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3 posts from March 2014


One-time-volunteering in Amsterdam

When in Amsterdam, do as the Amsterdammers do! CIEE Amsterdam offers one-time-volunteering opportunities to students who stay with us, both the business & culture students and the social sciences students get a chance to give back to the Amsterdam community by investing just a little bit of their time. 

We joined 'National volunteering Day' last friday, called 'NL Doet' in the Netherlands. Six students joined me in a kids playground, where we cleaned up leaves, returned woodchips to their designated areas, worked in the vegetable garden and sanded & painted wood benches.


It's great to join something like 'National Volunteering Day' beacuse everyone in the Netherlands knows what you are talking about! Even the royal family participates in NL Doet! Unfortunately they were not at our location, but worked at a petting zoo in Rijswijk. On the other hand, it was raining when they volunteered, while we were lucky enough to start after the sun came out. Oh unpredictable Dutch weather!




A Historical Day in Gouda

On Saturday the 15th of March I got the pleasure to travel with a bunch of other CIEE students, Caroline, and Jonathan to the historical Dutch city of Gouda.  Only a hop skip and a jump away, Gouda maintains a lot of the charm and quaint aesthetic of the quieter parts of Amsterdam.  With winding canals, sideways tipping buildings, and tiny alleyways, Gouda is not a bad city to look at.


We started off by making our way to the Stroopwafel factory Punselie (the part of the trip I was anticipating the most). The factory was small, family owned, and had an interesting history with KLM airline.  It was interesting to learn more about the cookies that I eat so very regularly.  What surprised me the most was the sheer volume of cookies that the factory produced.  One other thing to note is how the factory reused cookie crumbs that didn't make their way into the final product.  Not wasting a single bite!

   Gouda Punselie factory photo

After we had lunch at the Museum Cafe before heading on our historical tour of Gouda.  The tour guide was dynamic and gave the historical city tour through a rock and roll lens, referencing the most famous bands of the 70s and 80s.  We navigated the tiny alleyways, learning more about the history of Gouda.  Fun fact of the day: Gouda has the oldest town hall in the Netherlands.  It's a huge structure resemblant of a church in the middle of the main square.

  Gouda town hall

We ended the tour at the base of the massive town hall and then had free time to roam the market and buy some of the infamous Gouda cheese (it did not disappoint).  Walking around the city was a fun time to just see what Gouda was like and how people went about their day to day lives.  The bikers seemed a little more patient than in Amsterdam!  All in all, it was a good trip and I'm glad I went.

Groetjes,  Zach Dravis (student, Spring 2014)



Dinner at CIEE staff’s homes

During the first month of the Spring semester, it was time for our group dinners! Each staff member invited students to their home to cook for them. The idea for the dinner is that staff cooks for the students, who will be introduced to a Dutch home and Dutch foods! See the pictures below to get an idea of the evenings!Group dinnersRenée welcomed the students to her lovely apartment in De Pijp located near the bustling Albert Cuyp market. Proximity to this market indicates that delicious products were included in this expertly cooked meal (bottom-left)! Annabel lives in a very big, beautiful monumental house next to a park which is a bit outside of Amsterdam (top-right)! Cato lives in a traditional Dutch walk-up apartment (complete with steep stairs) with a view over the canal, with her 3 Dutch roomies (bottom-left)! A short ferry ride to Amsterdam Noord took the students to Jonathan’s apartment, where he prepared a traditional Belgian meat stew. And last but not least, Caroline lives in a somewhat old, but very charming, apartment with a garden just west of the Jordaan, complete with a Dutch roomie and her rather large cat, Lolly!

The most popular dish amongst CIEE staff was Hollandse Stamppot (a typical Dutch stew). Below I will explain how to make this delicious stew; it’s easy to make and delicious to eat as a main course.


A bag of potatoes, salt, pepper, 500 gram of chopped kale, 1 sausage, 100 g lean bacon, a small bag of  grated cheese, 20 g butter, 1.5 dl warm milk, 1-2 spoons of olive oil, (stock cube, cashews).

Preparation Method:

Peel and cook the potatoes for about 10-15 minutes. Prick the potatoes to feel if they are soft. After that pour a small amount of milk in a big pan and add the potatoes (peeled and cooked) with a little salt and mash them, only when the potatoes are really cooked well you can mash them and once that is done you add the kale. The kale mixes easier when you throw it in the pan together with some warm milk.

This is also the time to stir in some butter, grated cheese, some salt and pepper and bacon for extra flavor to the stew. Some people also add a stock cube and cashews for additional flavor, but it’s also tasty without it.

You keep the pan on low heat and you continue mixing the kale with the mashed potatoes, this is the only thing that takes just a little while and a bit of strength in your arms. But just add some milk until it’s a good mash and the kale is soft and the cheese melted. Then, when it’s ready just put a sausage on top of the whole dish and it’s ready to serve! Enjoy!