Monday, March 07, 2011

Riley N. - Amsterdam, Netherlands - Spring 2011

Hey Everyone,
So I know it has already been a month since I first arrived in Amsterdam so I will try to bring you up to speed. The quick "layover" in Chicago was nice as I was able to pack and buy last second items for my departure. After saying goodbye to some friends, we departed for the airport. After some confusion checking in I went through security and waited for my flight. My flight was pretty empty. I was on the window and the seat next to me was open which was nice. I spent most of my flight sleeping, eating, uploading and looking at Costa Rica pictures. Overall the plane ride was fine and before I knew it I had arrived at Amsterdam Schipol Airport. 
After getting off the plane and going through customs, I found my other bag and tried to figure out what to do. Arriving in a different country with no plan or way to get into your room poses lots of different ideas on what to do. I figured out how to buy a train ticket and hopped on the next one. This took me to Centraal Station, one of the largest stations I have ever seen. I found a cab who took me the quick 5 min ride to my dorm. My dorm isn't the traditional dorm. I live in a place called Funenpark. Funenpark is this very long curved building that has different colored stairwells and windows. Here is a description I found on it. "The blocks on the perimeter of ‘Het Funen’ serve as a noise baffler for the railway and reflect the dynamism of trains. The glass, scale-like sound barrier was attached to the building like a second skin. The coloured panels recreate the rhythmic effect of a stroboscope, thus emphasizing the sense of speed..."
Rergardless our building, which we dubbed the Fun Zone will be a great place to live for the duration of my stay. 
The first day, since I couldn't get in my room until my roommate was back, I decided to wander. My 3 bags and myself started walking towards downtown Amsterdam. Not knowing where I was going I just continued to walk what I thought was West. After about an hour of walking around I decided to stop at a local cafe called Tisfris. This was a very nice and quaint little cafe. I got a mineral water and nice roast beef sandwich. After I continued to walk around and take pictures. Walking around for nearly 5 hours I decided it was time to walk back to Funenpark. By the grace of god and a few lucky turns I found Funenpark. I waited patiently until I found some students that looked American and they let me in the building. I finally had made it to my room where I was greeted by my roommate Nick. Nick attends Penn State (as does many other kids on the program, Penn State definitely is represented the most in our program). After settling and moving some of my stuff in I quickly crashed from the long day and slept through the night. The jet lag fortunately did not effect me for too long, it just messed up the first few nights of sleep. 
Classes at the Universiteit van Amsterdam have been great. I have enjoyed all of my classes thus far. Classes are generally with all Americans although there have been a few international students. The classes are usually pretty small and are very active. There is a lot of participation also. Classes are all three hours long and once a week so although the class itself is long and we go through a lot in class, they haven't been bad by any means. 
My Favorite Parts of Amsterdam:
  • How active everyone is. Whether you are 3 years old or 75, you will be riding a bike in pretty cold weather. 
  • Biking. With about 500,000 bikes in the city, the bike paths are very accessible and its a great way to see the city.
  • How aesthetically pleasing the city is. The mix of modern and old buildings is very cool.
  • How diverse the city is. Wherever you look you will always see people with different backgrounds and nationalities. I tend to hear about 3 to 4 different languages a day
  • How small it is. On bike I can be pretty much anywhere in 25 min. 
Things that I have had to adjust to.
  • Dutch. This language is very difficult to read and pronunciation is a lot harder than I expected it to be.
  • No Grid System. The way the streets encompass the heart of the city, there is no "direct" way to get anywhere. It has taken this long to feel comfortable with "knowing" my way around the city.
  • The euro, it is very easy to burn through money. 
  • Small refrigerators. This means going to the grocery store every couple of days to buy for a couple of days.
So far I have had an amazing time in Amsterdam. I am planning to travel to Brussels and Bruge within the next couple of weeks. I have friends starting to visit soon which will be great to see familiar faces. As I have really started to settle in and feel more like a local rather than a tourist I am just grateful of this experience. I plan to join a club soccer team as soon as possible and will hopefully be able to work closely with some American businesses for my research project. 
I hope all is well! I will start to update more as I do more stuff!



Anonymous Cary K said...

Hi Riley,

Your stay sounds extremely interesting and fun. I can only imagine how different it must be not knowing what is being said or where to go. I hope that you get on a soccer team and make some local friends so they can show you around the city and to different, more hidden spots. I hope all is well and that you expand your horizons to whole new lengths. Stay safe and enjoy each day.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Riley!

So glad to hear that you are enjoying Amsterdam. It sounds like a great time there! I'm sure it was a bit of cultural shock when you first got there, including the different language, money, and the street systems. But it sounds like you are beginning to feel more comfortable. Hopefully you do a lot more sightseeing and meet more locals that will be able to show you around.Good luck with soccer over there! I hope you find a team that you enjoy playing with. Enjoy the rest of your semester!

-Caroline Gunnell

4:15 PM  
Blogger Morribizzle said...

Hey man!
Can you give me two tips regarding selecting classes in another country?

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Riley Niles said...

Hey thanks for the posts! I am having an absolutely wonderful time and am enjoying all that the Netherlands has to offer.

Morrison- First see what you need to complete at Elmhurst and find if there are any corresponding classes in your program. Another tip would be asking previous students in the same program if they could refer you some of their favorite classes. After getting on my programs facebook group page, I found posts from previous members explaining and referring the best classes.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Rocco Catrone said...

Hello Riley,
It sounds like you are having an excellent time! I like your "by the grace of God" bit. I feel like that will happen to me too. I will be studying in Italy next fall and i have a few questions for you;
Small fridges sound like it sucks to buy food all the time. Is it costing you a lot of money to go buy food every few days?
How did/are you getting over the language barrier?
Are the people nice and helpful to you?
I have always wanted to visit Amsterdam. It looks and sounds like an excellent place to be! I look forward to reading more of your posts.

2:59 PM  

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