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3 posts from December 2014

12/18/2014

SEMESTER WRAP-UP

BannerCity center campus life

Across from the CIEE Amsterdam Study Center we now have the brand new University of Amsterdam (UvA) campus, called Roeterseiland Campus, or in short REC. Where in the past only the Business & Culture students were so lucky to have the Faculty of Economics & Business so close by, now the campus also hosts Social Sciences and Law faculties there. The construction is will soon be finished with some landmarks left, such as the underground parking space which will store 700 bikes or the aligning of the pavement along with the design of the signs leading to the various faculties. 

Just like the owner of the local printing shop next door, Printerette, we are very happy with all these developments, our street is becoming so much more gezellig (the untranslatable Dutch word for cozy, the link explains it perfectly) with all the students, coffee places, a small movie theater, creative workshop center and many bakeries around.

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Sinterklaas & Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is arguably the one American holiday that our students regret missing the most. Although most of our students would agree that they have a great deal to be thankful for, they miss sitting around a table with their family to share their good fortune; it’s the time of year when even the most independent of our students feels a twinge of homesickness.

In order to make sure that our students don’t have to go out and track down a whole turkey at the grocery store (a veritable mission impossible!), and in the hopes of recreating what’s best about this uniquely American holiday right here in the Netherlands, we organized a CIEE Thanksgiving, replete with catered turkeys and a variety of pies brought in by a former CIEE student turned professional baker (who specializes in American baked goods and has set up shop in Amsterdam).

It’s up to the students to prepare a side dish, and we were happy to see that most students went beyond store-bought mashed potatoes and walked in with green bean casseroles, glazed carrots and the most delicious yams you’ve tasted this side of the Atlantic.

Adding immeasurably to the Thanksgiving feeling is the location we selected for our very own Dutch Thanksgiving: the Schreierstoren.

Schreier

Built in the late 15th century, the Schreierstoren (which translates literally to the “sharp-angled tower”) was part of Amsterdam’s original city wall, and has since become one of Amsterdam’s most overlooked icons. Owing to its diminutive stature, many tourists walk past the Schreierstoren without knowing that this was the very spot from which Henry Hudson set sail in 1609. Hoping to find a more direct route to China, Hudson ended up on the North American continent instead, where he sailed down the river that would later come to bear his name. Thanks to Hudson’s exploration of this area (which is now Albany, New York) the Dutch were able to stake their colonial claim, and five years later they founded a trading post that would later turn into the New Netherlands colony, bringing things full circle.

Only one week after Thanksgiving, the Dutch celebrate a uniquely Dutch holiday: Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas is based on Saint Nicholas, who according to Dutch lore, visits the Netherlands the night of December 5th, and rewards children who have been good with candy and presents. Children who have been bad end up in Sinterklaas’ book, or are abducted by one of Sinterklaas’ helpers and are taken back to Spain, where Sinterklaas lives for most of the year. (Needless to say, most parents choose not to implement this part of the legend.)

Especially for our students, we convinced Sinterklaas to pay a visit to the CIEE office, where he consulted his book to announce which students had behaved during their study abroad in Amsterdam. Sint

In keeping with the Dutch tradition of Secret Sint-a, students wrote each other short poems in which they poked fun at each other, but also gave each other gifts that helped to soften the repeated blows to students’ egos. If they didn’t do the trick, then the gallons of hot chocolate and pounds of Sinterklaas candy that were consumed helped lull our students into a forgiving sugar coma.

In short, CIEE students had a great time celebrating old and new traditions this semester!

Final meeting & farewell dinner

Last week we had our final meeting with students to discuss practical and re-entry items before going home. We wrapped up the meeting with an interesting Ted talk about the value of travel by Rick Steves, which left the students with many inspiring thoughts about going home. Then we went for a traditional Dutch farewell dinner in the city center, with Hutspot as the main dish!

Get Gezellig: CIEE Magazine

Every semester our News & Media Interest Group creates a wonderful magazine. This semester’s theme was Dutch lifestyle, it is very useful for future students  with articles like Attending University vs. Going to College, To Fiets or not to Fiets (fiets = bike), Albert Heijn, (the famous Dutch supermarket.) Click on the link to have a read; CIEE Amsterdam magazine 

Kudos to Cathy, Valerie, Christina, Kaitlyn, Rosalie, Abbie, Jessi and Karen & Marieke as their Dutch Interest Group leaders for creating an amazing magazine!

Preview of the next semester

Although this final newsletter is mostly about looking back, we would like to take a couple of paragraphs to look ahead to the upcoming Spring 2015 semester. First and foremost, we could not be more excited (if, admittedly, also a little anxious!) about announcing that we will have at least 87 students studying in Amsterdam next semester, a new record in the history of the CIEE Amsterdam Study Center! We look forward to welcoming this largest group ever on January 26th, when we will pick up our students up from Schiphol Airport and kick off a whirlwind Introduction Week.

Some of our Spring 2015 students have already been enrolled into the newest addition to our roster of CIEE classes: CIEE Screen Cultures. In response to the increasing demand of students to take a Humanities course while studying in Amsterdam (and, specifically, a Film/Television/Media Studies course), we have designed a course that will cater specially to these students’ needs.

CIEE Screen Cultures from the premise that we live mediated lives, and that the visual media texts we consume on a daily basis shape our understanding of the world around us, before exploring the ways in which media at large – and film and television, in particular – produce meaning, articulate ideology and identity, and both reflect and effect cultural change. After a critical introduction to the historical development and formal elements of film and television, as well as an overview of the major theoretical approaches that inform the study of popular culture, CIEE Screen Cultures will focus in on (a) the representation of race, gender, and sexuality, and (b) the global circulation, reception and cultural translation of historically and culturally situated visual media texts (with a specific focus on the cross-cultural mediation of Dutch identity).

We are thrilled to launch CIEE Screen Cultures next semester, when it will join our already existing lineup of CIEE classes, which include CIEE Dutch Culture, CIEE Beginning Dutch Language, CIEE Contemporary Dutch Social Policy, CIEE Dutch Business Culture and CIEE Dutch Public Health.

In short, next semester will be a semester of firsts in more ways than one -- at least two! -- and you can expect to read more about them in our first newsletter of the new semester, which should land in your inboxes sometime in February.

For now, we would like to thank you for reading this newsletter (as well as the two that preceded it), and we wish you and your family all the best in the New Year!

Best (season) wishes,

Jonathan Key and Cato van Hees
Program Coordinators Social Sciences and Business and Culture

12/05/2014

A SEMESTER ABROAD IN AMSTERDAM IS COMING TO A QUICK END

Since the beginning of my semester abroad in Amsterdam, I have completed half of my course load, traveled around Western Europe, and have formed a love-hate relationship with my bike. The past few months have flown by and I know the last few weeks will be no different. With one last trip scheduled for this Thanksgiving weekend to Geneva, Switzerland, it will be the eighteenth city in the seventh country I have visited. This has been a unique experience of a lifetime. I know that even if I return back to Europe one day, that experience will not be the same as the one I have had this past semester.Shawn 2

While abroad I have learned a lot about Europeans. But I think one of the common threads that cross all of the cultures I have seen here is that Europeans love to just enjoy life. A few months ago when I was in Paris, one of the most amazing things I had ever seen was the number of people hanging out, drinking wine, and just people watching on the grassy area around the Eiffel Tower. Then a few weeks ago while in Florence, I tried to see every basilica, climb every tower, and visit every museum in the day I was there. But when I visited Rome a few days later, I realized how that was such a big mistake as I deprived myself of just slowing down and appreciating the beauty of the city and the people. While visiting a friend from GW studying in Milan, one evening we enjoyed aperitivo for a few hours, without feeling rushed or needing to be somewhere. And while here in Amsterdam, having the ability to just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee at a café or ride my bike down a new street or along a canal has allowed me to just think about and appreciate where I am in the world right now.  Venice

In my last three weeks here as I reflect on my study abroad experience, I know that the last few months have been difficult, but yet so worthwhile. When I think about my time abroad, I think about the time I hiked for four and a half miles along the mountainside of Cinque Terre in Italy last month. I never hike, I was alone, I did not know what I was getting myself into, and I was not really prepared. It was one of the toughest afternoons I have had here, but when it was over, I felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride I do not think I have felt in a while. The hike was hard and at points I wanted to turn around and just use the train to get from village to village. However, I persisted and I am glad I went outside of my comfort zone because otherwise, I would never have experienced and seen one of the most beautiful places in the world. ShawnI am very thankful that I had this opportunity to go abroad.

Happy Holidays!

Shawn Mok is a junior in GWSB pursuing a BBA with a dual concentration in International Business and Business, Economics, and Public Policy.  

12/02/2014

Sustainability Excursion: CIEE heads to the farm(s)!

On a grey and chilly Saturday morning, CIEE Amsterdam students joined forces with their fellow students from CIEE Groningen for a day on the farm. Actually on two farms! Our colleague in Groningen, Fjaere van der Stok, wrote about our experience:

"Co-organized with Caroline, my Amsterdam colleague and aficionada of all things green and wellness-related, the goal of Sustainability Day is to provide CIEE students with contrasting perspectives on Dutch agricultural methodology. As a nation that prides itself on its produce and dairy and heavily subsidizes the production of both, the Netherlands may be a highly urbanized country, but it's also actively engaged in maintaining rural spaces through its investment in agriculture. Since our students spend much of their time in urban Amsterdam and Groningen, Sustainability Day is a great opportunity for them to glimpse how the rest of the Netherlands rolls. And for those of our students that have spent much of their lives in big cities, it’s also a chance to pat cute calves and see first-hand what goes into milking a cow (with and without robots) and sowing a field (always with GPS).

Calf @ polderzoom boerderij

This semester, we spent the morning at De Polderzoom, a family farm that prides itself on producing and selling its own cheeses. Ard, a lifelong farmer, works on his farm seven days a week, welcoming his 160 cows into their milking stalls twice daily (these days, his shoulders lock up somewhat around 130) and enjoying their rodeo antics when his opens the barn doors in the spring.

Cows @ polderzoom
 

 After a giant lunch spread at a locally-sourced restaurant that included vegetable soup, savory Dutch pancakes with ragout filling (so good!) and vanilla vla (pudding, sort of) topped with fresh cream and fruit, our second tour began. In contrast to the more traditional methods of De Polderzoom, the Almere Stadsboerderij, or City Farm, is grounded in biodynamic philosophy and the passion of its visionary founder, Tineke. What started as a dream of integrating farming seamlessly into the local community has evolved into a multifaceted hub of eco-activity that includes a work-study program, a weekly organic farmer’s market, and a shop selling local wares. 

4The “Insect Hotel” at the Stadsboerderij: because all members of a farm’s ecosystem should be actively supported.

5Tineke illustrating how integral a cow’s horns are to its well-being with the help of an old friend."