I had never been to the Netherlands, so this gave me the opportunity to explore (and live!) somewhere brand new. Also, I'm very interested in cultivating a global perspective on gender-based issues, so this was a great mix! I wanted an experience unlike anything that I was receiving from my home university, so this allowed me to branch out and take a very nice course.
Bronte is a soon-to-be graduate of Stetson University, majoring in Theatre Arts with minors in African & Gender Studies and Philosophy. She is passionate about art, global citizenship, social justice, and tolerance.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Stetson offered me advice on how to move forward with scholarships to help cover costs, as well as on coordinating and speaking with department heads on how my courses would count when I returned to the States. Outside of that, I organized mostly everything on my own, but with the guidance of Stetson and my IES Adviser, Becca Yount. This is not to say that my home university was hands-off during the process, I just found it easier to do everything myself.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Pack lightly, and pack an extra suitcase. My mom has an age old trick of packing an extra (lightweight) suitcase in her one large bag, so when she travels home, if she buys things, she has the maximum of 2 bags to travel home with.
Don't be afraid of being on your own. I'm a very social person, and being alone and not really knowing anyone threw me for a loop, initially, but I came to value the time I had to think, wander, and explore my new city.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
With my course, classes were taught in three-hour block in either the morning or afternoon. Following class, I would stop by De ijsmolen for gelato, then make lunch in my apartment. Depending on what my homework situation looked like, I would either go to a museum or sit on the rooftop and get my work done. In the evening, we would go out to bars and clubs. Our frequent spots were Amsterdam Roest and Queers Cafe for the drag show or bingo.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear was getting lost and not knowing where I needed to be. (I have no natural sense of direction.) Because my life is a total joke, I managed to get lost while on the way to visit a friend; I took the wrong train, and I was about two towns away from where I needed to be. Luckily, my friend had a car, and he was only about 30 minutes away from where we were supposed to meet.
After hiding in shame at the Starbucks across the train station, I realized that I should be giving myself a little bit of credit. I took a solo 1-hour train ride through a country whose language I don’t speak, and managed to navigate myself in (almost) the correct direction. I still count it as a win in my book!
How expensive is it to travel between countries? Is marijuana culture as big in Amsterdam as media makes it out to be?
It is not too expensive to travel between countries so long as you book your tickets/housing within a reasonable amount of time. While abroad, I took two trips outside of the Berlin trip with the IES program.
I traveled to Brussels with about 11 other IES students via bus using FlixBus, and we stayed at a large AirBNB. Overall, it cost about 40 USD; bus tickets were about $15, and the split cost of the AirBNB was about $25 per person. We were able to stay for the weekend, and I spent about 40 USD additional on food, drinks, souvenirs, etc.
My second trip was to London for a weekend for Pride, and I purchased my ticket two days before the flight, and it was only about 150 USD. I was fortunate enough to have my parents book me a hotel, so I was able to save quite a bit of money in that respect. (I recommend the Blades Hotel – it's walking distance from most tourist locations, and the train station linked to the airport!)
On the marijuana question, my answer is yes and no. Marijuana falls into a legal gray area in the Netherlands. The best way to think about it is like college. It's probably around, but there is no one to force you into consuming it, and no one will shame you if you choose to abstain.