After returning home to Grand Rapids and reflecting on the past few weeks, I’ve realized how lucky we all were to go on the trip of a lifetime in Europe. Before this trip, I had never really left the country and experienced different cultures. I have always lived in West Michigan and lived in the Christian Reformed “bubble”. I feel as if we are extremely sheltered at Calvin College, and this trip allowed us all to get out of the bubble and experience the real world. I am extremely grateful for the life I have been blessed with, but also think that we need to take advantage of the opportunities to escape this bubble every chance we get.
I would like to thank everyone that made this trip possible and thank my professors and colleagues for making this trip unforgettable. Over the course of the trip, I became even better friends with the people I already knew, but one of the coolest parts of the trip was the new people I met. I formed many lifelong relationships that I may have not made if I were not to go on this trip.
Over the past few days, we have visited a couple of places in which have forced me to reflect on the Hitler’s leadership. The first place in we visited was the concentration camp of Dachau. This was the first concentration camp and it was very interesting to visit but also very sad. To hear about a concentration camp is one thing, but to actually visit one is a completely different story. It is absolutely astonishing to me that a single leader can force an entire country into doing something so wrong.
The next place we visited was a Holocaust museum in Berlin. Again, it was a very interesting place but also extremely sad. Here we learned about concentration camps and became familiar with a couple family’s stories. This was a great experience as you could not put a face to a story and kind of picture what these people had to go through in places like Dachau.
The thing that amazes me most is that a good majority of these people actually bought into Hitler and his tactics. So many people had to abide by his orders and murder children of God. It appears as if Hitler must have been a leader in which was very good at manipulating others. Although he used his leadership abilities for the wrong things, I still find it very interesting that he could convince so many people to do so many bad things.
Upon arrival in Amsterdam, the first thing that I noticed was how much more compacted things are here. Even when just driving down the road, it almost seems as if you’re going to collide with the oncoming traffic or the biker beside you. That is another thing I noticed right away – everyone here bikes from place to place.
One of the coolest things about being in Europe is the history behind everything. Some of the buildings and cathedrals we have visited are much older than the United States’ existence. It was a really cool experience to be in an area with so much history and to be back where long ago my ancestors lived.
After settling in a bit, one of the biggest differences from the United States was the culture of the Netherlands. Everyone either walks or bikes around and, as a result, it appears that the people here are in much better shape than Americans. Also, in the Netherlands people seemed to be extremely friendly; almost anyone would go out of their way to help you and it seemed that a good majority of the people knew some English. Another huge difference in the culture is the fact that drugs and prostitution are legal in Amsterdam. It was not uncommon to be walking down the street and to be offered cocaine. That’s not something that happens often in the United States. Also, walking through the Red Light District was an awakening experience as you have prostitutes standing in windows as you walk down the street. Seeing these behaviors being acceptable in this culture has forced me to do some reflecting on the legality of the matters at hand. Obviously drugs and prostitution are prevalent in the United States, but we just have to hide it. So, in the Netherlands these activities are legal and therefore they can regulate them more. Could it possibly be a better solution to make some drugs and prostitution legal so that you can make them safer? People will find a way to participate in these activities whether or not they are legal. This is just something that I have been thinking about as we have been on the first few days of the trip. I never in a thousand years would’ve thought I would be thinking about the legalization of prostitution, but being here has forced me to think about these issues more deeply.