Before I came to Amsterdam to begin my study abroad experience, I had many people give me lists of things that I needed to do while abroad. There were endless cities, restaurants, museums, and monuments I absolutely had to visit before returning home. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit overwhelming considering I had never even been to Europe before, but it was very exciting to see the vast array of options that I had.
There was one thing that no one had mentioned to me that I knew I absolutely had to do; attend a European soccer game. Soccer is by far my favorite sport and I have been playing my entire life. The sport is a big deal in Europe and going to a game has been a dream of mine for a long time.
On October 10th, 2017, I checked my top priority off my list: attending the Netherlands vs. Sweden game at the Amsterdam ArenA. What made the game even more exciting was the fact that it was a qualifier game for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The Netherlands needed to beat Sweden by seven goals to be able to qualify. To be perfectly honest, I was nervous. Being a soccer player myself, I know the mixed feelings of excitement and nerves before an important game. I wanted the Netherlands to win and move on to the World Cup. To win by seven goals is difficult, especially when playing against a good team. However, I went into the game with hope. I wanted to show my endless support for the country that I am calling home for four months.
Once the game began, I could already see how badly the Netherlands wanted to qualify. Sixteen minutes into the game, Dutch player Arjen Robben shot a beautiful penalty kick into the bottom right corner of Sweden’s net. The crowd went wild. My friends and I jumped out of our seats cheering with the people in our section, knocking over our food and drinks. Twenty-four minutes later, Robben scored again! Ryan Babel, another Dutch player, assisted the goal, leading Robben to shoot the ball from outside of the box into the bottom right corner. For my first European soccer game, this was incredibly exciting. I had the chills the entire time I was in that stadium. I could truly feel the spirit and excitement that the Dutch fans had. We were dominating this game.
The Netherlands finished the game strong with a 2-0 win over Sweden. It was a great game and a great effort, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough for them to qualify for the World Cup. Still to this day I couldn’t be happier that I saw this game in person.
My advice to anyone studying abroad is to make a list of your priorities. Definitely take other people’s ideas into consideration, but make sure to explore the activities that you enjoy doing at home in your new country. Remind yourself to take advantage of the unique opportunities available, even if it isn’t the popular choice! I have been to many soccer games in the United States, but being able to experience the game in another part of the world was so cool and definitely a highlight of my semester abroad so far.
COVER PHOTO: Talia Berman