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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.


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


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