PAST THE HALFWAY MARK
It is hard to believe that our students only have a month left in Amsterdam; it seems like just yesterday that we them picked up at the airport, but time flies when you're exploring Amsterdam, travelling around Europe, joining Interest Group Activities such as cookie decorating workshops and learning how to draw in the Rijksmuseum, attending a dinner prepared and hosted by a member of staff, and, oh yes, studying!
With 78 students studying in Amsterdam this semester, the office has been a hub of activity, but we have been trying our best to keep them busy! Apart from our regular lineup of Special Interest Group activities, we invited the students to sample Dutch cuisine that was prepared for them by none other than us, the staff, which allowed the students to see how Dutch people live, eat, and prepare a three-course meal while juggling a full-time job.
November is also the month in which we organize a number of cultural activities (broadly defined), to make sure that students do not fall behind on their cultural education. Students had the opprtunity to choose between an avant-grade play, a classical rendition of Swan Lake by the National Dutch Ballet or a soccer match between the Netherlands and Latvia. The ballet performance and the soccer match proved the most popular, and both involved a sartorial transformation that many of our students took to heart! Given that the Netherlands is not a country that is big on formality, many students had been raring to break out their formal wear, and the faithful and moving adaptation of Tchaikovski's arguably most popular ballet piece proved the perfect (and perhaps sole) opportunity for them to dress up.
In much the same way, cheering on the Dutch team in the Amsterdam ArenA required a change of clothes, although the items students selected for this event were of a slightly more colorful variety. Decked out in orange T-shirts, necklaces and other Dutch regalia, our students' clapping and chanting helped propel the Netherlands to a 5-0 victory over Latvia -- a victory they desperately needed in order to advance to the next round of the UEFA championship.
Lastly, we organized two full-day excursions that highlighted different sides of life in the Netherlands. While our Historical Trip to Groningen focused in on the history and recent development of a major Dutch city that is removed from the cultural and economic heart of the country (the so-called "Randstad," which is anchored by the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague), our Sustainability Trip to two farms in the middle of the coutry traded in city life for a look at life on the farm -- the 21st-century farm.
The first farm students visited was a largely sun-powered farm and cheese factory, where students received a guided tour of his facilities, had the chance to meet the cows that produce the milk Farmer Ard uses to manufacture his own cheeses, and were able to see for themselves how the cows are milked, and learned more about his artisanal cheese-making, as well as the aging process of dairy. At the second farm, aptly called the "City Farm," students were introduced to the practice of biodynamic farming, a farming philosophy which treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks. Students discovered that Farmer Tineke's cows are fed with alfalfa, beets, and corn grown right on her farm, while the calves grow up with their mothers and subsist on her milk alone.
Business & Culture
Business & Culture students are officially halfway the semester; the first block of courses is completed and examined; now they only have the second block left.
After our successful visit to the Heineken factory in the first half of the semester, we decided to go to a completely different company for the latter part of the term. This way, students don’t just learn about conglomerates like Heineken, they will also get a glance at how it all starts; by Dutch entrepreneurship.
Konnektid is a young dot-com creating the opportunity for people to learn new skills in their very own neighborhood. Through a map on their website they enable people to find and get in touch with others whom they share an interest or skill with, which they wouldn’t have found easily by themselves. Find out how it works, click on the video.
We’re meeting with Konnektid’s CEO and founder, Michel Visser, a former theater actor whose main passion is bringing people together, but he is also an expert on entrepreneurship, networking and the sharing economy. He will introduce us to the story and business model of Konnektid and perhaps he’ll motivate us to start our very own companies one day. Years of storytelling and acting make Michel one of the world’s most interesting men.
Konnektid is located in the Impact Hub of Amsterdam, the host of multiple modern companies active in the fields of sharing economy, renewable energy, CSR strategists, web and IT specialists, clean tech and green startups, architects, advocates, social workers, students and more.
The last part of this newsletter is dedicated to our weekend homestays, being a truly intercultural experience for our students. In Amsterdam most students opt to live in a dorm or the Student Hotel, only a handful of students decide to live with a homestay family. So, we offer students a mini-homestay so they do get the intercultural experience they would have had if they were in a homestay; a weekend with a Dutch family.
This semester about 15 students are participating in a weekend homestay. Once signed up, we match students to their families based on shared interests, hobbies and preferences. Although it means getting out of your comfort zone at first, students often have the best time learning about Dutch lifestyles. For example, making art with your new host mum on Friday, going to a field hockey match with the kids on Saturday, eating a wide variety of sprinkles on your bread for breakfast on Sunday.
That's it for this second newsletter of the semester; keep an eye on your inbox for our third newsletter, which will recap the last month of students' stay in the Netherlands and will feature write-ups of the Dutch holiday of Sinterklaas, our CIEE Thanksgiving Dinner and our Farewell activities (which we do not want to think about just yet!).
All best wishes,
Jonathan Key and Cato van Hees
Program Coordinator Social Sciences
Program Coordinator Business and Culture