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By: Emily Parker - Tulane University

A few weeks have passed since the CIEE overnight event of the semester, where nearly fifty of us boarded a bus to head three hours north to the petite island of Schiermonnikoog. Less than ten kilometres long, home to fewer than 1000 permanent residents and only a handful of cars, Schiermonnikoog was the perfect getaway from busy Amsterdam life.

The weekend began with many of us still slightly groggy on Saturday morning but excited for the trip, obvious by all the chatter on the bus. Tired from my Friday night and blessed by the ability to sleep almost anywhere (planes, trains, automobiles.. you name it; the first a skill quite envied), so I dozed for most of the ride. Awaking a few times to the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ at Holland’s beautiful countryside tulip fields, soon we were ready to pile off the bus and onto the ferry across the sea to Schiermonnikoog.

The ferry took about half an hour and soon we were all being fitted for our bikes for the weekend. In a nearly identical pack of bright yellow bikes, we began our ride to the farmhouse, many of us getting accustomed to back pedals as we rode alongside North Sea. With fresh air, green fields, and the ocean as far as we could see, contentment was felt through the whole group as we pedaled along the coast of Schiermonnikoog.


Settling into the farmhouse, games of kickball and frisbee began in restless anticipation for dinner. The soon site of hot food plates being delivered out of the only car I saw all weekend (what service!) was a delight, and soon we were all delving into some pasta in a very crowded but cozy room. Enjoying dinner, drinks, and good company for an hour, it was next time for the pub quiz! With Jonathan as our host, teams formed around dinner tables as questions from pop culture to Dutch history to CIEE staff abounded. A few beers and nine rounds later, only one team took the prize but all of us left with some learned Dutch facts and a bit of leverage on a few of our lovely staff ;)

The next morning began with an early wake up call, ready for a day full of bike tours, mudfalt walking, and exploring the island. Breakfast was as expected, and as I looked around at us all content with our meals of bread, cheese and salami I couldn’t help but think back to those few orientation mornings way back when (time really flies). The group split into two, with half of us having a morning bike tour and the other having some free time for the morning. For a few hours we biked the island of Schiermonnikoog following our guide, a native and long time resident to the Friesland province. First stop began in town for a short history lesson on Schiermonnikoog, as we learned about the German occupation of the island, the Dutch reclaiming it, and the difficulties of having a land mass so low in elevation surrounded by sea (the Dutch have long since had this figured out though, no sweat). With Schiermonnikoog being such a small island, we were able to see nearly every aspect of it from shore to shore. Riding through the fields, along the coast, amidst man-made forests, and ending with a pretty spectacular view of the North Sea, our guide filled us in the whole way through on the amazing range of wildlife that inhabits Schiermonnikoog.

Soon it was time for our mudflat activity, where half of the group got to walk out on the ocean floor with another hilarious guide in tow. The mudflats of Schiermonnikoog remain to be some of the most fertile land in the world, and are alive with a diversity of meals fit for the assortment of the birds of Schiermonnikoog. Surrounded by nothing but mud, sea, and wind, we trudged through the plains, often sinking in enough for screeches of fear. Being out on the mudflats made the diversity of the island all the more obvious.. we had just spent a day seeing everything from dune valleys, salt marshes, forests, to our present site. It’s no wonder the Dutch made the whole island a National Park and protected natural reserve.

Schier 2

That night we had enough BBQ food to feed an army, and with everyone relieved that the rain seemed to be holding off we all headed as a big pack for a bonfire on the beach. Equipped with drinks, snacks, and the makings for STROOPWAFFEL SMORES (what what), we all happily enjoyed a setting sun and hot fire for hours. Surrounded by good company, full bellies, and the whole beach to ourselves, life was grand! After burning our last wood pallet, many of us were enthused to bring the party to Tox Bar, one of the only two nightlife establishments on the island. Accompanied by our lovely CIEE staff, still smelling like bonfire, we piled onto the Tox dance floor, a much livelier place than expected for an island of 950 residents. Gettin’ jiggy with it for hours passed with great fun and enthusiasm, and the weekend began to near it’s end. The next day we would be back on a bus heading home, but all very full with the joys of our group getaway. Many thanks to the CIEE staff for organizing such a great trip!



Passover in Amsterdam

Becca Diamond
When deciding to study abroad in the spring, my biggest worry was about Passover. Passover is a Jewish holiday where families have a big dinner called a seder and we recount the story of how Moses led the Israelites out of slavery. Every year, I go with my parents and brother to my grandparents’ house where my mom leads the seder. At first, I was sad about missing this family tradition, but I saw the opportunity to celebrate my favorite holiday in a new way. 

I posted in our program’s Facebook group asking to see if anyone wanted to help create our own seder, and plenty of people were excited about the idea. My friend Aron organized who would bring the vegetables and the matzah ball soup and the matzah and the charoset. I created a haggadah (the prayerbook used at the seder) and included a quote by Anne Frank, who would have held a seder at this time many years earlier, along with the thousands of other Jews who used to call Amsterdam their home. 

Twelve people attended our seder, including a few guests. About half of the people were not Jewish, and some had never attended a seder before. Everyone was really interested in learning about the different rituals and symbols used in Passover, and how the traditions differ at every seder. Another Jewish person at the seder, Ariella, shared some of the Sephardic traditions that her family does at their seder. 

During dinner, everyone talked about how their relationship with religion has evolved as they have grown, especially now that we are in Amsterdam and we now have to decide for ourselves what place religion and family tradition plays in our lives. It was amazing to hear about faiths other than my own, in addition to sharing my own customs with the amazing community we created here in Amsterdam. 

A few days later, I Skyped with my family to hear about how the traditional family seder went at home, and to tell them about the amazing things I learned from creating a new seder with a mix of diverse traditions and faiths.

Becca Diamond
Muhlenberg College


Spring 2014, Issue II

Newsletter Banner Amsterdam


It is hard to believe that we have already reached the halfway point of the spring semester -- and every semester, time seems to pick up speed and it gets a little harder. In this newsletter, I will briefly bring you up to speed on three events that each serve as milestones of sorts: our midterm evaluations with students, a check-in on CIEE's Book Club (a new interest group that launched this semester) and our annual overnight trip to Schiermonnikoog, an island off the Dutch coast where students and staff gather each year for a weekend of exploration, game-playing, and one unforgettable bonfire.


At CIEE, we attach a great deal of importance to student feedback; in fact, it is the engine that drives change at the Amsterdam Study Center. Fortunately, the University of Amsterdam feels the same way, which allows us to work together each semester to evaluate both students' academic and personal experiences studying abroad in Amsterdam. With 65 students enrolled across both programs this semester and five members of staff, each staff member sat down with 13 students and took their pulse on a number of issues, ranging from their experiences in the Dutch classroom to their housing and the activities and services that we at the Amsterdam Study Center provide.

Also, and perhaps most importantly, we asked them how much headway they were making on achieving the goals that they had set for themselves prior to studying abroad. Often, students' pre-set goals will change organically as the reality of living in the Netherlands sinks in and replaces (or qualifies) a conception of life abroad that is sometimes founded on stereotypes or preconceived notions. Sometimes, in their enthusiasm, students set goals that are a little too lofty ("mastering" the Dutch language, for example, is likely too ambitious a goal) or set so many goals that they overwhelm, instead of motivate. This is a tricky balance to strike, and as staff, we try to help the students with setting goals that are grounded in the realities and ebbs and flows that characterize a semester in Amsterdam. 


In my first newsletter of the semester, I mentioned that we would be adding a new Interest Group to our already wide selection of groups that organize activities based around a particular theme. This spring, long-standing Interest Groups such as Culinary Amsterdam and Sports and Nature in Amsterdam were joined by a spirited upstart: CIEE Book Club. Last semester, I floated the idea of reading and discussing a book with a small group of students to the Fall students, and they responded enthusiastically. While most students do quite a bit of reading for class, picking up a novel or hunting down a fascinating non-fiction read tend to lose out to hunting down the cheapest plane ticket to Prague, instead. My goal for Book Club was a simple one: read two novels and two non-fiction selections each semester that deal with a past or present issue in the Netherlands and/or the United States and have students discuss them by bringing in both their experiences as Americans and the insights they have gained by living in the Netherlands -- all of which takes place over CIEE-sponsored high-end coffee, not unincidentally.

Although I may be a little biased, I am happy to report that the first two meetings of CIEE Book Club could not have been more successful: in discussing Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring and George Packer's The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, students combined well-reasoned opinions and passionate responses in their analysis of, respectively, the origins story of Johannes Vermeer's eponymous painting and Packer's withering analysis of the various ways in which the socio-economic fabric of the US has been unraveling in the past three decades. I, for one, could not be a prouder Interest Group Leader, which explains the size of the smile on my face in the picture below.

Book Club


Arguably the one trip students and staff look forward to the most, CIEE's annual overnight trip to the island of Schiermonnikoog once again lived up to the reputation that precedes it. Last Friday, students and staff packed into a bus to Lauwersoog, which is located on the border of the northern provinces of Friesland and Groningen, where they changed modes of transportation and boarded a ferry to the Frisian island of Schiermonnikoog. At Schiermonnikoog, which is the home of the Netherlands' first national park (a park which envelops most of the island!), students went on a bike trip of the island, conquered the mud flats, flew kites (some of which lifted them straight off the ground!), tested their knowledge of the Netherlands, CIEE staff, and American television in a pub quiz, and -- last, but certainly not least -- roasted marshmallows and made s'mores on the beach:


Students contributed actively to the success of the trip by performing chores in and around the retrofitted farm house that served as our base of operations: some students were on clean-up duty, while others volunteered to be in charge of the barbecuing. (Did I mention there was barbecuing?) Judging by how quiet it was on the bus ride back to Amsterdam on Sunday, I think our students enjoyed their weekend of Dutch island life!

That is all from Amsterdam for now; the next newsletter will also the final one, but none of us at the CIEE Amsterdam Study Center want to think about that just yet.

Jonathan Key
Program Coordinator Social Sciences



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!




Spring 2014, Issue I

Newsletter Banner Amsterdam


Although it seems like only yesterday that we picked up the new group of Spring students from Schiphol airport, in actuality, three weeks have passed -- in a haze of orientations, first days of class, and a daytrip that our students will not easily forget. It is my pleasure to unpack them all here, in the first newsletter of the Spring 2014 semester of the CIEE Social Sciences program in Amsterdam. 

1. Arrivals, orientations, and lessons learned

Our newest group of students arrived in Amsterdam on Monday, January 27th; many of them, however, had decided to arrive a couple of days early, in the hopes of beating the jetlag ahead of our three-day orientation program. (A succesful strategy, as I am happy to report that far fewer heads were caught fighting a losing battle against gravity than last semester!) On each day of our orientation, we covered a different aspect of students' study abroad experience: while one morning was devoted to practical matters (including, for example, a master class on biking and, crucially, best bike-parking practices), another dealt with Dutch academic culture and the ins and outs of studying at the University of Amsterdam, while one afternoon was devoted to the many activities organized by CIEE throughout the term (more on those in my next newsletter!). Although some of these topics may be a little dry, we find that they go down much easier when served with a stack of Dutch pancakes on a Dutch "pancake boat" -- which is exactly what you think it is, i.e. a floating pancake paradise:

Pancake boat!

2. Adds, drops, and the beginning of classes

The spring semester at the University of Amsterdam officially started on Monday, February 3rd, which also marked the beginning of the so-called "add-drop period," which is somewhat of a misnomer, because, as students soon learn (much to their chagrin), the University of Amsterdam does not allow students to add courses to their schedules. To mitigate this situation, most students were pre-enrolled in more classes than they needed, which means that they had two weeks to sample classes, compare-and-contract syllabi and, ultimately, drop their classes that meet on Friday afternoon and Monday morning. The closing of the add-drop window coincided with our First General Meeting, during which we checked in with our students both to get a sense of how they were doing after two-weeks-and-a-half in Amsterdam, to preview upcoming events, and to have students enrolled in our CIEE Dutch Culture class present their findings after heading out into the city and exploring some of its famous and lesser-known neighborhoods.

3. Blasts from the past in Marken and Volendam

In CIEE tradition, we cap off students' orientation program with a daytrip, during which we take students out of the city to give them a taste of Dutch life outside of the hustle and bustle of the capital. This semester, we chose to have our students explore two towns that speak to the Netherlands' long-standing and complicated relationship with water. The town of Marken is a throwback to an earlier way of living in the Netherlands, when sea-faring towns drew on the bounty that the erstwhile Zuiderzee provided, while their tarred-and-raised wooden houses were meant to protect against that former sea's frequent advances into the town. When, in the 1930s, the Zuiderzee's access to the North Sea was closed off and the sea was transformed into a man-made lake, the threat of floodings subsided and the town of Marken remained as a testament to the Netherlands' once proud (but perilous) maritime history. 

While the town of Volendam retains an authentic Dutch feel, the adjacent town of Volendam took a different, more tourist-oriented approach to their newfound status, which translates into bolder colors and very many opportunities to have your picture taken while donning old-timey Dutch costumes. Needless to say, we could not resist having our students partake in this re-enactment of Dutch life circa some undefined point in the past, which, not unexpectedly, turned into a selfie extravaganza:

I do not think there could be any better proof/photographic evidence that your students are enjoying their time in the Netherlands, and I think I speak for everyone at the office when I say that we could not be more excited about spending this semester with them!

All best wishes and many "groeten" (greetings) from the Netherlands,


Jonathan Key
Program Coordinator Social Sciences


Orientation daytrip

At CIEE we usually end orientation with a daytrip! This year we went to Volendam and Marken, two quaint little towns not too far away from Amsterdam.


the tourguide guides students through rainy weather in Marken.

In Volendam we took a picture with all students in traditional Dutch costume:


Many famous Dutch people also take these kinds of photo's! My grandparents have also taken a picture dressed like this in Volendam, and it used to be a real outing for Dutch people.

There are many more fun trips and events coming up this semester!


Fall 2013, Issue III

Newsletter Banner Amsterdam

The Farewell Issue

Looking Back

It's an oft-repeated cliché, but time does fly, especially in the fall, when the days get steadily shorter, darker, and -- in the case of many of our students -- a little sadder as the day they depart the Netherlands and return to the US draws near. This entire week, students have been coming by the office to say their goodbyes and, in the spirit of paying it forward, they have been leaving items that they no longer have any use for: from drying racks to hair dryers and used textbooks, our students have clearly been struck by a charitable impulse (that or the weight limit on their baggage!). 

What our students will be taking home with them, apart from some hard-earned credits, is a stockpile of memories, some of which they collected by themselves, while others were shared with other CIEE students during one of the many CIEE activities that we organized this past term. Since the second issue of this newsletter, our students have had the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving (in the historic Schreierstoren, the very location that Henry Hudson departed from on his journey to North America), to explore the unique Bijlmer neighborhood of Amsterdam, and to tour the cities of Den Bosch and Eindhoven in the South of the country (replete with Bossche bollen!).

We capped off the semester with a Farewell Meeting, during which we not only informed students about such exciting topics as checking out of their housing and the many steps that go into producing a US transcript, but which also included yearbook-style polling (who would be most likely to live in Amsterdam for the rest of their lives; who might go on to become President of the United States, or even more prestigious pursuits such as, say, work for CIEE?) and a re-entry presentation that tried to prepare students for the "reverse culture shock" they may have to deal with when they arrive back home. We ended the evening in style, with a Farewell Dinner where everyone had the opportunity to say their goodbyes over some of the best food Amsterdam has to offer.

Farewell Dinner

Looking Ahead

At the same time we are closing the books on one semester, we have been hard at work at preparing the next, which will begin in the last week of January. Although the foundation will remain the same, we are proud to be introducing a number of new additions to the program. First and foremost, we are adding two new courses to our roster of in-house courses: CIEE Dutch Business Culture and CIEE Beginning Dutch. The former is a natural extension of our Business and Culture program and will take an in-depth look at the business climate in the Netherlands, using Dutch businesses as case studies. The latter is the result of CIEE's continued commitment to having our students learn the fundamentals of the Dutch language and will represent a new and pragmatic approach to learning Dutch.

These two courses will join CIEE Contemporary Dutch Social Policy and CIEE Dutch Culture, our longstanding core courses, which means that our Spring 2014 students will now have four CIEE courses to choose from, along with our ever-expanding selection of Social Sciences and Business and Economics courses. Secondly, we are looking into launching a brand-new interest group: CIEE Book Club, which will have students and staff read books on aspects of Dutch and American life, after which we will sit down together to compare notes and reflect on the differences that separate, but also the ties that bind, our two countries and peoples.

For now, it is with a slightly heavy heart and a smile on our faces that we say goodbye to the Fall 2013 group, hoping (and trusting) that they will carry their memories and experiences of this past semester with them wherever they go.

The group says bye

Jonathan Key

Program Coordinator Social Sciences

Jonathan (small) (3)



I thought I would write my blog for CIEE about one of my top goals in Amsterdam - to see as many museums as possible, if not all of them. So I bought a museum card, which is an amazing deal because it's only 50 euro for most museums in the entire Netherlands (and only 30 euro if you buy a youth pass). I knew it would quickly be a smart purchase because most museums in Amsterdam are about 15 euro.

Because my class schedule is spread out across the day 4 days a week, I started going to smaller museums between classes. For instance, I spent 2 hours at the Verzetsmuseum between my Thursday CIEE classes. It is a great museum that is extremely informative and nicely set up. I learned a lot there and understood why it's so well reviewed. Highly recommend it.

I have also seen the Anne Frank House, Willet-Holtheuysen House, Amsterdam Museum (which I have since gone back to for their nice Mondriaan exhibit), Museum Van Loon, The Museum of Handbags and Purses, The Jewish Historical Museum, Nemo, The Maritime Museum, Allard Pierson Museum, Royal Palace at the Dam Square, Rembrandthuis, Tropenmuseum, Eye Museum, and the Hermitage Museum (and probably some others I can't think of right now).Rijks

I would consider the Hermitage to be my favorite museum in Amsterdam. There have been two large exhibits there this semester: one about Peter the Great and one about Gauguin, Bonnard, and Denis in Russian art collections prior to the 1917 Revolution. I have gone to the latter exhibit multiple times because it is so gorgeous. There is this one room in the exhibit called the music room that is covered with Denis murals and it is one of the prettiest things I have ever seen in art.

On Tuesday and the weekends, I have gone and continue to go to the bigger museums like the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, Stedelijk Museum (which I have gone to a many times, including to see their in depth and awesome Malevich exhibit).MalevichOne of my other goals while studying abroad in the Netherlands is to see as many Dutch cities as possible, which ties together nicely with my museum plan. In Haarlem I saw the Teylers Museum (the oldest museum in the Netherlands and is really cool - right out of an Indiana Jones movie), the Frans Hals Museum and the Corrie ten Boom house. In Den Haag, I have the seen Prince William V Gallery, the Peace Palace Museum, and the Mesdag Collection. In Den Bosch, I visited the Het Noordbrabants Museum. In Groningen, the Groninger Museum. In Delft, Museum Paul Tetar van Elven. And in Rotterdam, I went to the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen which is a first class museum and absolutely worth visiting.Bojmans

I could not be happier with the abundance of art and other kinds of museums in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the museum card has made this all possible which has worked out perfectly. Otherwise I would have spent hundreds of euros on museum. For anyone reading this, if you have not gone to any of the museums and do have the opportunity to, especially if you have the museum card, I recommend you go even if just for a quick visit. Unfortunately I do not think I'll be able to visit every museum in Amsterdam, but I am really happy with how many I have gone to and how much I have learned about art, culture, and other things like handbags.

Grant Johnson