Hello from Amsterdam!
I can’t believe that I have been here for 3 weeks already, time is truly flying by. I am finally starting to feel more settled now that I am in the routine of going to classes and I have a better idea of where things are located in the city. I am currently sitting outside the business school on the most gorgeous day, all of the students are sitting outside enjoying the weather! Apparently in Amsterdam it was a miserable and rainy summer, and that the weather over the last few weeks has been very unusually hot (like 85 degrees!). I’ve heard many people refer to it was “Summer in September”.
You can tell that the Dutch extremely appreciate warm days such as these, the outside cafes are packed and there are so many people having parties on their boats or simply sunbathing in the parks. I’m feeling a bit spoiled since I know this weather won’t last much longer, in fact a giant rain storm is suppose to hit this weekend and last for four days!
I began classes last Tuesday and I have classes every week from Tuesday-Friday. We are on the quarter system, which is something I have never had to deal with before. There is only three weeks of actual learning/lecture, then a week of midterms with no class, then another three weeks of lecture, then finals. Everything is very fast paced since an entire semesters worth of work is crammed into 6 learning weeks! They expect you to do most of the “learning” outside the classroom, either from reading the textbook or going over practice problems. The lectures are really just to clarify the main points of the reading and briefly review some equations/problems, you definitely cannot get away with just going to class and not studying on your own!
The learning style here reminds me a lot of University of Cape Town and I believe that my semester there really prepared me for the rigor of these courses. They are going to be challenging, but most definitely doable! I am enrolled in “Economics of Markets/Organizations” and “Regulation, Regulatory Impact, and Reform” which are both economics classes. There is no central campus and all of the university buildings are scattered throughout the city. Everyday I have to bike 10-20 minutes to different classrooms across town! Yesterday was a very monumental moment for me because I was able to find my classroom without stopping to look at my map, yay!
Speaking of which, I have found that the most frustrating “culture shock” for me has been navigating through the city. I was really frustrated the last few weeks because I felt like I was always getting lost. I hated that I had to look at my phone every 2 minutes to check where I was on the map and to get me in the right direction. There is also no street signs here which has added to the difficulty! The names on the streets are in very small print on the sides of the corner buildings, but definitely not easy to see. All of the bike paths are usually one-way streets as well.
I hate feeling like a tourist and not knowing where I am or what way to get home. Over the last few days, I’ve try to come to peace that it is OK to get lost and that it is just part of the learning curve of adjusting to a new city.
I also met my roommate for the first time last week, she arrived in Amsterdam right before classes began. Her name is Sui and she is originally from China, but goes to school at University of Connecticut. We have one of the same classes together and she is really easy to live with! I don’t think we will have any problems this semester :).
I also signed up for the Equestrian club last week! There is a student organization of over 50 girls who ride at my university and they host horseback riding lessons throughout the week. The riding school where the lessons are held is inside of a very old building, it is a really odd set up. The riding school is the oldest in the Netherlands from the early 1800’s! I had a really nice time riding last week and I am going again to ride tonight. It’s a really great way to meet other girls my age who are Dutch! The riding school also hosts monthly social events and horse jumping competitions which I hope to participate in.
After a long week of classes and studying, it was time for another mini-vacation :)! Three American friends from my apartment building and I decided on a whim to plan a trip to Italy for the weekend. We were able to find super cheap flights to Milan ($100 roundtrip) and we stayed in hostels that only cost us about $100 total for three nights.
We left for Milan early Friday morning and arrived to our hostel around midday. We spent the day sight seeing in Milan and visited the main tourist attractions. There wasn’t a ton to do for free in Milan except walk around and look at old churches/castles. Being on a student budget, we decided to skip out on the museums to save some money. We still had a great time exploring the city on foot! For dinner, we went to the “student district” of Milan where there were tons of restaurants and bars. We picked a random restaurant and I had the most fabulous pasta I have ever had! From that moment on, I was hooked on Italian food (and wine). In total, I had two pizzas, three pasta dishes and three gelato ice creams in only three days! The food was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
The next morning, we woke up early to catch the train to Venice! The train ride from Milan to Venice was about 2.5 hours, but luckily I was able to do some reading for class during that time. I absolutely loved my time in Venice. Our hostel was extremely modern and beautiful and was located just a short ferry ride away from the main island. On our first day in Venice, we grabbed a few bottles of wine and took a Gondola ride through the canals! This was by far the highlight of the weekend. After the Gondola ride, a friend recommended the “best pizza place in Venice” to us so we decided to give it a try, and it did not disappoint!
On the second day of Venice, we spent the day walking through the city (our favorite free activity) and we splurged and bought tickets to two museums. We also climbed to the tope of the bell tower and saw the view of the whole city. If you can’t tell, I’m getting very tired of typing so I’m going to wrap things up soon!
On Monday (the last day), we needed to take the train back to Milan in order to catch our flight home that afternoon. Little did we know that public transportation was on strike that day! We waiting outside of our hostel at the ferry station for over 30 minutes to catch the ferry to the train station before. Someone had to come up to us and let us know that they were on strike! In order to catch our train on time, we had to order a water taxi ($100 later). When the taxi finally arrived, it was 20 minutes before our train was suppose to leave the station. The taxi driver said it was impossible to make it there on time, but we still had hope! The water taxi arrived to the train station at 12:50, which was the exact time that our train was suppose to leave. We ran out of the taxi into the station and saw our train! We hopped on as it was about to pull out of the station, we literally would have missed it if we were 30 seconds later. Talk about good luck!
Anyways, this blog post has been so long and my fingers are tired. But to wrap it up, I had an amazing time in Italy. I was so happy to be back in Amsterdam though, I really missed it while I was away. There is something really special about Amsterdam that makes it feel like home. I’m planning to spend this upcoming weekend exploring the Netherlands. The international student network is planning a day trip on Saturday to the neighboring city of Rotterdam. I will write about it next week! Thank you for reading my blog, I love when you write a comment on it so that I know I didn’t type this all for nothing haha.