By Nia Edwards Clarke, University of Amsterdam (UvA), Netherlands
After a long 13 hour coach journey from London to Amsterdam, I wake up sleepy eyed to the land of bikes and stroopwafels.
The station ahead has a rainbow walkway to the metro. I decide to take this 40 minute metro to Daalwijk student halls in the Southeast of Amsterdam, rather than the 50€ taxi I was quoted a few minutes earlier – no thanks! The service was streamlined and efficient as expected, and instead only cost 3.2€. After struggling to find the offices to pick up my keys, I befriend another lost student and we struggle through this first hurdle together. I was impressed with the flat instantly. It was newly renovated and pretty clean. My room was slightly bigger than those you get in Oak House, but all furniture was brand new, and I was welcomed with fresh bedding and a kitchen set. This was certainly a must for me as I had to pack lightly and DUWO (the student housing company) organised this great service for international students. What was unfortunate was that EVERYTHING was brand new, wrapped in plastic, and frankly sometimes unnecessary. This means my flat now has 4 peelers, 4 bottle openers, 4 woks, even 4 mops! But no graters, colanders, and other kitchen essentials that would have been nice if the inventories were made per-flat rather than per-person. Not to mention how bad it is to expect kitchenware and bedding to have such a short life-span per cycle of students. Anyway, consumption rant over.
Once I arrived, I rejigged the room to maximise space so I could look out the huge window and balcony. Yes, balcony 😊. Turns out I’ve got all the feng shui wrong by placing my bed facing the door, woops! At least the room looks better. I head out to get groceries with a new flatmate. Tips for those who don’t know – many Dutch shops don’t take Mastercard or Visa so it’s always better to carry cash with you if you don’t have a Dutch bank account yet. The Daalwijk halls are right by a great big shopping centre that was bustling with playgrounds, live music, shops, supermarkets and a market. As a vegan I headed straight to get fresh produce to cook up some healthy, heart-warming meals for the next couple of days. I definitely needed it to avoid feeling unwell and homesick because I was an absolute wreck saying goodbye to my family in Victoria Station.
Once back, I cooked and texted the Manchester-Amsterdam groupchat to see if anyone wanted to meet up. Low and behold, Barnaby, our de facto social sec for the group invited me to the final ESN Party of their intro week. A great experience to see Amsterdam for the first time ever, wonder round Vondelpaark, and go to a cheesy club night with some familiar faces. This definitely lifted my spirits after feeling so nervous about moving away from friends and relatives I’ve grown so accustomed to.
The next day my mission was to buy a bike. An absolute must to get around the city because its cheaper, faster and frankly the best mode of transport. An hour and a half walk took me through luscious green suburbs and along rivers full of wildlife, then past nicely decorated flats, business parks and finally to the city. I cannot express my feeling of wonder walking along the river Amstel and looking at beautiful house-boats, 5 story 17th century houses right or brutalist modern buildings. I was told Waterlooplein market was a good location for cheap bikes, so with my bargaining hat on, I confidently start asking for bikes for €40, was laughed at by all 5 stalls I tried, and ended up cycling away with a bike and lock for €100 instead. The price jump from the UK to Amsterdam is quite a shock but even so, €100 for a bike isn’t bad considering I will get some cash for it at the end of my academic year.
On my third day, I head into town once more to meet a friend from Manchester for coffee and a check-in about how our settling-in period has been. He takes me to LOT61 coffee roasters who are super hip and lovely. Then we stroll to a wonderful dark bar called Papeneiland Café full of candles and lit-up beer signs to devour what was most certainly the best apple pie in the world. A wonderful way to end my first weekend in my new home that feels safe, welcoming and brimming with new adventures. Now onto learn Dutch!