Fall 2013, Issue II
Swept up in Amsterdam!
Although, by now, our students are used to the unpredictability of Dutch weather, no one could have expected that the halfway point of the fall semester would be marked by a very un-Dutch (and equally unwelcome) weather event: the passage of St Jude, a European windstorm that wreaked havoc on the city, the country, and most of Western and Northern Europe.
On Monday, October 28th, the city of Amsterdam hunkered down to brave gusts of wind that exceeded 70 mph, windspeeds that are so unusual for the Netherlands that residents were asked to stay inside and classes at the university were canceled. While, luckily, none of our students were injured or in any way harmed by the storm, the same cannot be said for countless trees, cars and homes, including one hapless houseboat docked only two minutes from the CIEE office.
By Monday afternoon the storm had died down, everyone ventured back outside, the cleanup began, and life in Amsterdam quickly returned to normal. While certainly one of the more dramatic moments of students' stay in Amsterdam, St Jude ultimately only punctuated the midway point of a semester that has been filled to the brim with classes, activities and personal exploration.
With the first block of classes making way for the second, we checked in with all students to see how they were doing and to get their feedback on academics, housing, activities and their overall study abroad experience so far. In individual meetings with members of staff students indicated, across the board, that they were having the time of their lives in Amsterdam -- and that the activities organized by CIEE had contributed meaningfully to their time in the Netherlands by opening their eyes to aspects of Dutch society that they may not have been aware of otherwise.
On October 24th, the CIEE Amsterdam Study Center was proud to screen Girl Rising, a ground-breaking documentary about the absolute importance and life-changing (and society-altering) value of educating girls and women. This documentary, which features the stories of nine girls from different parts of the world who have each faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their personal quest for knowledge and self-betterment, was was produced in partnership with CIEE and was shown in CIEE Study Centers all over the world to hammer home the message that educating girls should be nothing short of a top priority, and hopefully, in the near future, self-evident.
When students aren't in the classroom, exploring Amsterdam on their own, or boarding buses, trains and planes to criss-cross the European continent, we encourage them to attend any (or all!) of the activities that we organize on an almost weekly basis. In the past couple of weeks, the Culinary Interest Group went on a food tour of Amsterdam that had students explore Amsterdam's "foodiest" neighborhoods by sampling some of the local delicacies, from fish cookies in Chinatown to Indonesian bapao's -- steamed buns with a meat filling -- to the Dutch staples of raw herring and bitterballen (fried balls with a filling of mystery meat that should be judged solely based on their taste and not on what they look like).
The Sports Interest Group, whose activity took place on the same day as the food tour, took an opposite tack by having students participate in a Dutch-style bootcamp in one of Amsterdam's most famous parks. The Queer Interest Group, lastly, went on a tour through Artis, the Amsterdam zoo, to learn more about homosexuality in the animal kingdom. We learned that homosexual behavior has been observed in many different animal species and has evolved as a unique strategy that serves a number of distinct purposes, from consituting a form of mating practice to a source of sexual pleasure.
I hope this newsletter has given you a glimpse of everything that's been happening here in Amsterdam; the third and final newsletter will look back on the semester as a whole, although I think I speak for the students as well when I say that no one wants to think about that yet!
Greetings from Amsterdam,
Program Coordinator Social Sciences