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The Nether Regions: Amsterdam part one

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Here in Europe, from everyone that I have told that I am Australian, I have received the exact same reply: “Oh, that must have been a long flight”, and you know what? They are 100% right. Unable to sleep, I had a total of 21 hours straight of watching movies and 4 hours of aimlessly pacing around Dubai airport.

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Doodle I did on the plane

 It was totally worth it. Europe is old and beautiful; every city is like a museum working around the clock to preserve its memories. So you move through it, with one eye on the past and one on the present. I ate and drank my way through Brussels, I got nostalgic in Ghent’s vintage markets where I purchased an old school Gameboy and Pokemon Yellow and then I embraced Ghent’s pro-street art culture. Tucked in between castles and giant medieval churches there are alleyways, which have become legal paint walls where everybody is welcome to put up a piece.

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Some of the crazy stuff they were selling at the vintage markets
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My panda mural
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Me painting my mural

After a brush with Belgium I made it to Amsterdam. I moved into my new home called the Houthavens, however everybody just knows them as The Containers. It doesn’t look like much, in fact the inside looks like I have ransacked IKEA but it’s my burrow and I have found my community here. We were united by an introduction week by the International Student Network. This consisted of a different party every night, a Dutch crash course (this is actually to do with the language, but the name does reflect learning how to ride a bike in Amsterdam), a canal cruise and a trip to the zoo.

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The Houthavens… the containers
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My room
The butterfly park at Artis Zoo
The butterfly park at Artis Zoo

Life here in Amsterdam is easy, you just hop on your bike and you go. Everyday is another spin class – my legs are going to look amazing by the end of these next 6 months. Strangely enough the bike lock costs more than the bike not that it actually works, the salesman sold me the bike lock like this “you can have a bike lock which someone will cut through in 1 minute, or this bike lock which someone will cut through in 5 minutes”. Sold.  Then when it is sunny, I’ll just go have a picnic in a park with some friends, or sit on the pier outside of our containers or have a beer in the Jordaan, which is a really beautiful part of town.

The good times kept rolling. I’m actually writing this after arriving home from what has been my 4th music festival in Amsterdam. This is also after a 40-minute bike ride from the festival back to my home in pouring rain (this actually happens a lot – they didn’t mention that in the brochure). Tonight’s festival was called Magneet and it literally ended with a bang, where we all stood huddled and cuddled together like penguins being beaten by the rain while “professionals” danced around and ignited a wooden boat on fire. Still the most amazing festival I have been to is Valtifest. For it everybody dresses up to a theme and goes absolutely mental, or they looked absolutely mental because the theme was Kak (which in Dutch means poo).  What was crazier is the main stage was raised onto a giant toilet, where everybody got loose like stools and danced beneath.

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Magneet Festival
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Our costume for Valtifest
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Valtifest

Oh there is also this thing called university, which I have started at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. It was actually quite a shock and a little bit refreshing, it feels good to learn something again. There are a lot of similarities between this and UTS. Physically because there is no identifiable campus, rather it consists of different faculty buildings dispersed around the centre town – with a curious amount very close to the heart of the red light district. The learning method is pretty similar in its lectures, tutorials and a ton of never ending readings. I have picked up a masters subject, which in essence is just about comic books, so I can’t really complain about those readings. I’m also learning Dutch now as part of my degree where my assignments consist predominantly of ordering coffee.

This is where I am at now. Everything is going so quickly, I have just realised how short six months is, so anyone who is reading this and thinking of exchange, I would recommend trying to go abroad for a year instead. Although maybe I am still in the honeymoon period and I will feel differently in a month. If that is the case, this has been a long upswing. If you want to know whether you should still try to apply for a year-long program, stay tuned to see if I can have a bad time.

I doubt it.

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Haters gonna hate

Zachary Goldberg

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