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3 posts from September 2015


Daytrip Gouda: Confirming the Dutch stereotype

If I say the Netherlands, what comes to mind? Cheese? Stroopwafels? Or maybe canals? Sideways tipping buildings? Tiny alleyways?

On our daytrip, we strongly strengthened the stereotypical image of Dutch cities. Gouda was the destination of our trip, just an hour away from Amsterdam. It has all the characteristics mentioned above: people wearing clogs were the only part that was missing from the image: Gouda even has a proper windmill!

Although Gouda is indubitably known for its cheese, we focused on another special delicacy from the Netherlands: the stroopwafel. We visited a renowned stroopwafel factory located right in the heart of Gouda’s old center. The Punselie factory, which produces allergen-free cookies that are served on all KLM-flights, has been a family owned business for years (started in 1872, with Ronald Punselie now leading the company). We got a tour and saw how the stroopwafels are transported on a curved conveyor-belt, and are then turned over (which, apparently, is a big engineering achievement).

During the tour, we ate ourselves almost nauseous with all the Punselie-leftovers. And then we ate even more, during the lunch break at an old clay barn turned into a pretty lunch spot, next to one of the small canals. 


Then it was time to move again. The theme of our city tour? ‘Sloppen en Stegen’ (translated: dead-end streets & small alleyways). Not for people with claustrophobia, our brave students took up the challenge of squeezing themselves through tiny streets. The tour talked about old craftsmen that got streets named after them (pin makers-alley and oil butcher-pathway), and we learned that Gouda has the oldest Dutch town hall!

Photo Sep 26, 3 21 31 PM

In the afternoon, there was time left to roam around. The usually peaceful old square was not so nice and quiet anymore: a big fair was taking place in front of the city hall – as mentioned, the oldest one of the Netherlands. Time was mainly spent at the fairground rides (the elephant ride was popular), and by eating large amounts of cotton candy. And of course: cheese, cheese and cheese! After this cultural dive into the Netherlands it was time to return to Amsterdam.

On to our next trip: our overnight excursion to Limburg!



Judith de Lange Program Assistent CIEE-Amsterdam


Fall 2015, Issue I

Newsletter Banner Amsterdam

A Historic Semester Begins -- with Pomp and Pancakes!

On August 17th, 111 students arrived in Amsterdam for a study abroad semester that will go down in the annals of CIEE Amsterdam's history as our biggest semester ever. While enrollment in CIEE Amsterdam's two semester programs (to wit: Social Sciences and Business and Culture) has been growing steadily for the past four semesters, this is the first semester that we have crossed the magic number of 100 students -- which all of us at the CIEE Amsterdam Study Center could not be more excited about! Now that we are one month into the program, we thought we would take a quick look back at the beginning of this (already historic) semester.

Arrival Day: Rain, More Rain, and Pancakes

When students arrived at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on August 17th, they were greeted with overcast skies, the city of Amsterdam in a state of day-long dusk, and rain. Not just your regular rain, but torrential downpour-type rain. One might say that this was an inauspicious beginning to students' semester in Amsterdam, but by throwing them in the proverbial deep end of Dutch weather patterns, we were able to see what our students were made of on day one.

I can report back (truthfully!) that, across the board, our students did not allow the rain to get to them. Not on this day of firsts, when they picked up their University of Amsterdam student ID, the keys to their dorm room (slash shelter from the rain), registered as officials inhabitants of the city of Amsterdam, and received their course schedule.

Two of our students, Kenneth and Mauli, were interviewed that same day by the University of Amsterdam, and were asked about the most random item they had packed in their suitcase. No doubt because of their infectious smiles, the UvA decided to post their answers (and an accompanying picture of said smiling CIEE'ers) on their official Facebook page. Although they did not include a hashtag, I think a #CIEErepresent is in order!

Snap 2015-09-16 at 10.56.21

After a day that revolved mostly around waiting in line, a General Welcome presentation, introducing themselves to 100+ other students, and, oh, rain showers straight out of the Old Testament, we decided to treat our students to a typical Dutch meal: pancakes!

"Pancakes," you scoff, "Americans grow up eating those!" Yes, but not these types of pancakes -- and not on a boat! Dutch pancakes are considerably flatter and bigger than their American counterparts, and also much more eccentrically decorated. While students could choose between apple, bacon and plain pancakes as their base, they had 20+ different toppings to choose from, ranging from ham, chicken, and salami to five different types of sugar, pineapple wedges, marshmallows, and chocolate sprinkles. Not only that, but these doughy works of art were served on a boat (called, aptly, the Pancake Boat) that took our students on a tour of the river IJ, which snakes around the city of Amsterdam.

I think I can speak for our students when I say that our welcome dinner hit the spot, and made for a great/delectable finish to students' first day in their home away from home.

Orientation: PowerPoints upon PowerPoints, and Fun on the Beach

In order to prepare our students fully for their semester in Amsterdam, we organized three days of orientation sessions, in which we covered such important aspects of their study abroad experience as academics, health and safety, practical matters, and a preview of the activities and interest groups our students can join during their four months in Amsterdam. While this information is extremely important -- and while we tried our best to make these presentations as lively and interactive as possible -- we fully realize that we needed to hit the pause button on this parade of PowerPoint presentations.

Cue a trip to the beach!

As Judith de Lange -- our newest colleague, who joined us this summer to help us out with the summer and semester programs -- writes in her blog post dedicated to this Orientation Day Trip, our students built innovative sand castles, hunted each other down in the dunes (all, uhm, in good fun, of course!) and learned more about when and how to intervene in sensitive situations, and which tactics they might use to defuse potentially dangerous situations.

You can read Judith's full blog post (and take a look at more pictures) here:

Warfare with a smile

Final Introductions: CIEE Students Meet... the Royal Family?!

September marks not just the beginning of the new academic year, it is also the month in which the King addresses a joint session of the States General of the Netherlands (consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate) and lays out his preferred legislative agenda in a speech from the throne. This day is known in Dutch as Prinsjesdag (or "Prince's Day"), and it takes place in the city of The Hague, which as the seat of government, is the Netherlands' de facto second capital city.

Five of our most politicially active/royal-loving/hardiest students braved the rain for a chance to see the (solid gold) royal carriage transport the King and Queen to the Binnenhof (or "Inner Court"), which is the collection of 13th-century buildings that houses both "chambers" of the Dutch Parliament. Afterwards, they -- along with throngs of Dutch patriots -- stormed the gates in order to catch a glimpse of the King and Queen from atop the balcony. As you can see in the pictures below, our students managed to secure front-row seats, uhm, front-line standing spots to this rare display of Dutch pomp and circumstance.

Since there is no way of topping an almost-audience with the Dutch King and Queen, this does it for the first newsletter of the Fall semester. I look forward to seeing you here again in late October, when we will talk about midterm evaluations, small group dinners at CIEE staff members' homes, and our historical day trip to the city of Gouda.

Until then, all best wishes from Amsterdam, and CIEE Amsterdam staff,

Jonathan Key
Program Coordinator Social Sciences

Me (small)


Beach time for lucky ducks!

One of the first activities we at CIEE Amsterdam organize is the Orientation Daytrip. This is for all the students to enjoy, and to see a bit more of the Netherlands!
The days before the orientation started, the whole CIEE-Amsterdam office was very nervous. We were not worried about our 111 students who just arrived in a new city (although, seeing you guys biking in Amsterdam for the first time can be a nerve-racking sight). No, there was but one question buzzing around the office in the days before the Orientation Day Trip: Will it rain?

There was supposed to be a thunderstorm coming up. ‘Code Yellow’ was given out by the KNMI, the Dutch Meteorological Institute. We were picturing a group of hundred students trembling in the rain, all dressed up in flattering poncho’s… But we were all lucky ducks (a beautiful saying I learned from Miss Caroline)! Not a single drop of rain fell, and all the beach games could be enjoyed outside.

What did we do? We made creative sand sculptures! One of the finest works I must say, especially Tank Tortoweitz and the unnamed Dog. And who made that giant cheese?!

Introducing Tank Tortoweitz

Introducing Tank Tortoweitz

Others were keener on getting sand everywhere under their clothes, and chose to be dragged over the beach by a so-called power kite.

It takes a village to fly a kite

It takes a village to fly a kite

One of the aims of the daytrip is to help students make new friends and get to know their fellow students. And what better way to do that than to hunt each other down the dunes with laser guns?

Taking aim

Warfare in the dunes

While one group was playing beach games outside, the other group went inside for the Bystander Intervention. This presentation was about helping others to prevent risky situations from getting worse and to look out for your fellow students.

IMG_3873 (3)

To intervene or not to intervene?

After lunch the groups switched places and the second group was able to get their hands sandy and to get that beach-look hairdo.

Upon returning in Amsterdam, it appeared that the bad weather forecast traveled with us. It was ‘Code Yellow’ all over the place. But hey, biking home in the rain after a good and long day is what makes you very integrated in the Netherlands :) On to our next trip!



Judith de Lange Program Assistent CIEE-Amsterdam