My First Time Abroad (for Ketchup With Us)

It’s time to participate in the greatest blog hop out there, hosted by the amazing Mel – at According to Mags – and Michele – at ODNT. It’s Ketchup With Us, and the writing prompt for this one is Tell us about [a first] in your life. Because I met my friend Sarah, from Ireland, on my first trip abroad, and she is here for a visit TWENTY-ONE YEARS LATER (!) I decided that my post would be about my first trip overseas.

I was 18 years old, hopping on a plane – and I hated flying – to go someplace where I didn’t know anyone or speak the language. But I was going on a youth exchange, so I would be taken care of. After flying all night I arrived at the airport outside of Amsterdam to find my brand new suitcase slit from one end to the other. I still have no clue what the heck happened. As I made my way to the place where I was to be picked up, I saw no one resembling my host parents. I did, however, see a young woman with a sign that said something like Salmon…Was that supposed to say Shannon? There were a few of the same letters, so…maybe…? Turns out it WAS a woman there to pick me up – someone from a neighbouring town who was also hosting a Canadian exchange student – and off we went.

That first week was a great one.  My host parents were (and still are!) lovely people who showed me so much of their part of Holland. They also had a son a year older than I, and we became fast friends. There was another exchange student there as well – from Indonesia – and it was wonderful to have another female my age to share the experiences with.  That week I did a lot of sightseeing, learning about Holland, and talking about Canada, but it was nothing compared to what I was going to experience next with 39 other young folks from all over the world.

After leaving my host family, I was placed on a bus full of people around my age.  There were young adults from France, Hungary, Romania, Thailand, Sweden, England, Finland, Austria, the US, Estonia, Switzerland, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, as well as another Canadian.  These were my busmates and roommates for the next several weeks.  And what a fun and memorable several weeks it was.  Complete with birthday celebrations, discotheques, laughs, romances, and lasting friendships.

Some of us have kept in touch since the trip, way back in 1993.  My friend Sarah has come to Canada three times now to visit, and I’ve gone to Ireland three times.  We’ve also met in the UK while I was backpacking after university, in France one summer, and in the Bahamas for my wedding.  That’s what I call a lasting friendship.

hollandgroupofus romanbaths eiffeltower3ofus weddingpicturegirls

And it’s not the only one.  Thanks to social media, many of us who met that summer in Holland can keep up with each other’s lives twenty-one years later.  I actually just heard from several of my old friends on Facebook today, and we are determined to have a reunion in 2018…Twenty-five years after first meeting.  How cool would that be?!

Speaking of cool, I thought it would be fun to recreate a picture of me and my friend Sarah that was taken during one of our nights out in Holland in 1993.  On the left is the original, and on the right is the recreation, decades later.

hollandpicmesarah winghampicmesarah

My first trip abroad was memorable for a number of reasons, and it became the first of quite a few in my life.  That trip to Holland – and the people I met – made me want to see and experience the world.  What a fantastic “first” it was for me.

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