My first couple of weeks in Amsterdam have literally flown by. It feels like yesterday I turned up alone at Schipol Airport with no idea what to expect. Today already I feel like so much has happened since that morning, and I’d love to share some of my first impressions since that moment.
The first thing that happened since arriving at UvA was the International Student Network, which is their equivalent of the International Society. The group picked us up from the airport and for the first weekend organised events to immerse us into life in Amsterdam. Apart from faculty introduction meetings, our Dutch student guides took us to the classic tourist spots like the ‘iamsterdam sign’, a canal cruise, bar crawls etc. The weekend was organised really well, with 700 of us being split into groups of about 12. Each group spent all weekend together and I can honestly say I love my group. It was really good to have a set group of people who you could explore and go out with, and to this day we’re all there for each other to hang out and ask questions.
Apart from ISN events that have been running, the other most prominent event of my stay so far has been getting myself set up. In Amsterdam most stores don’t accept credit cards and a lot don’t accept visa debit, the few minority don’t even take cash. For tourist things this is fine but for normal living appliances where it is necessary to go to a dutch shop, this can become an issue. Also public transport in Amsterdam is pretty expensive – so a bike is also necessary. Getting a bank account and bike of my own was the wake up call that made me realise that this is not just a holiday and I am here to study for 6 months. Getting a bike especially, was super fun, even if learning to ride in the city is absolutely petrifying.
Finally after about a week, I’ve also managed to navigate my way around without a map. You may think a week is a long time, but when every canal/bridge/bike/house looks the same it’s incredibly easy to get lost. Walking around without a map has been amazing for my navigation skills, but in addition I have also found some amazing places that are free of tourists and full of dutch culture. I’m not saying I haven’t done the traditionally tourist things like the Heineken Experience, and visit Zaasne Schans, but I have also seen another side to Amsterdam. Some areas are full of cute dutch bars, cafes and boutiques and vintage stores that I think people often miss. As a result, I’m in a state of constant exploration, which is always fun and exciting.
Obviously, I came here to study so I will quickly talk about university. So far my hours have been similar to at home – about 8 hours a week. Seminars and lectures seem to be synonymous term here so the classwork is less intimate, although the readings have been very intense. In the Netherlands, the semester is also split into 3 blocks, so for this first 6 week block I am only taking 2 classes – which is a perfect workload. So far university staff and lecturers have been really helpful and the difference in the content of the lectures has been so refreshing. But I haven’t had any assignments due yet, so I shan’t count my chickens.
So far my stay has been amazing. I’ve met new people, explored new places and learnt so many new things. I’ve completely fallen in love with Amsterdam and the way you’re never done discovering this amazing city. I hope to blog again soon, and wish everyone already abroad or planning to go the best of luck.