'All in all, it was a good run'
My last day in Utrecht was a beautiful almost-Autumn day. I was really looking forward to going home but it was also sad to leave such a beautiful city and the friends to whom I had gotten so close. I truly realised what I loved about the city when I had to leave.
I first had to pick up a few souvenirs for those back home. So, I hopped onto my bicycle and rode along the kade to the Dom Tower. It was quite an experience to be there as a tourist after having walked past the memorabilia shops so many times without having to pay any attention to them. I spent a long time picking out the fridge magnets that best captured what Utrecht felt like to me. I regret not picking up one which mimics the name of the city on train station platforms. On that day, it seemed too simple a gift but I quickly realised that was probably my last walk around the Dom Tower.
I chuckled at the old superstition of not walking through the Dom Tower if you are a graduate of Utrecht University. However, it was time. And I only had one chance to do it. So, I traced my steps back to the cobbled pavement, got duly distracted by the little garden at the side, and found myself staring at the Dom Tower from its sides. It was quite tall and I had not been able to go up to the top and see the city from there. Another regret.
To move on, I walked through the cool arches of the tower and stood facing the church at Dom Square. I was briefly transported back to my Graduation Day when I felt so awestruck that this is where I was getting my degree from. I would also meet up with friends at this square. It was an easy spot to explain and the centre of everything in some sense. I took a moment and sat below the statue of Graaf Jan van Nassau. I was glad to have gotten a chance to see the old regal university building and the imprints of the forts surrounding the square.
I had to meet a friend to say goodbye. We decided to meet at the City Centre Library and then hang out at the Kade. So, I cycled to the library and, while waiting for her, I once again surprised myself by finding a whole other wing to explore. I felt a little jealous of all the people working in the nice, quiet, and conducive warmth of the library and wondered how different I would have been if I had a chance to study there. Would I have been smarter because there were so many books at my fingertips? Would I have scored better because I could have done exams and studied with friends? Who would I have been if had access to this from the very beginning? Regret was a heavy shadow following me around that day.
Yet I had people to say goodbye to. And a lovely home that I was quite sad to give up. I had also gotten so attached to my bike that I almost cried when the buyer took it away. When I was leaving, two of the friends who had come to pick me up from Utrecht Central when I first arrived were there to say goodbye. As I waved to them after walking through the ticket gate, I couldn't help but think about how this was a full circle.
The two waving figures were my best takeaways from the city. Looking at them, I realised that I had still gotten what I had come to the Netherlands for. I'd met my beloved classmates and got very close to them. I had managed to get at least some university experience. I had seen my university buildings and I even learned some of their secrets. I had met my teachers and had been able to connect with them. I even made more friends from outside my department. Most importantly, I now actually know what living in the Netherlands feels like. All in all, I think it was a good run.