During my three months in Amsterdam, I have explored great places and met greater people. Upon my arrival, I found the Dutch very intimidating. Impeccably styled and enviably educated; the Dutch proved that all they seemed were what they are – sophisticated; charming and intelligent.
I encountered my first Dutch interaction when I was drafted into group thirty-one of the International Student Network Induction Week. Made up of people from three different continents, we were coached by former Universiteit van Amsterdam students; Quinten, Rogier and Matthijs. Our coaches showed us around Amsterdam, and gave us a crash-course in how the Dutch live. We bar-hopped the entire week and the beers kept on coming (provided by our generous coaches). The induction week well-and-truly gave us a taste of how we were going to live for the next five months.
On the penultimate night of the ISN induction week, I found myself at the cocktail bar all night with San-Franciscan, Kirsten. Our shared enthusiasm for Mr. Coco’s strawberry daiquiri’s and Long-Island ice teas forged a bond which has lasted the extent of my exchange. Kirsten is a tap-dancer who lives in my building, and we tend to spend most of our social time together; our favourite activities’ often involve a bar and good music.The area in Bijlmer where I live has been gentrified, therefore I live on a huge modern complex called Amsterdam Arena. There, Ajax’s team plays, and we are witness to thousands of chanting football fans weekly. I take the Metro everyday, and it only takes 15 minutes to get to Amsterdam Centraal Station.
I travel to university in the week using the GVB Metro; which costs around €1.86 per journey. I have been told to get a bike to save money; but the roads within the city are lethal! The pedestrians have final right-of-way, which means that we (the mere pedestrians) never get right-of-way when bikes are relentlessly charging the cycle paths! Alas, I choose to risk my life walking rather than risk my life biking; not just because of the crazy cycle traffic, but because I’ve seen one too many cyclists try to dislodge their bike wheel from a tram track before the impending tram arrives! (As psychologically traumatic to witness as it is for it to happen to you, I imagine).The courses at UvA are very challenging. Due to an admin error, I have been enrolled in the Social Sciences faculty, instead of the Humanities faculty. Instead of being part of the media department, I am part of the communications department. I only realised the mistake when I had to choose a course due to a previous choice being cancelled; and found myself confronted by sociology lectures. Although sociology and social sciences are not my main subjects, I believe this learning detour will ultimately benefit my university career. (Hopefully!)
Now that I’ve settled in Amsterdam, I have established a routine. I live in a small studio apartment, and when I am not spending my time binging on Netflix I travel into town with Kirsten to meet our friend Ruby. I sat by Ruby on my first day in Amsterdam, and it turns out she is a Cardiff University student too! Ruby lives in Jordaan which is the most beautiful and central place in Amsterdam. Kirsten, Ruby and me all took a year out from University, therefore we are all slightly older and have a lot in common.Amsterdam is great. I must admit it is hard living here because I miss the family dynamics of back home. The most significant thing about my time abroad is how much you are witness to your own loneliness. I could insert the cliché ‘I’m not lonely, I’m just alone’ here, but I would be lying. I feel very much lonely, but not in the pitying lonely way. Lonely in the way that there is nobody here to share my own personal experience. Everyone that I meet is a stranger; and without any background information to build and decipher someone’s character, there is a detachment between everybody, that is also ignored by everybody.
This short blog post is an opportunity to introduce myself again after my six month blog-hiatus. Where I am, what I am doing, and what I will be doing. I’ll use this platform to write of Amsterdam, and my experience of the Netherlands.
Until my next post…