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Amsterdam (Never Never land)

Neverland

29th of September

I flew out of Sydney on the 6th of August, so I’m nearly two months into exchange. That’s funny because I’ve already blown through about three quarters of my money. That’s normal, right?

My reckless spending probably has something to do with the three weeks in Barcelona, London and Berlin before semester started (Europe! Everywhere is close! You can go places!) I have no idea what happened most of that time – money was spent. Here’s some pictures.

Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona
London
London
Berlin
Berlin
Berlin
Berlin

Now I’m settling down in Amsterdam, going to uni, and dealing with a personal budget emergency of Joe Hockey-esque proportions.

It’s morning here, and the weather is crisp: it’s sunny, blue and deceptively chilly. Perfect weather for a cute outfit with a nice coat and riding around on a bicycle. I know I’m doing it right if the woman at the checkout starts speaking Dutch to me – it means I’m dressed for European Autumn.

I find that the art of blending in is one of the single greatest joys of travel. Blending in at the checkout isn’t just about dressing right: it also means you have to look bored, as though popping up to the shops for milk and stroopwafels is a mundane task. You have to be ready with a tote bag for your groceries – the checkout woman is NOT going to bag up your groceries for you. She’ll scan them and toss them down a very aggressive looking conveyor belt and it’s your responsibility to swiftly bag them before the next person’s items come cascading down on top of yours. Do this while paying with cash (no visa, no master card), sifting through your euro coins, and try not to seem intimidated. Looking inexplicably nervous as your eyes dart around the room while buying groceries is classic “awkward tourist” behaviour.

I feel as though I’m on a permanent mission to transition into a “seasoned local”. It sounds silly, but being treated like I live here is a simple pleasure that I feel compelled to strive for. Having said that, there’s also a lot to be said for getting excited in the snack aisle and running up to my English speaking housemates holding liquorice Haribo gummy mix exclaiming “HAVE YOU TRIED THESE?”

Haribo selection
Haribo selection

I live with 17 fantastic people in a big old, grey apartment block, the Weesperflat. It’s what a prison would look like if they forgot to send the guards in and the prisoners started having parties. Everything is made of cages. The elevator smells like vomit and stale beer. But the VIEW! The seventh floor penthouse view is a winner. The balcony looks out over all of Amsterdam, with the lights on the canals sparkling in front of you at night.

Amsterdam canals at night
Amsterdam canals at night

Right now it’s morning and the street below is buzzing with speeding cyclists. I’m watching them while I drink my coffee. Mornings are nice in the Weesperflat: someone usually puts the BBC on and it flashes away with the volume on low as we slowly wake up, make breakfast and greet each other good morning.

Polish dinner night with the roomies
Polish dinner night with the roomies

Living with people is one of the best decisions I’ve made. Between movie nights, trips to local bars and ciggies on the balcony, you meet people and end up discussing politics or the Syrian refugee crisis, and you learn whole new perspectives on these things that you’ve never considered before. You’re taken out of your bubble, and you’re a better person for it. Give it a few weeks and you’ll probably decide you have a crush on someone and start gossiping about it with your new BFFs. You’ll play drinking games that you considered yourself “too cool” for back home in Sydney. You’ll end up drunk and yelling things at passers by from the back of your mate’s bicycle, being the excitable international student that you’ve always envied. You’ll explore the city, attempt to get into cool underground parties, make lifelong friends and embarrass yourself in the supermarket countless times. It’s a lot of fun.

Matilda Fay 12030704

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Netherlands

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