Follow Our Adventure Here!
We are 19 cadets from CSU Maritime Academy traveling from Budapest, Hungary to Amsterdam, Netherlands over 21 days. Each day, one student will post a blog entry detailing our day’s activities and their experiences abroad.
The Danube, the second longest river in Europe, flows through ten countries, and the capital cities of Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna. It is considered one of the most important shipping routes in Europe. After the fall of the Soviet Union, 85% of the Danube became accessible to Western Europe, and in 2021, 69 million tons of goods were shipped along its waterway.
The Rhine River is Western Europe’s economic backbone, carrying five times the amount of cargo as the Danube. Coal, iron, petrochemical and agricultural products, and container cargo travel between Europe’s most powerful countries along this route.
Connected, these two rivers both define and unite Central and Western Europe. Both play important roles not just in trade, but in the transmission of arts and culture, and in war.
Our trip will focus on learning how these waterways operate today, the opportunities and challenges faced by those who live and work in the region. Students will see many culturally important sites (e.g., the Vienna Opera House, the Cologne Cathedral), but will also visit ports utilizing the latest technologies and universities with opportunities for graduate study in maritime/transportation management or international relations. We’ll visit museums that emphasize inland waterways and their importance to industry and culture, but we’ll also go behind the scenes at one of the largest transportation logistics entities in the Netherlands.
Though we will not travel exclusively on water (too expensive), we will take several short boat trips through the most picturesque parts of each waterway. We’ll travel by public transportation otherwise. Come along with us!
 Also Belgrade, but we’re not going there.
May 28-29, 2023
SFO airport→FRA Germany airport→Budapest, Hungary
Sophomore, International Business & Logistics
Today the group set off for Europe. We split into two groups, with Ms. Sianna Brito leading the group getting to Hungary via Paris and Professor Chisholm leading the Frankfurt squad.
Nearly ten hours later, the Frankfurt group landed in Europe and prepared to finish the last leg of the journey to Budapest. Another few hours, and half of the group had made it to our first stop on this river journey. One short bus ride followed, and with Lina’s expert navigation skills leading the way, we arrived at Wombat’s hostel. Sadly, the Paris group experienced a flight delay that set them back a few hours, and they arrived later in the night.
They finally made it around 8 p.m., and our merry little band was reunited just in time for dinner.
Q. How is my body responding to travel?
A: Overall, I’d say pretty well. The first day on the plane is always rough, but I was able to sleep for most of our flight.Aside from a few aches here and there, I felt pretty good by the time we got to the hostel. I’m relaxed, and excited for our days the days to come, if not a bit sleepy.
Q: What was the first thing I noticed upon arriving in Budapest?
A: The first thing I noticed after leaving the airport in Budapest was the smell. I’ve been to many big cities, and a few cities in Europe, and they’ve all smelled like cigarettes, and Budapest was no exception. However, unlike in other cities, the cigarette smell faded and was replaced by a cool smell with a hint of exotic food that I really enjoyed.
C. What do my experiences make me want to learn more about?
A: Well, I saw a plain old McDonald’s with a terrace and a nice family table, so I’m wondering if all the other businesses that we have at home are going to be as nice.
D. Would I return to this destination?
A: Definitely. The city itself is quaint, everyone I’ve talked to so far is very polite, the weather is mild, and the food tastes and smells delicious.
Dennis Pascual Jr.
After checking into the Wombat’s Hostel we were given free time to explore the nightlife of Budapest. The experience was an awkward transition, due to the rapid switch between hours of sitting on flights to walking for hours in a city many of us have never visited before. Among the neon lights, friends sharing drinks and trams carrying people from place to place was St. Stephen’s Basilica. It was quite big, and it turns out it is the largest Catholic church in Hungary, which falls in line with the fact that Hungary has a 37.2% Catholic population. My visit here is giving me all sorts of new perspectives, and it would be fun to learn more about other religious aspects of Europe.
Later in the morning after everyone got some rest, I talked with some cadets and we unanimously decided to spend our first free day exploring Budapest and finding places that coincided with our interests. That got us to hop on a tram and visit the waterfront of the Danube Bank. Our stop placed us in front of Szechenyi Bridge, also known as Liberty Bridge. It was built in 1849, and was the first bridge to be built after the Hungarian Revolution. For a while, it was the largest bridge in the world. The sight of the Danube Bank is giving me a lot of insight into how businessmen go about their business. They make connections so they can work together and deliver the best products/services they can.
It turns out, May 21st, 2023 marked the 175th anniversary of Hungary’s retaking of Buda Castle on May 21st, 1849. To celebrate, the Hungarian Defense Force opened up a small museum in a glass community center near the Danube Bank. Alongside restaurants, many rooms were taken up by the latest military technology at Hungary’s disposal. This included drones, tanks, and firearms leagues beyond what was available during the early 20th century. They also had flight simulators, airsoft target practice and a number of robots doing tricks for the audience, all of which we indulged in firsthand. A sight like that really shows how far military technology has come, and how it will only continue to evolve.
The trip advisors weren’t kidding when they said a lot of walking would be involved on this trip. In order to get a good view of all of Budapest, we crossed the Liberty Bridge and took a hiking trail up to Citadella Sétány. While we didn’t get to the citadel, we found benches and a good view of the city. We were able to see St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Ferris Wheel of Budapest, and countless other giant buildings. The sheer scale of the view is enough to remind anyone that the world may be small, but it’s larger than you think and will always be worth exploring.
May 30, 2023
Junior, Global Studies and Maritime Affairs
It was interesting to wake up in Hungary because although it felt like another hotel, it was also in a different country! This was also one of the first times I had had a hotel or hotel room-like room all to myself. It was a little strange sleeping in a different place.
After breakfast at the hostel, our small group decided to visit the Museum of Terror, where we learned how the USSR’s occupation affected Hungarians after World War II. The USSR controlled Hungary, and just like Vietnam or Germany during their communist takeovers, any political “opponent” or dissident was silenced. This goes along with what was taught in many of my GSMA classes: communist regimes would try to silence dissidents, but if they failed they would resort to murder. Although the museum claimed that many Hungarians hated the USSR, a lot of today’s Budapest looks as though it is still impacted by the USSR. The language has a sound similar to Russian, and many police uniforms are identical to the Russian police’s.
After going to the museum, we went to the Porto di Pest Restaurant to have lunch before returning to the hostel for a break. Marlon Tellez and I then hunted around town to look at some of the shops and find rubber duckies before heading over to St. Stephen’s Basilica. Of course, on the way back to the hostel, we needed Hungarian ice cream and eventually ran over to the pirate-themed escape room nearby. Later in the night, we got burgers from BURGERS and brought some Hungarian candies.
As I walked around the city, the music seemed strange, but somehow it still fit in with the rest of Budapest. The music was either an English song or what sounded like a song translated into English, but not completely correctly. This was strange because before coming here, I thought I would only hear Hungarian music everywhere. Hearing all English songs makes sense, because Budapest is one of the most famous Hungarian cities for tourism and also because, in most schools, English is one of the choices for foreign language classes.
To many who will come in the future from the US, Budapest has some beautiful spots, but even those areas that do not look good on the outside are usually some of the best places on the inside. For example, when we went to AROOM, it did not look like a good escape room on the outside, but we later learned that it was one of the best ones. I will not spoil the fun of the game for you, but their games had us walking through different floors of the building and were entirely on cue with their themes.
June 1, 2023
Santiago del Rio
My day started in the middle of the morning when I got up, put on a new outfit, and had breakfast in the hostel. I ate the normal hostel breakfast, which included tea and ingredients to make a sandwich. As normal, the line was incredibly slow if you wanted a hot sandwich, so I resorted to eating a cold one.
The first destination I went to with my group was the Fisherman’s Bastion, a fortified church structure that overlooks the entirety of the city. From the walls of the place I could see nearly every major landmark that Budapest has to offer, from the parliament building to the soccer stadium. We as a group decided to enter the church of the area. The outside had a gorgeously complex and gothic structure, and the inside was filled with golden pillars and countless pieces of art.
From the church, another cadet and I decided to take the long, four-mile walk from the top of the hill at Fisherman’s Bastion towards the Szechenyi thermal baths. The baths are most notable for their sheer scale and amount of art, along with their famous thermal waters. The walk itself was long and my legs ached a little bit afterwards, but it was worth it, as I got to see a side of Budapest that I normally wouldn’t see in the tourist areas. I got to see the daily life of Hungarian people as I walked, past the hospital and through the countless neighborhoods and city streets
Halfway through our trek across the city, we stopped by an army surplus center. What caught my eye was a small bust of Viktor Orban, the controversial prime minister of Hungary, donning the armor of Alexander the Great. The item was so tacky that I struggled to not buy it. The man I bought it from did not speak a lot of English, but he did point at the bust and ask, “Mr. President?!”
Once I reached the baths my legs had some much needed rest, and I got to enjoy the warm thermal pool while being surrounded by art that would normally be reserved for an art or history museum. After leaving the pools, I reconnected with the rest of my group and we went for a snack in the shape of a sugary cylinder that was slightly larger than the rolling pin that was used to make it (“chimney cake”).
From there, my group took the bus to get back to the hostel. The city truly felt alive as it was animated in any ways. Our bus was packed to the brim with school children returning from the zoo. Our walk was painted with crowds of proud Spanish football fans, whose cheerful chants could be heard from blocks away. Hearing all the different languages in the day was delightful.
After relaxing in the hostel for some time, we took the trolley to get to our final event of the day, the river cruise on the Danube. The river cruised opened up with traditional Hungarian dances complemented by classical music. The food was presented shortly after, all of which was delicious. I watched the sun go down from the cruise, watched the city go from a variety of sunlit painted colors to simple and elegant orange and black. That night I had felt a feeling of contentment that I had not felt in a long time.
Truth be told, since the start of this trip I have been feeling greater feelings of contentment. While my positive and negative feelings are as intense as usual, traveling and having adventures has allowed me to be content, which is not usual in my life. I would say I am happy.
Two of the most notable things that struck me the most were the old, aesthetic architecture and crowds of football fans flooding the city. Both gave life to the city that made it feel alive. Knowing the culture beforehand from dear friends that I know from Hungary has enhanced the trip greatly. They told me what foods to look out for, where to go, how to act, etc. It has been a joy to follow their advice and have it make my trip better and better, time and time again. I would absolutely love to return here one day for the food alone.
June 2-4, 2023
June 2 began with our first group meeting, early morning, in our khakis. (Waking up in a new place definitely contrasts with wearing khakis, as we are all used to wearing our uniform on campus only. Having to wake up and get ready like it’s formation, but then walking out to our Budapest hostel lobby was a truly strange experience.) We then took several buses out to the Hungarian Port Authority, where we met Bela Szalma, the charismatic Hungarian sea captain. After learning about the port’s plans for the river and the difficulties Hungarians face in achieving them, we then looked at a functioning river lock. This lock separates a section of the Danube into what’s called the “small Danube,” which is much more consistently navigable. Our journey then took a seemingly random turn as we were allowed into the newly built track and field stadium next door, giving us a rare sight of such a project before its completion.
The next day we took a hydrofoil trip down the Danube direct to the small city of Esztergom…or at least we were supposed to. What ended up happening was an accidental early exit in Visegrad, that forced us to take a bus through the beautiful Hungarian countryside. After we got to Esztergom we were allowed to tour the Museum of the Danube River. We were let loose to explore the city and there was only one thing one everyone’s mind. Towering over the small town of Esztergom was a basilica or cathedral which allowed us access to its top level for an amazing view of the countryside. I learned the cathedral was actually the largest in all of Hungary and Esztergom used to be the capital of Hungary.
The next day we spent our last morning in Budapest and used the rest of the day to make the long train ride to Bratislava, Slovakia. The 2 1/2 hour ride took us all throughout the Slovakian countryside for a really unique view. Something Bratislava immediately showcased was the strange Soviet-era architecture. With nothing else like it back home, seeing the large Soviet apartment blocks and old power stations makes Bratislava truly interesting. My advice for people who want to explore or travel in the Central or Eastern Europe region is to try and learn the language and culture. The people over here are very proud of their history and culture, and the best way to travel here is to be able to connect and relate with the many people living out here. Many times I’ve been unable to get a full experience out of an exchange with a local person, because of that huge language and cultural barrier.
June 5, 2023
Bratislava, Slovakia–>Vienna, Austria
Today we checked out of the Patio Hostel in Bratislava, Slovakia and headed off to Vienna, Austria. We arrived at the train station and headed off on our one-hour trip to Vienna. On the trip, we saw the Slovakian countryside, which was filled with flat fields and Soviet-era houses and buildings. Once we got to Vienna, we transferred to another train, which took us to the A&T Hostel in Vienna. With a couple hours left before our check-in, we decided to go out in the city center and tour the beautiful Gothic architecture of the cathedrals that Vienna has to offer. The size and scale of the cathedrals and parliament buildings truly show the strength of the Austro-Hungarian empire in history. The city center in capsulizes the Vienna, as well as the history, especially of the Hapsburgs.
The main thing that is different in Vienna, as opposed to America or even Hungary and Slovakia, is the the scale and number of the cathedrals and other historic buildings they have. Also the transportation systems here are so much different than back home. Everyone here travels by bus or train, which is completely different than the states where you don’t really see people doing that.
After seeing the city center of Vienna and the vastness of the architecture here, I really want to learn more about the history of the buildings and witness how hard it must’ve been to build such buildings. The coordination and craftsmanship it must’ve taken without the use of modern technology and tools is amazing to me.
My advice to people who want to come to Vienna is to go sightseeing as much as you can. You can spend the whole day walking around Vienna and still not see all of the city. I would advise to spend more than a couple days in Vienna, as there’s just too much to do here.
Today was our first and only full day in Vienna. We woke up early, ate breakfast at the hostel, and left by 8:00 AM. The day was fully planned, and the first event was traveling to ThinkPort for a presentation by Viadonau, a shipping and logistics company based at the Port of Vienna.
They began by introducing themselves and giving information about the ports in the area. They also discussed shipping on the Danube River, including the types of ships that are used, as well as the cargo that is transported. After that, they explained what is being done to make the Danube more sustainable and how the company is becoming more environmentally friendly.
Next, we traveled to the United Nations’ Vienna International Center for another presentation from the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River. This group gave a presentation about their organization and how they are working towards preventing floods and pollution in the Danube River.
Finally, another cadet and I traveled to the Johann Strauss, Wohnung Museum, which is where the song “The Blue Danube” was written. The museum also had many other items from Strauss’s life, such as his instruments.
Europe has a similar look and feel to America, but it is still noticeably different. Everything is older and the language barrier can make it difficult to communicate with locals.
All water costs money, even at restaurants. There are no water fountains, leaving tap water and bottles water as the only options. Additionally, carbonated water is also extremely popular.
I want to learn more about the local history in Vienna. I visited the Museum of Military History, which made me interested in learning more about Austria’s history, especially before the 1900s.
June 7, 2023
Today we left the A&T Hostel in Vienna, Austria. First, we ate a nice breakfast consisting of bread, ham, cheese, and coffee. We then left the hostel to go to the train station where we ate lunch at the station. We then got on a train for four hours to go to Munich, Germany. As soon as we got there, we walked to the YMCA hostel, which is the nicest place we have stayed in so far. It was almost five P.M. by the time we left the hostel to explore, which is late because most stuff usually closes by that time. Luckily, I found a museum that was open until 8PM. It showed artifacts that were from the B.C.E. time period, and was called the Staatliche Antikensammlung Museum. After the museum we walked around Marienplatz visiting a church and stores. We then went out to dinner at “The Ratskeller,” a basement that served traditional German food.
I feel that I am responding fine to travel, but I am more stressed than when I am at home, because it is hard to find good places to eat and finding activities to do. We do not have a lot of time in each place, and it is hard to fit in as many things as want to do in the short time frame. I feel that I have to work especially hard to stay positive, because not every plan goes the way that I want—for example, a museum that I wanted to go to was closed.
Surprisingly, the most common music I am hearing everywhere is American and British music. I thought that it was only popular at home, but it is popular everywhere. This shows just how much globalization of American culture throughout the world there is. I thought that native bands to the countries would be the most popular, but they are not.
This trip has given me insight to my career because I want a job that has international aspects. This trip helps this career goal because I can gain a better understanding of other cultures and can be more considerate of other cultures in the workplace.
I would return to Munich Germany because it is my favorite destination on the trip. It is not as crowded as some of the other destinations and there is greenery throughout the city. There are small parks and many historical sites that are within walking distance to the hostel. There were museums that opened up later than usual, and there were not as many smokers as usual as the other cities that we visited.
June 8, 2023
I started the day by forgetting to eat breakfast. It was the standard German breakfast of baloney, bread and cheese, anyway. After breakfast a few of us took a trip to Dachau Concentration Camp via the S-Bahn. The tracks we used were the same ones used by the SS to bring in new prisoners. The camp was kept generally the same as it was in 1945, but with many of the sleeping quarters removed. It’s hard to imagine that in the shade of the entry gates where tourists now rest was the start of something horrible for so many.
After Dachau, I took the train back to the YMCA Hostel. After resting for about 15 minutes I headed out to explore Munich. Santiago, Michael and I started by walking to a giant clock tower that acts similar to a cuckoo clock. Along the way we found some street performers playing some nice music.
After looking at the clock, we walked around a lot more and found a beer garden along the water. Today I was able to order my beer entirely in German, thanks to some words I’ve picked up in random conversations. I think I was able to hide my Americanness. After I had finished my delicious Radler, we went on a quest to find Gatorade. While walking, a random dude came up to us and started speaking perfect English. To be honest, I thought it might have been a scam so I felt uneasy about the whole thing. It turns out it was just a lost American looking for a place for lunch.
I know that I have not scratched the surface of what Munich has to offer. The city doesn’t capture me as much as other German ones, and I feel that I would rather explore Hamburg again then Munich. I learned that today is Corpus Christi, so the entirety of Germany decided to close. I couldn’t understand why everything had to close so some people could go to church (I am Protestant so don’t come at me).
On the way home, we stopped for pizza and a burger. My pizza was kinda mid and was cold by the time we got back to the hostel. A thunderstorm started about two hours after I got back, so that ruined my chance of hitting the bar again.
Thus my day in Munich comes to a close,while I stare out a half open window reflecting the occasional flashes of lightning.
June 9, 2023
In the early morning hours of the day, we boarded a train in Munich to set out for our next destination. After two beautiful train rides with stunning views of the German countryside, we finally made it to the city of Mainz, alongside the Rhine river.
Shortly after arriving, we checked into our hotel not far from the train station. After settling in, we gathered into small groups and set out into the town. The first objective of the outing was to find a place to eat. We walked along the busy streets until we happened upon a restaurant with patio chairs that offered a great view of the traditional German street corners. There we ate and drank while discussing what else we should try to see for the rest of the day.
After the meal, we slowly made our way back to our hostel, taking a longer scenic route that allowed us to see some awesome views of the city. We saw some amazing traditional German architecture in many of the buildings we passed by. The history of the city is brilliantly displayed by the aging architecture alongside some more modern constructions.
After making it back to our hostel, we rested for a while before heading out once again. This time we made our way to a quiet bar on the street corner. We enjoyed a few traditional German drinks both inside the bar and the beautifully lit outdoor patio area. It was a great way to cap off our first day in yet another beautiful European town. Every new place offers new and unique qualities, and it has been so fun discovering them each time we reach a new destination.
It feels amazing to wake up in a new place. It has been so much fun experiencing and seeing new things. The prospect of new discoveries has made this trip so exciting.
The biggest misconception I had before arriving here was that Europeans hate Americans. While there have been a few hostile citizens here, I have been pleasantly surprised with the grace and hospitality that most Europeans have showed us. In the end, people are just people, no matter where they come from, and we all share common needs and desires. Being cordial to your fellow man seems for the most part to be a universal language.
My experiences on this trip have really made me want to travel more. This is the first time I have been out of the country, and I have really enjoyed myself so far. I feel that I have only scratched the surface of what is out there to see.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone who visits Europe is to try to absorb everything you can. Take in as many of the sights as possible. There’s so much rich history here and it seems almost unlimited.
June 11, 2023
Flowing through the Rhine River
It is the end of our second week in Europe, and we are halfway through our journey in Germany. For me, it has been easy to lose track of time, since I have been sick with COVID since our arrival in Munich, a city that I was eager to explore. Unfortunately, these are the risks associated with traveling.
Nevertheless, today was a day I was able to enjoy to a great extent despite my sickness. It was what we call a travel day, during which our main objective is to reach our next destination by utilizing the excellent public transportation this continent has to offer. However, today was different because, instead of solely traveling by train, we had the pleasure of boarding a river cruise.
Our day began by checking out of the B&B Hotel in Mainz, Germany. After savoring our usual continental European breakfast, we took a five-minute walk from the hotel to the train station, where we boarded our train at around 9:50 AM. However, the group got split up because half of us boarded the wrong train, which fortunately happened to be going in the same direction they were originally supposed to go. Putting that aside, the rest of the day went smoothly after we all met up and boarded the river cruise, allowing us to relish the picturesque scenery the Rhine River offered. The castles and towns along the river made me feel like I had traveled back in time to various eras.
Before arriving at our final destination in Koblenz, we had the opportunity to make a halfway stop during our cruise and explore the town of Saint Goar. Part of me believes this town is just another tourist trap, but it is actually one of the nicest places I have ever been to. It was a charming small town. My classmates bought all kinds of souvenirs, and one of our trip leaders purchased a very traditional cuckoo clock.
Considering we have been traveling for two weeks now, I think it is understandable that some of us have experienced different emotions throughout our trip. Personally, as much as I enjoy traveling, dealing with a tight schedule can be stressful. Additionally, some of us have been falling ill, like myself who had the misfortune of catching COVID. However, while on transit by train or boat, like today, I am able to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Generally speaking, every place we have visited has overwhelmed me with information. So many people, often speaking different languages, all heading to different places—walking, taking the tram or the bus, riding their bikes, or anything in between. However, Koblenz has been easier to absorb. Perhaps it’s because our hotel is located in a business area that doesn’t seem busy on Sundays. There are no people on the streets. All I see from my window is a parking lot and a road with several on and off ramps that take you in different directions. It somehow reminds me of the United States.
Although I am accustomed to commercial and cargo ships navigating through the Carquinez Strait, I was amazed by the number of ships I spotted while on the cruise along the Rhine. I understand that the shipping industry is indeed very important, but I am still intrigued by the economics behind brown water navigation.
Many Americans need to understand and witness the marvels of an efficient public transportation system. Imagine being able to travel conveniently from the Bay Area to SoCal without having to rely on your car or the inconvenient Amtrak train. That’s how I would describe Germany or Europe—a well-connected region that provides various travel options instead of relying heavily on cars, as is often the case in the United States.
June 14, 2023
The Hague, The Netherlands
GSMA Graduating Senior
Today, “Operation Europe” took us from Cologne, Germany to The Hague, Netherlands by train. When we arrived, we were met by our local guide, who walked us to our hostel and gave us some interesting Hague trivia along the way such as how ⅓ of the Netherlands is under sea level. When we arrived at the Stayokay Hostel, we were all pleasantly surprised as we were met with beautiful scenery, amazing hostel amenities, and bike rentals, which we were determined to take advantage of! After checking in and unpacking in our rooms, some of us went to a local bodega to pick up some snacks and found a very friendly bodega cat!
Afterwards, we were met with a great dinner of chicken with cheese sauce, mushroom soup, potatoes, and chocolate pudding. After dinner, a group consisting of JR, Lina, Jack, Alex, Santiago, Kevin, Sianna, and myself took a leisurely bike ride to the beach where we enjoyed the sun and sand before we watched the sun set on the Atlantic Ocean.
Afterwards, we rode our bikes back to the hostel through the crisp evening air, reminiscent of childhood summer nights.As we move from place to place, I find myself becoming tired from unexpected sources. Specifically, riding the train has made me unusually tired after we disembark and sometimes I find myself too tired to enjoy the new city without a quick nap. However, that being said, I still find myself pushing through the day because I am always excited about what we’re doing next and because I want to make the most of my time in these places.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving in The Hague is the sheer amount of bike support there is here. Bike lanes and bike parking spots are plentiful here and there are plenty of bikers to use them. And I can understand why everyone wants to bike here! The weather is great and the scenery is beautiful so why would you want to clog all of that up with cars and highways when you could enjoy the world around you?
This destination has made me want to look into how we can bring more biking or public transportation to the United States. The air feels nicer to breathe here and I strongly believe that it is a direct result of the ability to ride bikes or public transport everywhere is a strong contributor to it. Especially since people of all income levels can take advantage of them.
My main piece of advice for visitors here is to take advantage of the bike system here. The bike ride to the beach today was honestly the highlight of our trip so far for me because I just felt like any other person living here. It reminded me of the warm summer nights back when I was younger when I used to ride bikes with my friends in my old neighborhood and it is nice to take a second and remember that during such a busy time. In any case, while you may not get to your destination faster than by bus or car, you will definitely enjoy the journey much more on a bike along the canals in The Hague.
June 15, 2023
The Hague/Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Graduated Senior, GSMA
The last few days of our trip had us traveling to Rotterdam while staying in Den Haag, or The Hague, Netherlands. By this point, my legs were extremely sore because of all the walking that we’d done, but each and every step has been unique and memorable, and I know that I will never do something like this again, even if I do end up traveling back to Europe in the future.
In our first full day in Rotterdam, we visited the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners, and got a chance to speak to two industry experts about the state of Dutch shipping. In a brief, but insightful conversation with one of the industry experts, I learned about the decentralization of the Dutch government’s maritime regulation, its maritime industrial administration, and its environmental administration. This was very interesting to me, because in the United States, the US Coast Guard handles all the aspects of the maritime industry, which allows for a more efficient and streamlined response when it comes to incidents or pivoting to face and stand firm against global challenges and problems.
After our time with the Shipowners’ Association came to an end, we boarded a private bus back to The Hague to visit the home of the Dutch Senate. I will be honest in saying that while this visit was fascinating, and I learned a lot about how the Dutch Government functions, the visit was extremely lackluster, and not what I was expecting in the slightest. The Dutch government building known as the Binnenhof is a particularly famous building, and like many other government buildings across Europe, is steeped in history, tradition, and design. Unfortunately, the building has been under construction for a little while now, so we instead went to visit the temporary home of the Senate, which was tucked into an unassuming corner of the city.
After our tour of the temporary Dutch Senate building was concluded, some of us chose to break off and head for the MC Escher Museum, which was just a short walk away from the temporary senate building. This part of the day was a lot more fascinating for me, because I am rather fascinated by the optical illusions that MC Escher produced in his artwork, and it was amazing to see some of them up close. The building that the museum was housed in was also the only public example of a Royal Dutch Palace so that was also really cool to see, and it allowed me a glimpse into how the royalty of the Netherlands lived at the turn of the century.
At first, I was certainly a little surprised, and generally in disbelief that I am consistently waking up in new cities, and sometimes even new countries, daily. However, I would certainly say that by the time of me writing this at the tail end of our trip, those feelings have certainly faded in their intensity. I am still in awe of the places that I wake up in, and certainly many times the views I wake up to. However, that sense of surprise and disbelief has been replaced with a sense of wonder and excitement for what the day might hold.
I think that major-wise, this trip allowed me to understand, and compare how the United States system of government stacks up against a contemporary partner like the Netherlands. Just by listening to both the industry experts, and the Parliament tour guide, I was able to get a better understanding and grasp of the Dutch governmental system in a way that I don’t think I would’ve been able to just by Googling it. By listening to the personal experiences that many of these people have with the government and how it operates, I was able to get a better understanding of what life is like, and how it compares to life working and living under the US governmental system. While there are certainly pros and cons to both systems of government, in the end, based upon the professional knowledge that was imparted in conjunction with the personal anecdotes that were provided, it would appear that the US government system is far more streamlined and tends to work at least a little faster than the Dutch one. Regardless, though, it was a very insightful day, and it definitely helped enhance what I learned in my major and gives me a better idea of what to expect in the future while working in a globally connected environment.
June 16, 2023
International Business and Logistics, Senior
Today we left the Stayokay Hostel in a slight rush due to a few heavy sleepers. Once everyone was up and running, we boarded a tour bus and headed south. This took around 45 minutes and we ended in the industrial port of Maasvlakte. We were greeted by the sheer size and mind-boggling complexity of what is the largest port in all of Europe.
The objective of visiting this area was to get a detailed explanation of the port. This was done by an extremely knowledgeable guide and a tour of the port’s museum. This was a very beneficial lesson as it highlighted the many difficulties and solutions modern ports face with issues such as climate change, sustainability, efficiency, and competitiveness. This information provided a wonderful opportunity for both IBL and GSMA majors to see and feel the reality of working in a port environment. The thing that resonated the most included how there is a significantly greater push towards becoming carbon neutral than the United States. Seeing the larger turbine ever built was a very special moment. As we left the port there was a sense of reflection of both the importance of what our majors focus on along with a plethora of new and exciting paths to follow.
Once our crew exited the port’s industrial complex, we were dropped off in Rotterdam and set loose to explore the city. Many groups visited the large market found near town square due to the extensive diversity of meals to choose from. The day concluded with a short train ride back to The Hague, followed by a cold beer enjoyed on Barbarossa beach.
June 17, 2023
Today the class arrived at our final destination of the trip, the capital city Amsterdam, Netherlands. At this point, I have ventured through five countries, all with unique cultures and environments. The very first observation I had of Amsterdam was that its public roads were prominently filled with bicyclists. I constantly had the “head on a swivel” mentality in order to avoid being hit by one of the many bicyclists scattered all across the city. It was clear that my colleagues were not big fans of their presence.
Shortly after checking into our last hostel, I headed out with Alex and Jack to visit our first of two museums. Due to their popularity, both the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum were unfortunately sold out for the next few days. We were, however, able to visit the Verzets Resistance Museum, which is a museum dedicated to telling the story of Dutch resistance members who fought against the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II.
After a short lunch at a Chinese restaurant, our group took the underground metro to the Heineken Experience at the Heineken Brewery. Amsterdam is the home of this world-renowned beer company, and its brewery took us through the history and manufacturing process of the iconic green bottle. Fun fact that I learned during the tour: Heineken was the first beer imported to the United States at the end of the Prohibition era in 1933.
In the evening hours of the day, I ventured off on my own for dinner. The Pancake Bakery was a restaurant that I wanted to visit in the morning for a sweet breakfast. However, due to time constraints, this place became my spot for the night’s dinner. As a result, I chose to go out of my comfort zone and order one of their savory pancakes. Named the “Hungarian Pancake,”my meal consisted of a pancake stuffed with cheese, salami, chorizo, and tomatoes. It was a unique flavor combo, and I dared to pour maple syrup on top of it, which resulted in a surprisingly pleasant taste. To end the night, I ordered an Amsterdam classic for dessert: apple pie a la mode. On a more gloomy note, just a quarter mile down the same road from this playful restaurant lies the building that housed the family of Anne Frank.
I have found that in a group setting, such as this school trip, I tend to follow others and go with the flow of things pertaining to the day’s activities. This has alleviated me from the stress that comes with trying to fit as many activities as possible into the short time we have at each destination. At the same time however, I have learned to also venture by myself in order to do the things I want to do.
June 18, 2023
Today we had to be ready to leave at 1:30pm to go to the Amsterdam Maritime Museum, but sadly we had to wait about 20 minutes because people were late. We stayed at the museum for about an hour and a half, which was nice because the museum was big and really informative. After that we had free time until 4:45, because that is when the boat left for the boat tour. The boat tour lasted about two and half hours. The tour was fun because the captains were funny, but to be honest the boat tour was just of the industrial area and not the inner city of Amsterdam, which kinda sucked. After the long boat tour, Professor Chisholm and Sianna took us to a nice dinner at Hard Rock Café, which was a nice cap for the end of the trip!
Waking up in a new place fills me with an exhilarating sense of anticipation and gratitude. As someone who deeply appreciates the gift of waking up each morning, I am reminded that many people do not have that privilege. However, waking up in a foreign location adds an extra layer of excitement to my already cherished routine. For instance, when I first woke up in Budapest, the vibrant energy I felt was remarkable. Each morning, I would open my eyes with a surge of enthusiasm. The realization that I was in a new place, surrounded by unfamiliar sights, sounds, and experiences, created a thrilling sense of adventure.
I feel like as an American there was very many myths and misconceptions that I found were very wrong. One big misconception that I found about Europeans was that they are so “healthy.” For one, it’s impossible to get water in any city we have been to. Also, everyone here smokes cigarettes–which I already knew–but the people here really believe they are not “that bad.” To to be fair, however, I wouldn’t call Europeans “unhealthy” either.
June 19, 2023
“Amsterdam: the city where the streets inspire.” Well, at least that’s what a local shop owner told me. The trip here to Amsterdam was much tamer compared to our previous journeys. Compared to taking multiple trains from city to city, it was nice to take a single bus ride. Upon arrival, I had many plans to explore what it offered to a first-timer like me.
After checking into the hotel, a few of my friends and I decided to go out and explore Amsterdam with no plan in mind, just to see what was out there. We came across Amsterdam’s many canals that ran throughout the city. Boats filled with people exploring, partying, and celebrating could all be seen passing under the many bridges within the city.
We eventually stumbled upon the Red-Light District. Known for its sexually-oriented businesses such as sex shops, adult theaters, and legalized prostitution, the red-lit buildings brought a sense of awe to us, since it was the first time we had seen anything like this. What surprised me was how normalized the sex industry was in Amsterdam. The busy roads were filled with men, women, and even young children; sometimes, I would even see a couple and their baby with them walking around the area with no sense of urgency or concern. Asking a local at a bar about the situation, she replied, “It’s human nature to have needs, and if you are so concerned about it, then there is always another road to take to avoid it.”
Just after the red-light district was Amsterdam’s Centraal Station; not far from it, many restaurants lined the city streets, and the smell of food filled the air attracted tourists from across different corners of the world to grab a bite to eat. I noticed that Italian restaurants, steak restaurants, and shawarma joints were popular. There were also many souvenir and clothing shops, where I spent a good amount of money…to the point where I had to purchase another duffel bag to carry my bought goods for my family and me.
The next day we visited the Amsterdam Maritime Museum, where we learned about the extensive history of the Dutch maritime industry and Amsterdam’s Importance to the nation’s economy and commerce. The museum was filled with models of different ships used by the Dutch navy and merchants and even had a full-scale replica of a ship that allowed visitors to explore the hull and understand how crews slept and maintained the ship. Tools and equipment were also displayed to show how ships were made and how Dutch whale hunters hunted.
We then took a boat cruise across the city and into different ports containing different kinds of ships and cargo. I enjoyed this part of the trip the most because I have always seen these kinds of things in the movies, but I was able to experience and enjoy it in person. Our captain was very humorous and made the cruise much more enjoyable. He was a great host and made me and my classmate laugh during the duration of the trip. We ended up giving him one of our school hats, and he wore it for the rest of the time of the cruise. Some boats would even come up to us to poke some fun, and we would laugh and wave back; the captain would then use the onboard speaker to yell a joke over at the other vessel, making both passengers laugh.
In the end, the streets here are filled with a rich culture and history, and the architecture is beautiful. In general, the people were kind, and I did not have to worry about getting into danger or trouble while going out alone. The food was terrific, and the shopping was abundant; I wish we spent more time here, but I still enjoyed this section of the trip. I would one-hundred percent visit Amsterdam again with my family.