this flight, like so many other things, becomes one of many steps in an endless string of steps leading to death – unless you learn you’re living? How funny that these people could, at any moment, realize what was happening! How rich their lives would be...

***

Some have the fortune of being born into adventure, or happening upon it with some regularity. Others, too timorous or lacking in resources to transpose themselves, seek out literary odysseys. I’ve certainly done my share of wandering in the pages of fiction. And then there exists a happy medium of sorts – those who are privileged enough to move. They relocate to another town and settle, satiated by a brief lack of familiarity and the making of new routines. Still, there are certain individuals who endeavor to create awe-inspiring adventures from the outset. At every turn it is the path less traveled, the unexpected, the unknown. I, having come from fairly humble beginnings and not always realizing how many adventures were possible, seem to be some sort of an amalgamation of these.

So “How did he find himself at the precipice of a year-long enterprise abroad?” you may be wondering. The long answer deserves more explanation than I detail here – indeed one could write volumes about events leading up to this. Suffice it to say that there were moments of great difficulty, especially in acquiring a disability and adjusting to a new body, concurrent with moments of revelation. More generally though, it was my pursuit of a college education, the acquisition of some very dear friends, and their influence that led me here.

Reflecting on my preparations, specifically those for the exchange program at University College Utrecht, I must comment on a few things. First, I think it would be worthwhile to rewrite some Medicare publications. Student exchange and study abroad programs are not very compatible with American social medicine, as I found, making it utterly difficult to get useful insurance coverage abroad. Perhaps I could call one of my trifolds, “Vacations and Travel While Receiving Social Security: Learning to Read About the World from Your Living Room Instead,” or “The Medicare Guide to Life Abroad: Good Luck.” And maybe I'd make a graphic of someone with a disability who was actually active instead of the docile, geriatric stuck in a perpetual consultation with their caring physician. I'm sure you've seen them, so sterile and lifeless. Secondly, I am tempted to offer my phone number to all Social Security offices I visited as a consultation service. Between my partner and I, we’ve become more familiar with the intricacies of Medicare and Social Security regulations than any agent we had the privilege of talking to. In fact, we adopted the practice of printing physical copies of regulations we referenced to give our puzzled representatives, who were consistently convinced we could not be helped.

Through all of this, I have come to understand that I’m a rare breed – especially in Wyoming; I am resolute, quite necessarily, to go abroad as a college student with a disability. An while disability often means doing things differently, it also means factoring in extra time. I just had no way of knowing that a year’s foresight would be nearly insufficient. If only the University’s recommendation to start planning a semester in advance was correct. I suppose it matters little to think of that now.

So I sit, next to my partner, waiting to board a plane that will take me to the rest of my life. With a six-month supply of medicine and three month’s worth of medical supplies in tow, and a year-long stay in the Netherlands ahead of me, I tell myself I am ready. And here, I borrow a dear friend’s words en hommage, to him, and because they are apropos of my travels. For having so much faith and recognizing a kindred spirit in me I am forever indebted to Walter, who “...personifie[s] the most exciting and appealing of all adventures, that of the spirit.”

And that is what I’m about to begin.

***

“…when the spotlight hit the boy, and the crowd began to cheer, he flew away…”