Saturday, March 17, 2012


I’m writing this post from a train between Liege, Belgium and Köln, Germany. Qian and I are using her two-week spring break and almost all of my vacation time for the year at work on a European sojourn. A week in to the trip, it has been incredible.

So far we’ve been to Amsterdam and Maastricht, a small town in the south of the Netherlands. My brother is in the second year of his master’s degree program at the University of Amsterdam. We spent four days in Amsterdam doing the touristy stuff – the Van Gogh Museum, Rijks Museum, and Anne Frank House – and hanging out with my brother and his girlfriend. We then spent two days taking in Maastricht.

Maastricht is my European hometown (in a similar fashion to Xi'an being the place that I hold dear in China). I spent four months studying abroad in Maastricht during my junior year at Saint Louis University. Being in Maastricht was my first real time abroad (save for a spring break trip to the Caribbean my senior year of high school). Maastricht blew my mind. Studying abroad as a twenty year-old without a care in the world was a whirlwind, truly the time of my life. My positive experience there certainly primed me for wanting to go abroad after I graduated, which is when I went to Xi’an.

Qian and I had a wonderful time these past couple days in Maastricht. We couldn’t have asked for a more storybook romantic European experience. We strolled up and down the city’s cobble stone streets, took in the Roman-era architecture and city wall (a cool fact of my life is that I’ve lived in two cities with city walls built centuries ago), window shopped, bought chocolates, fruit, and bread at the city's Friday market, and rented bikes that we used to ride over the border to Belgium where we imbibed on delicious Belgian beer (when in Belgium…).

We’re going to spend the next two days in Köln and then will have five days in Paris. I’m confident that the second half of the trip will live up to the great time we've had the first half.


AustinGuidry said...

"Studying abroad as a twenty year-old without a care in the world was a whirlwind, truly the time of my life."

That was my experience in Lanzhou, China - exactly right. I hope that you'll put up a few pictures -I've been to Berlin and a small town on the north coast of Germany, but never been to Amsterdam, Belgium, or France!

I hope the remainder of your time in Europe is wonderful!

Mark said...

Thanks, Austin! I encourage anyone interested in studying abroad to do so for the reason you highlighted. So much fun to have the world as your oyster with little responsibility.

We have some awesome pictures so far. I'll work on getting some posted when I get back to the US.