Why did you choose this program?
I chose the IES Amsterdam program for three main reasons: location, area of study, and my dad. When I was younger, my dad traveled to a lot of amazing places for work. I once asked him if he could go anywhere just for himself, where would he go? He said Amsterdam. "The bikes, the tulips, the canals, it just seems like a great place." Our family also has Dutch heritage, because of this, I was drawn to the Netherlands. Before this semester abroad, I had ever been outside of the U.S. before so I thought a smaller city like Amsterdam would be a good place for me to live for four months. I also knew Amsterdam has unique perceptions of gender and sexuality, so I thought it would be interesting to take courses on those topics in the city.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
IES assisted us with our living arrangements, health insurance, bike rental, course registration, cultural acclamation, field trips, and general emotional support throughout the semester. They also provided us with a public transport card and a museum card which allowed us admittance to all the museums in the Netherlands for free. (The museum card was absolutely my favorite part.) We were in charge of our own food/eating throughout the semester.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Something I would want to tell someone going abroad, especially someone going for the first time on their own, is that the first couple days are going to feel pretty overwhelming and a little scary. My advice is to give yourself time to adjust in whichever way is best for you. Since I've been a competitive swimmer my whole life, I decided that I needed to find a pool to feel a bit more grounded. Within a week, I found a Dutch swim team and I ended up swimming with them the entire semester. Just know that you will feel comfortable sooner than you think.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
In an average week, IES students only have class two or three days a week. Classes are pretty long since each one only occurs once or twice a week. Students usually spend typical amounts of time doing homework during the week, depending on their classes. The rest of the week is up to the individual student to fill with their own plans. I went to plenty of museums, I had swim practice three times a week, and I did a lot of research in the historical institutes in Amsterdam. Students also had plenty of time to travel once their classes were done for the week. I visited Hamburg, Paris, Kraków, Berlin, and plenty of cities throughout the Netherlands.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?
I'd say I had a general fear of the unknown instead of one "biggest fear" going into my time abroad. I hadn't ridden a bike much in the past few years and I was moving to the city of bikes. I had never lived in a city at all before. I had never been outside of the country at all. So I was pretty nervous about the whole experience. I overcame that fear by balancing ways to bring my comfort zone to Amsterdam while also pushing myself to do new things. I joined a swim team and went to museums, those were things I knew I'd always be comfortable doing. I also ended up loving my bike. I even traveled by myself and tried to talk to people everywhere I went. I am so happy with how my experience turned out.
What are some of your favorite museums in Amsterdam?
My favorite museums were the Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands' national museum with the most famous Rembrandts, Vermeers, and other famous Dutch artists. I loved the Eye, the film museum across from the IJ River. I also thought the Versetzmuseum was very interesting; this museum explains the Dutch Resistance movement to the Nazi occupation during World War II. The Anne Frank House was of course extremely moving.