Friday, July 26, 2013

Ryder L. - Amsterdam, Netherlands - Spring 2013

After recently getting back from the best experience of my life studying abroad in Amsterdam, I thought I would share my experience with people interested in doing the same thing. I hope to enlighten people who are interested in studying abroad in general, and more specifically Amsterdam, about things that you might not have thought of prior to leaving. While I was there, I learned a lot about myself, what I am capable of, and what I could of done better or not at all prior to leaving on my adventure.

For me, culture shock didn’t play a huge role in my adjustment process once I got to Amsterdam. If anything, it was culture excitement for me because that was all I could feel flowing through my body for the first two and a half weeks. The biggest shock for me was walking into the grocery store and not being able to find anything on my list. Everything was in Dutch and there were hardly any labels that looked familiar to me. I had no choice but to ask other shoppers around me in the grocery store where something was or what it looked like. Luckily, the Dutch are friendly, helpful people and also love to use English. I think I avoided the negative effects of culture shock by getting into a routine early and doing my best to stick to it. Everyday being abroad is an experience; so don’t beat yourself up over it if you don’t stick to a routine you lay out for yourself. You have to take it day by day and do what you can in each day. If something comes up, go with it.

As far as traveling goes, I would highly recommend planning your trips before you leave. I know this sounds nearly impossible since you don’t know your schedule before you leave and you don’t know who will be able to go with you. However, everyone else is in the same boat. They do what I did; played it by year until they got there and then you end up paying 3 times as much for the trip than you would have by planning early. Doing it early will save you a TON of money, and you may even be able to go on more trips with the money you save by planning early. If you’re worried about traveling alone by making plans without the people in your group, don’t be. Most people don’t have a plan and will jump on board with whoever the person with the plan is, so finding someone to go with you is not an issue. It sounds daunting planning this early, and if somebody told me this before I left, I probably wouldn’t have followed trough. But it will save a lot of money and possibly give you more options for traveling.

The schooling is much different than I was used to in the States. Classes are much less frequent, but the time spent in them is much greater. At least for me it was. For example, I had a class that met once a week, but for 4 hours straight. Most of my classes were once a week; I only had one that met two times a week. This may make it seem like a pretty easy course load. However, most of the work is done outside of the class. The University of Amsterdam is a research university, so at the start of the semester, in each class you are expected to choose a research topic that will be your focus for the semester. You are expected to conduct your own research, like setting up interviews with professionals in the field of your topic, or taking surveys around the city. It is somewhat daunting at first, but then you get rolling and gain confidence as you go. This benefited my experience greatly because it forced me to get out of my comfort zone and have conversations with professionals in an industry. By the end of it, I felt I had the confidence to sit down with anyone and have a conversation.

Have a great time studying abroad!! You will not regret it. You have no clue what you are in store for, so I hope this post helps to give you some idea. Safe travels!


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