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2 posts from May 2013

05/21/2013

Schiermonnikoog

Although students have trouble pronouncing it, Schiermonnikoog is frequently the highlight of many students’ semesters. As a former CIEE student myself, Schier, as many commonly refer to it, holds a special place in my heart.  For a weekend students are able to get away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, school, and traveling and spend their days outside surrounded by the serene landscape of the island. We arrived Friday evening by ferry, taking in the first sights of beach and water. After getting our rental bikes we took off for the old farm that has been turned into a hostel where we stay. Everyone was happy that dinner arrived shortly thereafter, which we finished up with cake in celebration of the birthdays of two of our students. Afterwards, things got less friendly as students divided up into teams for a pubquiz. A pubquiz is essentially a trivia game that often takes place in Dutch pubs throughout Amsterdam.  The competition was fierce! After that there was free time for students, some of whom went off to explore the island’s one bar for some local culture.


  Schier1

  Schier2

In order to keep things running smoothly at the farm, each student is assigned a task such as setting up breakfast, cleaning up dinner, cleaning the farm at the end of the weekend, etc. It sounds a bit like a school trip, but trust me it is necessary!  For example, on Saturday morning the designated students woke up a little earlier to set up breakfast and make coffee and tea. After breakfasting we hopped on our bikes and headed for our ‘fietstocht’ or bike tour of the island. This is always an enjoyable activity and gives students an opportunity to get the lay of the land and see what the rest of the island looks like. In the afternoon students went off for more free time to walk to the lighthouse, go to the beach, play soccer at the farm, or sit in the sun with some milkshakes. We were grateful for the few hours of sun and downtime! Once everyone had arrived back at the farm grills and food were delivered and we went about setting up for our BBQ. Thankfully several students jumped on the opportunity to be grill masters and spent the next hour or two grilling the meat and veggie burgers, while other students set up the rest of the food inside. Time to eat! Students piled their plates full with salad, burgers, sausages, fries, veggie burgers, pickles, tomatoes, chicken sate, bread, and fruit salad. After everyone had eaten as much as possible it was time to clean up and head to the beach for our bonfire! Once again, we climbed on our bikes, this time having to navigate the small island in the dark, and trekked on the beach to our campfire location. Although it took a while to get started, eventually Renée and Vincent were able to get a nice fire going and we all roasted marshmellows and made stroopwafel smores. What’s a stroopwafel you may ask? You’ll just have to come to Amsterdam to find out!

  Schier 3

Schier 4

After our bonfire we headed back to the farm – some of our students had an early wakeup call the next morning! Sunday morning, at 7:00 half the group sleepily stumbled onto their bikes to head to the beach for a mudflat walking tour. Reports were that several people fell, and that it was windy and cold, but overall a unique  and comical experience!  We all had breakfast together, before the other group headed to the beach for a few hours of kite flying. These aren’t your average kites – they take multiple people to fly and the force is so strong that it lifts one of the handlers into the air! Students enjoyed it so much, that they stayed an extra hour. Afterwards it was time for lunch and then the joyful task of cleaning up the farm before leaving. Mopping, wiping, cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen were followed by a few moments of relaxation before hoping back on bikes to head to the ferry to go back to Amsterdam. Students have told us that this was by far their favourite activity, and I know that I always have nothing but amazing memories at the end of our three days on Schiermonnikoog!

Schier 5

Schier 6

Schier 7

CarolineName: Caroline Rotenberg

CIEE Amsterdam Program Assistant

 

05/02/2013

My internship in Amsterdam

When I asked my concentration adviser what the best study abroad location would be for a gender and sexuality studies major (such as myself), she told me Amsterdam. I took her advice, and I don’t regret it. Down the street from where I live is a thrift store that offers free HIV testing (on Valentine’s day, staff members dressed like penises handed out free condoms and informational flyers on the street). Around the corner is the Hermitage Museum, where a massive demonstration recently took place in protest of the visiting Vladimir Putin and his anti-gay policies. From there, it’s probably a ten-minute bike ride to the infamous Red Light District, where tourists and customers jockey for position in front of the lit windows. It’s the ideal learning environment for my interests; everywhere I turn, I find a discussion topic or a thesis for a paper.

 

But for gender and sexuality students, Amsterdam offers more than opportunities for passive observation. There are many opportunities for engagement and immersion; for me, this took the form of an internship with TAMPEP International Foundation. TAMPEP was founded in 1993 to respond to the needs of migrant and transgender sex workers in Europe, such as STI/HIV awareness and prevention strategies, access to multilingual resources, and advocating for civil and labor rights for sex workers. To this end, TAMPEP conducts and publishes research, develops informational brochures and training manuals, writes position papers, and works with other TAMPEP organizations for specific projects. (Including the Netherlands, TAMPEP’s network includes organizations in 26 countries).

  Sophia1

I just finished working on one such project: a counseling and outreach website for sex workers for which I wrote content for using TAMPEP’s research reports. There are only two people in the Amsterdam TAMPEP office: Dennis, who is half-Dutch, half-Brazilian, and Licia, who is Italian and an initial co-founder of TAMPEP. So although it isn’t the bustling office environment I envisioned, I have constant access to Dennis and Licia, and can ask questions or receive feedback on my work at any point. What I enjoy even more is the fact that every Tuesday morning when I go in, Licia and I spend about twenty minutes just talking about the news, politics, recent legislation, and so on. These conversations, with someone as knowledgeable and experienced as she, are one of the most valuable aspects of the internship. As I’ve discovered during my time with TAMPEP, the legal situation of sex work in the Netherlands is complex and ever-changing, but working with Licia and Dennis has been extremely helpful in expanding my understanding.

  Sophia4

Another huge plus of my internship has been the other opportunities in that environment. Towards the beginning of the semester, Joanna—another CIEE student and TAMPEP intern—and I went to an open house in TAMPEP’s building, which they share with several other offices. For example, there is the Global Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS, the HIV young leaders fund, and also Mama Cash, the oldest international women's fund worldwide. At the open house, we were able to meet and mingle with their staff, as well as international visitors, like a sex workers’ rights activist from South Africa.

  Sophia5

The opportunity to have an internship in a city as diverse and active as Amsterdam is one you should take advantage of, and with CIEE to help facilitate the process, it is one very much within reach. I have learned so much about sex work since interning at TAMPEP, gained hands-on experience, met interesting and accomplished individuals, and (possibly) found an internship in the city for over the summer. So although the idea of taking on more (unpaid) work may not initially sound appealing, the short-term sacrifices—in my case, one day a week—will be far outweighed by what you gain from it.