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Summertime with CIEE Amsterdam

It is Monday morning 6:00 am May 23rd when our very first summer student e-mailes us to ask: ‘I’m at Schiphol Airport, where is the meeting point again?’. Right there and then, we officially kicked off the CIEE Amsterdam Summer 2016-program and we welcomed many more students that day, for their summer program here in the beautiful Amsterdam!

Following the hustle and bustle of orientation, with the highlight being the daytrip to the medieval city of Amersfoort, the students started their courses; Contemporary Dutch Social Policy and Dutch Business and Culture. And, after that 1st week of getting to know each other, getting to know Amsterdam and making their first attempts at biking, the students really started to settle in.

Last week, which was the 2nd week of the program, we went on an overnight excursion to Leiden and Haarlem. The city of Leiden is home to over 23.000 students and has the university as its biggest employer. Filled with numerous canals and beautiful 17th-century buildings, Leiden is also called a mini-version of Amsterdam. Plus, the city is famous for being Rembrandt’s birthplace, where the guide is pointing the students to on the picture below:


After the city walk, the lunch and the boat tour, we embarked on our next adventure: the city of Haarlem! The lovely Stayokay hostel there was our home for the night and everyone got the time to explore this town by themselves. Haarlem is a classic Dutch city, just a bit to the north of Amsterdam. It has a lot to offer in a compact area: cobbled streets, historic buildings, grand churches, museums, cozy bars, cafes, and of course canals. For centuries Haarlem has been a market town, buzzing with shoppers heading home with fresh bouquets, nowadays by bike.
The next morning, we visited a local open air markets and the students got to try Dutch finest cuisine: raw herring with pickles, Gouda cheese, Leiden sausages, licorice, and of course… stroopwafels!


Last stop was the beach, and there was no way the weather could stop us! A short walk with some occasional toe dipping in the cold water brought us to the dunes, where we had some hot chocolate.
The bus driver safely brought us back into busy Amsterdam.

The travelling ain’t over till it’s over: the next excursion on the program will bring our summer students just a hop and a skip further away: their ICE-weekend will be in Dublin!


Written by:










Judith de Lange Student Services Coordinator CIEE-Amsterdam



CIEE Excursion: the mystical isle Schiermonnikoog

Brace yourselves… Summer is coming! With the sun coming out, the students also very much realize that we are indeed already halfway through the semester. Amsterdam is starting to warm up with some first festivals, outdoor film screenings and markets-without-rain.

Since the very history of the CIEE Amsterdam site, we have been going to one of the Wadden Sea Island for our Spring Overnight. After a bus ride, some Groninger students hopped on the ferry together with our cohort, and we took off to the mystical island of Schiermonnikoog….


*The following part is, shamelessly, entirely based on the Groningen-blog*

Schiermonnikoog is a small island with around 950 inhabitants. The islanders mainly live off of the tourists that flock to the island in great numbers, especially during summer. The island has a lot to offer in terms of nature and wildlife, and many people come to enjoy the peace and quiet that they can find here. One of its popular attractions is mudflat walking. As the CIEE group was divided into two smaller groups, there was one group of lucky students who had to be ready by 6.45, in order to examine what the mudflats hold before high tide comes in. And as it turns out, the mudflats hold a lot of living creatures that manage to hide themselves well!


And can you believe that no one fell? Well, maybe just one person did… Our well-respected Resident Coordinator in Groningen :)


Despite the early rise, the walk was well worth it, as the mudflats look beautiful in the early sun!


The rest of the day brought a bike tour exploring Schiermonnikoog’s lovely nature, an outdoor barbecue, closing with an awesome bonfire on the beach with Dutch-style s’mores (chocolate spread is much more practical than actual chocolate!).


Sunday morning saw the two groups going in separate ways, with one visiting Schiermonnikoog’s Seashell Museum (where all seashells are collected by the owner, Thijs (aka our mudflat-walking guide and bike tour-guide) and his family), whilst the other went off to the beach in order to fly some massive kites. As all good things must come to an end, so did this weekend. Nonetheless, this overnight trip was a great way to get in touch with nature a bit more and get away from the hectic city.


With many thanks to all the students who together with the Amsterdam and Groningen staff made this trip amazing!


Running from Dam to Dam with CIEE!

A couple of sore-legged days have passed since nine CIEE students took the start line of the Dam tot Damloop race, one of the biggest races in Europe and the world. It was brisk Sunday morning, perfect running weather with a slight breeze, when 65,000 runners from all over Europe participated in the 30thanniversary of the Dam to Dam. With the first gun sounding off at 10:30 and our team’s starting time a short 5 minutes after, the ten miles seemed more unbearable than one could have imagined.

Having hardly trained (I only found out nine days before the run that I was racing because a spot had opened up), I undoubtedly felt intimidated by the thousands of athletes who wore matching shirts with their teammates intensely warming up. Ten miles seemed like a lot to me, considering I hadn’t ran that much at one time, let alone raced it, since my cross country days in high school. Nevertheless, the opportunity was one I couldn’t pass up, so I signed up and on Sunday morning I rode my bike anxiously to meet up with my CIEE team. Dam tot dam 2

The nine of us took the start line together at about 10:15, chatting about how we just wanted it to start so we could get it over with it, while simultaneously competing over who of us was going to get come in last (thankfully the last group went off at 15:00, so it would’ve been quite tough to be the actual last person to finish the race). As our 10:35 gun went off, my usual cross country race-mode-adrenaline kicked in, and off we all went. What I didn’t know when I first ran away from the start line, however, was the beauty and camaraderie I would experience on this unforgettable ten mile trek from Prins Hendrikkade to the heart of Zaandam.  Running cross country and track for four years in high school and always having a craving for long runs and races, I have seen a lot of trails and raced a lot of races in my life. But until the Dam to Dam race, I had never experienced so much magnificence in my surroundings and unyielding encouragement from bystanders I did not know. The second we came out the first tunnel that marked 2 kilometers, we were met with a band performing on one side, and cheering fans on the other. The constant chatter from the sidelines revitalized me, and was one of the main reasons I didn’t slow down the whole race.  Dam tot Dam 3
We ran along beautiful stretches of water and green fields, with marching bands, singers, musicians, and DJs every half a kilometer. There was never once a quiet point in the race, which I found quintessential in helping me ignore my aching legs and tired lungs. The different types of noise flooding my ears every other minute also made the race go by incredibly fast and helped keep me from checking my watch every second.

When we weren’t hearing music, we were running through neighborhoods that looked like they could be in a fairytale—narrow roads with brick cottages that had streams running in front of them and a mini-bridge to walk on to get to the front door. All along these neighborhoods little children and their families were cheering at us in Dutch (I think) and although I couldn’t understand the big signs they made or their cheers, the inspiration and support was awe-inspiring. The amity I felt with everyone on the sidelines and the people running the race with me was enough to help me push through to the finish.

Although the last couple of miles were tough, the hundreds and hundreds of people lining the finish made it easy and worthwhile. Once I crossed the finish line and received a medal, although my legs were mad at me for the agony I had just put them through, I knew I had made the right decision in signing up for the Dam to Dam race. Once everyone on our team finished and we had all gathered together, we all had the same reaction of “Wow, we just participated in an once-in-a-lifetime experience, and although it hurt, we wouldn’t take it back.” A big thanks to CIEE for giving us the opportunity to partake in this one in a lifetime event! Dam tot Dam

MK Trotter
Student Fall 2014


A Dutch family-for-a-weekend!

For my weekend homestay, I visited the Thuring’s family in Amersfoort. During the weekend homestay you spend a weekend with a Dutch family! I arrived on Friday at 11:30am and the mom and I drove home (first time in a car since I’ve been here!) then biked to pick up the kids.IMG_2928The girl, Silke was 6 years old, and the boy, Wilko was 4 ½ years old. They were both adorable!! We got home, had a picnic outside, played jump rope and other games with some other neighborhood kids, and baked brownies. The kids also had a little fight because Silke accidentally let go of Wilko’s balloon outside and it flew away. However, all was forgiven by the time we took the kids to swimming lessons.IMG_2918On Saturday, we drove for an hour to Alkmaar where they were having their once-a-year family gathering with the father’s 11 siblings and their families. We played a lot of traditional dutch games such as “nail pooping” and shulen! It ended with a giant feast of Italian food! What an awesome fun Dutch weekend!IMG_2986Groetjes,

Jelene Wong,
Spring 2014


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



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



Sad to say our final CIEE day trip has passed, but happy to say I had a great time. I finally got to see the southern part of the Netherlands! 

We took a bus to a city called Den Bosch, or "the Duke's forest." The city was surrounded by an impressive and medieval-looking city wall. We later learned that Den Bosch is one of the last remaining cities with some of its original city walls still intact. The free time given to us upon arrival was spent with a few friends wandering the city's fish market, exploring the high-end shopping streets, and finally, passing through St. John's Cathedral, an extremely old gothic style church which appeared to be the centerpiece of the city. Imagine walking through shops and restaurants on small streets and all of a sudden a giant gothic cathedral appears around the corner. It didn't quite blend in, it was absolutely beautiful. It was lined with gorgeous stained glass windows and even better, entrance was free.

The group reconvened for the next activity, a boat tour of Den Bosch and the surrounding area. Before the tour, we learned about the historical significance of the city in the “Bastion” bunker from the 1600s. We walked to our boats along the edge of the city wall, which made a sharp drop to the river below. The guide cautioned us to stay away from the edge. The scenery was really nice. There was a big contrast between the calmness by the river and the business of the city center. We were given fleece blankets, which were appreciated given the cold and cloudy day. And then the moment came which we had all been waiting for, the "Bossche Bol" - a.k.a., a chocolate-covered pastry the size of my fist, and stuffed with whipped cream. But it was the specialty of Den Bosch and thus had to be tried. Cato passed around the box and everyone grabbed one. Some finished it, while some were more than satisfied with just a few bites. It was delicious. The joke was whether someone could eat their Bossche Bol and then the leftovers remaining in the box. I don't think there were any takers because we were expecting a dinner no less than 2 hours later.Bosche bol

If you've been on any other day trips, you know never to say "no" to a CIEE dinner. After the tour, we waited eagerly for our bus, which took us to a local restaurant, or rather farmhouse turned restaurant, called D’n Boerderij. It did not disappoint. We were served generous portions of soup, salad, meats, fish, and to top it off, an ice cream sundae... all the food one could have hoped for. It is just a shame that we couldn't finish it all! After dinner we hurried back to the bus to get to the next stop, a 40-minute drive further south to a city called Eindhoven. All I knew about Eindhoven beforehand was that there was a supposedly cheaper airport there to fly out of. Little did I know that Eindhoven is known as "the Dutch City of Lights." That week Eindhoven was showing off its title with its annual GLOW Festival, a festival displaying the true capabilities of light.LichtThe theme this year was "Urban Playground" and throughout the town there were artificial light projects and installations related to this theme. Our walking tour started at a "tree" which lit up to the beat of the music that was playing. It was cool, but it was only the beginning! We saw many different displays and decorations of light created by artists, designers and even architects. The city had tons of energy between the crowds, the music, and the lightshows.  Light showThe artists manipulated shadows and the architecture of buildings, optical illusions and tricking our perceptions of what was real. It was cool to learn about the motivations of the artists and what they were thinking in the process. Back on the bus by 9pm, we survived the busy day and were ready to pass out on the 2-hour ride back. Den Bosch and Eindhoven were awesome, but Amsterdam, as always, remains my favorite.Image

Jamie Lebowitz




While the taste of cheese still lingers on my tongue and in my dreams, I have to share with you my first real "cheese tasting" experience at De Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Room in Amsterdam. It was much classier than I expected. 20 of us were paired up at tables in a cozy little room. At our tables were several blocks of different cheeses, wine glasses, and a "guillotine" for cutting the cheese ourselves. No pun intended!Cheese tasting 2

The nice Dutch lady working there gave us the history of De Reypenaer cheese, explained the ripening process of their cheeses, and told us what to expect from our cheese tasting. She poured us a glass of white wine and we got straight to it. First up was a yummy goat cheese.

Cheese tasting 11Everyone knows there is nothing better than tasting good food, and you just can't go wrong with cheese - especially "typical Dutch cheese". The lady even joked about throwing out anyone who rated their cheeses in the 2's and 3's. I would have too, after having tried all of their delicious cheeses. The cheeses were paired with a nice glass of red wine, white wine, or port to cleanse the palate between tastes. 

Advice: Don't make the mistake of drinking your whole cup of wine before the tasting is over! I have probably never put more thought into what I was eating than during this cheese tasting. I felt a bit like the character from my favorite movie, Ratatouille, when he hones in on his senses...taste, touch, smell. While I could not pinpoint my senses as well, I was impressed by others in the room who could. They accurately described cheeses as "tasting like butter" or "smelling like wood." We were even given a sheet to write it all down so we could compare the cheeses we tried!

I went into the cheese tasting with my favorite cheese being old cheese and left with my favorite still being old cheese. You will always find a block of Old Amsterdam cheese in my fridge... They definitely saved the best for last. Their old cheese, "Reypenar XO" was by far my favorite. They warned us about how amazing it was beforehand. The lady described it as "strong enough to make us forget the first cheese. 

This was one of my favorite CIEE activities, but perhaps I am biased because I love cheese. Anyways, however I started off as a cheese taster, I now have solid proof of my expertise. Cheese tasting 5Jamie Lebowitz
Social Science student, Fall 2013, Amsterdam


Before coming to Amsterdam, I didn’t know whether living with a host family would be the right fit for me. Now that I am here, I am so glad I choose this option. I have been in Amsterdam for a little over two months now and some of my favorite memories and experiences have been with my host family. Ever since arriving, they have treated me as their own and this has made such a positive impact on my time here.

During the first few weeks of living in Amsterdam, it was quite the adjustment moving into a new home. My host family made the transition really comfortable and it was fun to talk about the differences between our cultures. Through these conversations and interactions, I have learned a lot about Dutch traditions, social norms, and possible day-to-day encounters. While living with them, I have had the opportunity to join them in activities and on trips they have planned. Some of these include: going to my host sister’s softball games; attending a classical concert in the canal; taking part in neighborhood events; having dinner with Dutch family friends; and the list goes on. Each of these activities or trips has opened my eyes to new perspectives and new places. Recently, I had the chance to meet my family in the north of the Netherlands to go sailing with them. During this trip, we lived on the boat and sailed on the Ijsselmeer and through other lakes and channels in the Friesland area. It was an amazing experience! I not only got to live on a boat but I also got to see an entirely different part of the country.Natalie host fam 2

Although I love taking part in my host family’s trips, my favorite part of all is simply being part of their daily lives. Most days we eat breakfast and dinner together. Oftentimes, I help cook dinner with my host dad and during the meal we all catch up on our days. In the evenings, we sometimes watch TV together, play games, eat dessert, or go on walks. I am learning so much about what it means to be surrounded by a different culture but also to be immersed in it. It’s amazing how open-minded I have become through living in a new environment and adapting to a new normal. In the beginning, I was unsure about how I could adjust my lifestyle to fit theirs but I was willing to learn their way of life. Coming from the States, I was not used to eating so much bread throughout the day, using smaller bathrooms, and sharing more of the living space. Although my new way of life varies from my life back home, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. It has been so interesting getting to know how other people live and I now find myself trying to blend in as a true Amsterdammer. Not only is studying in Amsterdam an amazing experience but being part of a family has enhanced it tenfold.

Natalie host famNatalie Meissner
Business and Culture student, Amsterdam, Fall 2013



First step into the Maritime Museum and I'm awestruck at the interior of the building. One delicious cappuccino and coconut cookie later, and our stunning Dutch tour guide is showing us the interior of a real Dutch East Indie trading company ship of the 17th century! After biking past this ship with curiosity many times, I was excited to finally get a look inside. Voc ship 11"Back in the 17th century (the Golden Age) the Netherlands was one of the most powerful and rich countries in the world. The VOC – the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie – was founded in Amsterdam and developed into the "storehouse of the world”: the VOC had goods from all over the world in their warehouses. Their success was mainly due to shipping."

Touring the boat gave me a lot of insight on the life and experience of the people who lived in it. I definitely recommend this tour to anyone interested. Hearing about the lives of people who traveled on this ship was so intriguing. Their lives were so uncertain and in a way, primal. Our tour guide had detailed explanations and answers to all of our questions, and I left the boat seeing and learning way more than I had expected. After touring the boat we took some time to explore the museum, and I learned much about the navigation techniques they used back then. A special exhibit reminded me of the gruesome Middle Passage and all of its horrors. There were some incredible paintings of ships and the ocean. I literally could have looked at these paintings for hours, the texture and color and techniques was incredible. I had to pull myself away.

VOC dagFrom there, my lovely day only got lovelier! We proceeded to indulge in a delightful lunch of sandwiches, wine, and delicious chocolate cake in Ship Chanlders Warehouse, a restaurant tucked away in the heart of the city. The restaurant made me feel like I was in a different time period because it had so many unique details and artifacts. I was impressed with the authentic feeling, and excited to learn ship captains would go to this warehouse to eat when their ships would dock.

After lunch, we took a tour of the city center. I walked down streets I didn't know existed and explored the hidden graveyard in the center of the city, learning facts along the way. We even caught the man who assembles the Iamsterdam signs in action, and took a cheesy picture with the sign with no one else on it but us!

Voc dag 1Over all I had a truly magical day, and I felt relieved that I could glide along with the group without having to worry about organizing, planning, or paying for anything. Lekker!

Margot Keen