The University of Iowa

Such Great Heights

October 14th, 2014

By Maddie Welter

The last couple of weeks have been full of moments of excitement and introspection. I have tried many new things and pushed the limits of my comfort zone on a number of occasions.

About two weeks ago, I went on a day trip to the Swiss Alps. We were supposed to hike up a mountain in a place called Engelberg, but had to reorganize our trip due to a festival in a small Swiss town where cows were descending from their mountainside pastures, thus closing off the road. (Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.) So instead of hiking, we ended up making our ascent up a different mountain via gondola – a first for me!

A nice scenic shot of the city of Amsterdam.

I can’t be too upset about this change because the resulting view was absolutely stunning. As a bonus, we got to go down an alpine slide. You hop into a sled and steer yourself down the mountain on a narrow, curvy path. I successfully navigated it without falling off the track, but I was taking it pretty slowly at first. The day ended with some wonderful Swiss chocolate.

The following weekend, we had fall break. October 3rd is a German holiday so we had a nice day off from class. Eleven of my friends and I flew up to Amsterdam.  I’m extremely proud of how our little Amsterfam was able to successfully navigate the city and how much we got to do.

Me in the Swiss Alps!

We relaxed and drank wine on a canal tour, took in the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, walked through the Red Light district, and made a trip to a breakfast restaurant appropriately named Pancakes! Our hostel was less than glamorous, but we had a wonderful weekend and I think we all agreed that Amsterdam was going to be one of our favorite places.

The adventures continued this past week, when my global leadership class had a team-building workshop in the woods. After playing some communication games, we strapped on some harnesses and headed over to a ropes course.  Basically, two of us climbed up a tree via a ladder and then tried to walk across a wire using one another and some ropes to balance.

I’ve never considered myself to have a fear of heights, and we were never truly in danger. However, there were a few seconds when I was looking at the ground and thinking of all the ways that things could go wrong, however irrational that is.

But then, I managed to look forward instead, and thought about the fact that I’d probably never do something like that again. That gave me enough confidence to do other activities, including the formidable trapeze. Jumping from a platform and grabbing onto a metal bar was the scariest thing I did that day, but also the most satisfying.

My friends and I, or as we call ourselves, the Amsterfam!

In several ways, this little adventure reflected my study abroad experience. I convinced myself that there was nothing to fear, but still had moments of serious apprehension. There were a lot of things that I didn’t believe I prepared for, but when the moment of truth came I took it in stride and was ultimately happy that I did. So whether I was thousands of feet in the air in the Swiss Alps, a couple hundred feet high in the forest in Freiburg, or several feet below sea level in Amsterdam, I’m quickly learning that I’m ready for anything.

This week I will be traveling to Brussels, Luxembourg and Paris. This trip will be the most academic of my travel, and my schedule is booked with meetings at various EU institutions. I’m not so thrilled to wear a suit for the next five days, but I am very excited to listen to speakers who are so close to the political process in Europe. And if nothing else, I have plenty of waffles and crepes in my immediate future. 

Maddie is a senior from St. Charles, Illinois, majoring in International Relations at the University of Iowa. She is currently studying abroad on the IES European Union program in Freiburg, Germany.