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28 posts categorized "Resident Director"


Queer Interest Group Activity #1: A Really Gay Tour of Amsterdam

As one of CIEE Amsterdam's interest groups, the Queer Interest Group (or QIG for short) was set up to allow students to explore different facets of gay life in Amsterdam in the specific and in the Netherlands at large. This semester, I am proud to serve as the group's leader, and together with Lindsay van Clief (who, after her involvement with the QIG last semester, will be co-running the group with me) we kicked off this semester with a "Really Gay Tour of Amsterdam."

We began our tour at the Homomonument, which commemorates all gays and lesbians who have faced persecution because of their sexual orientation. This unique memorial, which was inaugurated in 1987, consists of three pink triangles, which represent the past, present and future dimensions of gay/queer life in the Netherlands. 

Gay Tour of Amsterdam #1

In the picture above, we're sitting on one of the Homomonument's three consituent triangles, which represents the present and points in the direction of COC Nederland, the oldest continuously operating LGBT organization in the world. 

Pointing toward the Anne Frank House, the second triangle (which is pictured below) is placed at street level, in keeping with its investment in the past. It is inscribed with the words "Naar vriendschap zulk een mateloos verlangen" ("Such a boundless desire for friendship"), a line from the Dutch Jewish gay poet Jacob Israël de Haan's poem "To a Young Fisherman."

Gay Tour of Amsterdam #2

The third triangle (pictured below), whose vertex angle points toward the National War Monument on Dam Square, looks toward the future. Reflecting its message of hope tempered by vigilance, this triangle is placed in water, the one constant (variable) in Dutch life.

Gay Tour of Amsterdam #3

The three triangles are connected by a strip of pink granite, signifying the intimate connections between past, present and future. Seen from the air, these three triangles form one larger, fourth triangle.

All of this was explained to us by our guide, Bobby Brown, who moved from the US to the Netherlands more than 17 years ago, which allowed him to chart the more recent development of Amsterdam as, arguably, the gay capital of the world from both a cross-cultural and personal perspective. That said, Mr. Brown's history of Amsterdam extended far beyond his own personal memories of Amsterdam; in fact, he traced the history of gay life in Amsterdam back to the 17th century, when, against the backdrop of the immense prosperity that characterized the Dutch Golden Age, homosexual behavior was largely condoned. It was not until the 18th century, when the sheen of the Golden Age began to fade and the Dutch economy took a severe downturn, that laws were passed that prohibited homosexuality (or, as it was then called, "sodomy") -- on the penalty of death.

A great deal has changed since then, and as a fitting end to our tour, we ended our tour at Café 't Mandje, the oldest gay bar in the city, which was founded in 1927 by the legendary and larger-than-life lesbian Bet van Beeren -- and which has, against all odds, stood the test of time.

Gay Tour of Amsterdam #9

The city of Amsterdam may seem like a haven of tolerance today, but if there is anything that our "Really Gay Tour" of the city made perfectly clear -- from the sodomy laws of the 18th century to the persistent bullying of LGBT teenagers today -- it is that we must remain
really vigilant in order to protect and extend the hard-won rights of LGBT citizens today, tomorrow, and in the ages to come.

Jonathan Key
Program Coordinator Social Sciences

  Jonathan (small)


Prinsjesdag: the start of the Dutch political year

After this week, students will get the chance to see Dutch politics in full swing, as our new king has opened the political year by reading out the budget and goverment plans for the upcoming political year. Although the contents of the kings speech have leaked before he spoke, as they do every year, reading them out means that protests, reactions and debates are now starting. Which could in the end mean, that the policies read out this week will change again. Dutchnews Prinsjesdag

Read more about the speech in the Dutch News

CIEE Amsterdam took students out to see Prinsjesdag, which is as famous for its political importance as it is for its traditions and kitsch. All ladies in government wear hats to the speech, the Queen wore another wonderful Jan Tamineau dress and the King, who is just installed since this spring, read out his first official government speech. Also, the queen and king travel to the meeting in style; they use the golden carriage given to Queen Wilhelmina in 1898, something the students and me where anxious to see.

Our best view of the golden coach

We went to Den Haag with 20 students and two staff members to greet the king and queen from CIEE! Some things that our students where surprised about;

  • Dutch people make almost no noise when the king and queen pass by. No cheering, chanting or screaming, they looked, and then they waved.
  • It's quite surprising to see how a modern monarchy functions, the king doesn't have any political power, how does this system work?
  • The Netherlands has the image of a progressive and modern country, on Prinsjesdag we saw an oldfashioned and traditional side of the same society. Surprising!

this is the view we had

this is what it must have looked like up close

And so we saw the royal family on the balcony of the palace! And like real Dutch people; we waived. And then we were Americains and cheered for them. How multicultiral!

Profile 2Name: Annabel Thomas

Projects and Activities Coordinator CIEE Amsterdam





Although students have trouble pronouncing it, Schiermonnikoog is frequently the highlight of many students’ semesters. As a former CIEE student myself, Schier, as many commonly refer to it, holds a special place in my heart.  For a weekend students are able to get away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, school, and traveling and spend their days outside surrounded by the serene landscape of the island. We arrived Friday evening by ferry, taking in the first sights of beach and water. After getting our rental bikes we took off for the old farm that has been turned into a hostel where we stay. Everyone was happy that dinner arrived shortly thereafter, which we finished up with cake in celebration of the birthdays of two of our students. Afterwards, things got less friendly as students divided up into teams for a pubquiz. A pubquiz is essentially a trivia game that often takes place in Dutch pubs throughout Amsterdam.  The competition was fierce! After that there was free time for students, some of whom went off to explore the island’s one bar for some local culture.



In order to keep things running smoothly at the farm, each student is assigned a task such as setting up breakfast, cleaning up dinner, cleaning the farm at the end of the weekend, etc. It sounds a bit like a school trip, but trust me it is necessary!  For example, on Saturday morning the designated students woke up a little earlier to set up breakfast and make coffee and tea. After breakfasting we hopped on our bikes and headed for our ‘fietstocht’ or bike tour of the island. This is always an enjoyable activity and gives students an opportunity to get the lay of the land and see what the rest of the island looks like. In the afternoon students went off for more free time to walk to the lighthouse, go to the beach, play soccer at the farm, or sit in the sun with some milkshakes. We were grateful for the few hours of sun and downtime! Once everyone had arrived back at the farm grills and food were delivered and we went about setting up for our BBQ. Thankfully several students jumped on the opportunity to be grill masters and spent the next hour or two grilling the meat and veggie burgers, while other students set up the rest of the food inside. Time to eat! Students piled their plates full with salad, burgers, sausages, fries, veggie burgers, pickles, tomatoes, chicken sate, bread, and fruit salad. After everyone had eaten as much as possible it was time to clean up and head to the beach for our bonfire! Once again, we climbed on our bikes, this time having to navigate the small island in the dark, and trekked on the beach to our campfire location. Although it took a while to get started, eventually Renée and Vincent were able to get a nice fire going and we all roasted marshmellows and made stroopwafel smores. What’s a stroopwafel you may ask? You’ll just have to come to Amsterdam to find out!

  Schier 3

Schier 4

After our bonfire we headed back to the farm – some of our students had an early wakeup call the next morning! Sunday morning, at 7:00 half the group sleepily stumbled onto their bikes to head to the beach for a mudflat walking tour. Reports were that several people fell, and that it was windy and cold, but overall a unique  and comical experience!  We all had breakfast together, before the other group headed to the beach for a few hours of kite flying. These aren’t your average kites – they take multiple people to fly and the force is so strong that it lifts one of the handlers into the air! Students enjoyed it so much, that they stayed an extra hour. Afterwards it was time for lunch and then the joyful task of cleaning up the farm before leaving. Mopping, wiping, cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen were followed by a few moments of relaxation before hoping back on bikes to head to the ferry to go back to Amsterdam. Students have told us that this was by far their favourite activity, and I know that I always have nothing but amazing memories at the end of our three days on Schiermonnikoog!

Schier 5

Schier 6

Schier 7

CarolineName: Caroline Rotenberg

CIEE Amsterdam Program Assistant



Running with the Dutch

Two brave CIEE students and two Dutch CIEE friends and sports men ran the Zandvoort Circuit Run last Sunday. As I layered up to meet them at the trainstation I already felt for them. It is 1 or 2 degrees celcius here with a very cold wind! Oh, Dutch spring, we never knwo what to expect. Once I met the students they surprised me with their positive attitudes. "When I woke up, I thought: let's go for it": said Joanna. And CIEE student Charlie wanted to take it easy and see how he did, and turned out to be the fastest of the bunch! I. am. so. impressed.

Tobias, Charlie, Joanna and Guido all layered up in front of the Zandvoort train station. 

The warming up; I was warming uo behind the camera too!

Yay! Here they go!

Charlie, our fastest student, did the 12 K in an impressive 52 minutes, that's 8.6 mph!

Definitely the hardest part: the beach!

A very well deserved beer.

A very big THANK YOU to the organisation of the Zandvoort Circuit Run: Le Champion, who made it possible for us to participate and made sure everything was very well organised. A very Dutch activity!

Profile 2Name: Annabel Thomas

Projects and Activities Coordinator CIEE Amsterdam



Volunteering in Amsterdam

When you study abroad in a different country, one of the hardest things to do is to meet the locals. One of the ways to meet kind, friendly and happy locals (the kind you are looking for), is through volunteering. CIEE Amsterdam joined hands with NL Doet, a national volunteering day, which  even the Dutch royal family participates in.



Because it is freeezing in Amsterdam at this moment, most of our activities where moved to warmed days. But we did clean a  playground in the city centre with about 15 volunteers. Here is Chase, a CIEE student, doing what the Dutch do best; to drink coffee:




Profile 2Name: Annabel Thomas

Projects and Activities Coordinator CIEE Amsterdam


Special Interest Group: Multicultural Amsterdam

After trips to a Moroccan-Dutch mosque, a tour of the historical jewish neighborhood, djembe (African drum) lessons in the Bijlmer, and an international film festival (among many others) we ended our semester's "Multicultural Amsterdam" activities with a day devoted to Dutch culture! What better way to explore Dutch culture than an afternoon at the skating rink? Unlike ice skating in the States, Dutchies particularly enjoy speed off we went skating among people of all ages from 80 to 5 years old! Macauley, Jocelyn, Caroline, and Mariah were absolute naturals on the ice. They also took very well to our snack of traditional pea soup, apple tart, and hot chocolate! But nothing could be better than spotting Sinterklaas heading out to the ice rink! After standing with the small children and waiting our turn we were lucky enough to have a quick chat and take a photo with Sint. The perfect end to a day filled with Dutch culture and a semester exploring all the different cultures and traditions that make up the city of Amsterdam.





Special Interest Groups are a part of CIEE Amsterdam's student experience. This past semester we had interest groups with the following themes: Queer Amsterdam, Multicultural Amsterdam (above), Education in Amsterdam, News & Media in Amsterdam and Culinary Amsterdam. Caroline, the interest group leader for Multicultural Amsterdam, is a CIEE Amsterdam Spring 2009 Alumni and after she returned she continued to be actively involved at the CIEE Amsterdam office. We loooove active alumni. Thanks Caroline!


CarolinePost by: Caroline
CIEE Amsterdam Special Interest Group Leader
Spring 2009 CIEE Alumni



Elections in the Netherlands - a complicated matter

Yesterday the Dutch elections took place, and it is a very complicated matter. Some students and I happened to walk by a polling station yesterday. It is only when I tried to explain it to other people that I realised how difficult our election system is. In the Netherlands, you can vote for anyone in the 21 different political parties on the voting ballot. There are 150 seats in the lower-house of parliament, and the people with the most votes will get a seat in government. Only 11 parties ended up to get enough votes to have at least one seat. This is the result that my colleague Erik posted on the CIEE Fall 2012 Facebook Page:

Facebook image
This is the complete result of the Dutch elections:

The new-look lower house of parliament

VVD 41 (31)
PvdA 39 (30)
PVV 15 (24)
CDA 13 (21)
SP 15 (15)
D66 12 (10)
GroenLinks 3 (10)
ChristenUnie 5 (5)
SGP 3 (2)
PvdD 2 (2)
50+ 2 (0)

See the whole article about the election results at

Profile 2Name: Annabel Thomas

Projects and Activities Coordinator CIEE Amsterdam






A new office on the Roetersstraat

At the beginning of this semester CIEE Amsterdam has moved office from the Prins Hendrikkade to the Roetersstraat 8. Now that we are half way in to the semester I (Annabel) will give you a little tour of our pretty place.

The Office Area

We currently work with 3 persons at the CIEE Amsterdam office, organising activities, interest groups, insurances for students, housing, host families, weekend homestays, volunteering projects, classes, and much much more. We now have a nice space with desks and the CIEE logo on the wall!

This is a picture of when the office came up for rent:


We fell in love with the little bench in front of the office and we started using it directly!

2012-03-21 12.54.44

This is the space where we work; check out the nice CIEE logo on the wall!


Ikea maddness

Before we could move in to our new office we had some Ikea Maddness to arrange, the desks and chairs all came from our old office but the kitchen needed cupboards and we love our new table in the meeting room. Luckily Erik and Matthijs (from CIEE Groningen) are also handy men, see how they take care of the last details before the opening of our new office!

My cart at Ikea


I can do Ikea me!


Erik and Matthijs arranging last minute details


Opening of the new office

And last week we opened our new office! Yay! Our resident director Hannah held a speech in which she highlighted important happenings in the CIEE history and the history of CIEE Amsterdam. 

Hannahs speech


We invited all CIEE Amsterdams contacts and the neighbours and the office already feels like this has always been ours! We are very exited to welcome all new students here!

Profile 2Name: Annabel Thomas

Projects and Activities Coordinator CIEE Amsterdam


Interest groups

Hi everyone,

Time is flying, we are almost halfway with our spring program. And we are approaching the best half, with the best weather and the most exciting CIEE activities! The CIEE overnight excursion to Schiermonnikoog will definitively be a highlight, but don’t forget our water management daytrip and our visit to Circolombia!  

The last couple of weeks weren’t too bad either. Not only did we have a couple of great CIEE activities (the daytrip to Delft and the volunteering opportunity in the (school) garden), we also started our six interest groups with lots of sign-ups! Every interest group is well underway now, so it is time to give you an update on each of them and to introduce you quickly to the volunteers helping us with these groups.

Amsterdam school group

Coordinated by our very dedicated volunteer Silvia, our school group started their work at the two primary schools “het Gouden Ei” and “JP Coen”. The schools are very satisfied with our students, who are giving the children some basic English lessons.

Soccer interest group P1020340

The soccer interest group, led by CIEE staff member Erik, is slowly working its way to the EURO 2012, with a match visit as our last activity. We have already explored the stadium where the game will be and this made our students all the more excited for upcoming events!

The founding of New York by the Dutch interest group

Led by our very own professor Bonny, these interest group members are really starting to become experts on this topic! Last week, we saw them puzzling their way through lists of names with everyone that made the trip to the “New Netherland”. The group is dedicated and enthusiastic to learn as much as possible. And why wouldn’t they be, they have a nice weekend trip to Antwerp to look forward to!

Homeless Amsterdam

Our humble volunteers are helping out at missionaries of charity every single week (!) And I can tell you: preparing and serving meals for the homeless is not the easiest task. Luckily, Annabel is there to assist them. She is also organizing background activities that give us more insights into the issues the homeless are dealing with. We for example got a visit from a formerly homeless person.

Nationalities of Amsterdam 2012-03-20 12 35 31

Headed by a former CIEE student, Caroline, this interest group focuses on the multicultural city of Amsterdam. Amsterdam houses many ethnicities and we are getting to know some of them by visiting events, festivals and associations. This group has known a flying start with the Turkey now! festival, celebrating 400 years of relations between Turkey and the Netherlands. We saw an amazing concert that combined famous Turkish artists with the Dutch Metropole Orchestra.

Queer Amsterdam

Our interest group leader Cindy is discovering as much as the rest of the group! This doesn’t mean that the group doesn’t have a great time though: visits to the queer film festival and to the transgenders at the red light district were great successes and more exciting activities are coming up!



New experiences

Exciting, amazing, kind of scary, cold... These are just a couple of words I heard students use to describe their first days in the Netherlands. Oddly enough, most of these terms also apply to my own situation. Because it is my first semester as a CIEE employee as well, I believe I was just as excited, amazed, scared (and cold) as our new arrivals were. But like most other things in life, it is best to take the leap and to dive right in. I took my leap together with the other CIEE students, and it has been an amazing journey ever since!

As I write this, your first month as CIEE student in the Netherlands is almost over. Did the month go by very quickly for you? I am not quite sure if you picked up on the very special vibe that has been hanging around Amsterdam and the Netherlands this February. If you did not, I cannot blame you. You had so many other things to worry about: CIEE and ISN Orientations prolonged your jetlag significantly; there was a whole new city to discover (by day ánd by night, as I hear from your stories); and the start of your classes followed quite immediately. In addition to this, I kept sending you emails about all kinds of CIEE activities and interest groups that we highly recommend you to join. In short, you probably might not have had that much time yet to appreciate the special February here. It was the month where the canals in Amsterdam were frozen and we were all dreaming of an “elfstedentocht”: a legendary 125 mile ice skating tour on natural ice that did not take place for 15 years now! In the end it did not happen (the ice was judged a couple of inches too thin in some places), but the Dutchies had some amazing times on the ice. Check out this beautiful video:

During our CIEE excursion to Zaanse Schans, some of you were lucky enough to do a bit of ice skating yourselves. One of the kind inhabitants of the Zaanse Schans was so nice to lend his very impressive collection of ice skates to us and to other tourists! Respect for all of you that gave it a go. We were far from experts, but we had fun!


To conclude: My first month with you CIEE students has been great. I hope you realize that a half a year is not that much, so try to enjoy every minute of your semester. I know I will!


ErikName: Erik

Semester: Spring 2012

Position: Temporary Program Assistant at CIEE