A Historic Semester Begins -- with Pomp and Pancakes!
On August 17th, 111 students arrived in Amsterdam for a study abroad semester that will go down in the annals of CIEE Amsterdam's history as our biggest semester ever. While enrollment in CIEE Amsterdam's two semester programs (to wit: Social Sciences and Business and Culture) has been growing steadily for the past four semesters, this is the first semester that we have crossed the magic number of 100 students -- which all of us at the CIEE Amsterdam Study Center could not be more excited about! Now that we are one month into the program, we thought we would take a quick look back at the beginning of this (already historic) semester.
Arrival Day: Rain, More Rain, and Pancakes
When students arrived at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on August 17th, they were greeted with overcast skies, the city of Amsterdam in a state of day-long dusk, and rain. Not just your regular rain, but torrential downpour-type rain. One might say that this was an inauspicious beginning to students' semester in Amsterdam, but by throwing them in the proverbial deep end of Dutch weather patterns, we were able to see what our students were made of on day one.
I can report back (truthfully!) that, across the board, our students did not allow the rain to get to them. Not on this day of firsts, when they picked up their University of Amsterdam student ID, the keys to their dorm room (slash shelter from the rain), registered as officials inhabitants of the city of Amsterdam, and received their course schedule.
Two of our students, Kenneth and Mauli, were interviewed that same day by the University of Amsterdam, and were asked about the most random item they had packed in their suitcase. No doubt because of their infectious smiles, the UvA decided to post their answers (and an accompanying picture of said smiling CIEE'ers) on their official Facebook page. Although they did not include a hashtag, I think a #CIEErepresent is in order!
After a day that revolved mostly around waiting in line, a General Welcome presentation, introducing themselves to 100+ other students, and, oh, rain showers straight out of the Old Testament, we decided to treat our students to a typical Dutch meal: pancakes!
"Pancakes," you scoff, "Americans grow up eating those!" Yes, but not these types of pancakes -- and not on a boat! Dutch pancakes are considerably flatter and bigger than their American counterparts, and also much more eccentrically decorated. While students could choose between apple, bacon and plain pancakes as their base, they had 20+ different toppings to choose from, ranging from ham, chicken, and salami to five different types of sugar, pineapple wedges, marshmallows, and chocolate sprinkles. Not only that, but these doughy works of art were served on a boat (called, aptly, the Pancake Boat) that took our students on a tour of the river IJ, which snakes around the city of Amsterdam.
I think I can speak for our students when I say that our welcome dinner hit the spot, and made for a great/delectable finish to students' first day in their home away from home.
Orientation: PowerPoints upon PowerPoints, and Fun on the Beach
In order to prepare our students fully for their semester in Amsterdam, we organized three days of orientation sessions, in which we covered such important aspects of their study abroad experience as academics, health and safety, practical matters, and a preview of the activities and interest groups our students can join during their four months in Amsterdam. While this information is extremely important -- and while we tried our best to make these presentations as lively and interactive as possible -- we fully realize that we needed to hit the pause button on this parade of PowerPoint presentations.
Cue a trip to the beach!
As Judith de Lange -- our newest colleague, who joined us this summer to help us out with the summer and semester programs -- writes in her blog post dedicated to this Orientation Day Trip, our students built innovative sand castles, hunted each other down in the dunes (all, uhm, in good fun, of course!) and learned more about when and how to intervene in sensitive situations, and which tactics they might use to defuse potentially dangerous situations.
You can read Judith's full blog post (and take a look at more pictures) here: http://study-abroad-blog-amsterdam-ss.ciee.org/2015/09/beach-time-for-lucky-ducks.html.
Final Introductions: CIEE Students Meet... the Royal Family?!
September marks not just the beginning of the new academic year, it is also the month in which the King addresses a joint session of the States General of the Netherlands (consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate) and lays out his preferred legislative agenda in a speech from the throne. This day is known in Dutch as Prinsjesdag (or "Prince's Day"), and it takes place in the city of The Hague, which as the seat of government, is the Netherlands' de facto second capital city.
Five of our most politicially active/royal-loving/hardiest students braved the rain for a chance to see the (solid gold) royal carriage transport the King and Queen to the Binnenhof (or "Inner Court"), which is the collection of 13th-century buildings that houses both "chambers" of the Dutch Parliament. Afterwards, they -- along with throngs of Dutch patriots -- stormed the gates in order to catch a glimpse of the King and Queen from atop the balcony. As you can see in the pictures below, our students managed to secure front-row seats, uhm, front-line standing spots to this rare display of Dutch pomp and circumstance.
Since there is no way of topping an almost-audience with the Dutch King and Queen, this does it for the first newsletter of the Fall semester. I look forward to seeing you here again in late October, when we will talk about midterm evaluations, small group dinners at CIEE staff members' homes, and our historical day trip to the city of Gouda.
Until then, all best wishes from Amsterdam, and CIEE Amsterdam staff,
Program Coordinator Social Sciences