An Australian, an Englishman and a Dutchie walk into a bar. There’s no punchline to follow though – that’s just an everyday occurrence here on my Exchange experience in beautiful Amsterdam.
I arrived in Amsterdam dazed as all hell after a total of 32 hours in transit. Running so I wouldn’t miss the last airport pick-up service by the International Student Network (ISN), I eventually found my fellow students. As we were about to board the bus, however, I noticed I suffered from the acute condition of Left My Bag Back At The Airport and was forced to brave both rain and stern police officers to get it back. A great first impression.
I finally made my way to my new home, the infamous flats of Weesperstraat. I was immediately blown away by the grunginess of it all; most of my new flatmates were local Dutch students that had been living there for a while, so they’ve managed to really make it seem like home. This also means that I’ve already gotten so many useful local tips from them.
The following week was a blur. The Introduction Week organised by the ISN was really top notch; enough wholesome activities to keep us busy during the day and enough partying in the evenings to last a liver’s lifetime. We were organised into groups of ‘about twenty’ (we weren’t too good at doing headcounts to check if we had lost anybody) led by two local Dutch students, and with butterflies burping out of our mouths and entire constellations in our eyes, we soon made friendships that have already been admitted to having the potential of lasting forever.
The Scavenger Hunt through the city allowed us a rudimentary understanding of how the city was laid out and we all treated the experience as a sort of Speed Dating experiment, with everyone in the group continually bouncing off each other in an attempt to meet everyone else and to and establish mutual interests and connections. Later we found ourselves at Amsterdam Roest, an incredible warehouse/industrial area turned hipster haven, for the ISN Summer Festival. The night ended with my ISN group running into the dance group – who had all just performed not hours earlier – in the car park and engaging in what I can only call The Best Dance Battle Ever. Our record currently stands at 1 – 0.
Waking up groggy for the first time here (we had better get used to it), we were treated to a canal cruise throughout the city. Later in the evening was the Eurodinner wherein students brought in food and snacks iconic to their country. I’d like to say that everyone enjoyed my selection of Tim Tams and Fairy Bread, but I was too busy having a boogie to notice what happened to it. Leaving a club with a plate of pasta was truly a unique experience, however.
This was a day of mental stimulation as we tackled a Dutch Language Crash Course head on. We learnt basic introductory phrases and lamented our inability to produce that harsh, gutteral ‘g’ and ‘ch’ sound that Dutch people seem so fond of. We later had a pub crawl through Rembrandtplein, one of Amsterdam’s famous squares, which included the favourite international student haunt Coco’s Outback Pub. Is this really what everyone else thinks of Australia?
After such a packed week, waking up early to play sports seemed like a terrible idea. Eventually we made it, however, and as usual it turned out fantastic. Also as per normal, our ISN group dominated much of the competitive games. The final day of the Introduction Week meant that a big final party at Melkweg was organised and people were jittery with excitement. The final day of such a week also meant that this evening had me and my English flatmate drinking tea at 11pm, trying to perk us up. Naturally, we stayed til close at 5am.
The weekend was spent mostly in solitary recovery and Monday was met with the excitement that there was still a week til classes started. We were left to organise our own adventures now, and it was brilliant. We sampled Amsterdam’s coffee culture and made trips throughout Vondelpark. We bought our bikes and belled angrily at tourists. We had nights out and we had days in. I still have moments, walking by a canal, where I look up at the beautiful architecture of the city and think to myself, “Holy crap, I’m in Amsterdam!”
And there’s still five whole months left of it.
Photo credits: Maria Morris and Ross Warwick