Studying abroad was a decision I almost made on a whim. I had only left the US a couple times before and for brief periods of time, so the move to Amsterdam for four months was a big change in my day-to-day life. Going with CIEE was one of the better decisions I made. They helped a lot with the paperwork of applying to study/live in the Netherlands as well as housing and getting into classes, so I highly recommend them for that. The staff for CIEE Amsterdam are fantastic people. The second you arrive they make you feel so welcome. All of them are very knowledgeable and helped calm our concerns before arriving with two live-streams to answer questions and go over the agenda for arrival.
Upon arrival, you'll be picked up by some CIEE staff to take you to your hostel for a couple days of orientation. These first two days are a great way to make some friends and know some faces before you're thrown into the ISN introduction week. If I'll be honest, the ISN week was tough. I barely felt like I was settled before we were being taken all over the city 'til late hours. Sure partying is fun, but when you don't know many people and you have nothing setup in your apartment, it's a little awkward. Obviously the timing can't be helped too much and it's not CIEE's fault, but that was probably my only concern with arrival/orientation.
CIEE the program was great. The excursions are soooo much fun and well worth taking advantage of (especially the overnight trips!) Schiermonnikoog was my absolute favorite part of the CIEE Amsterdam program, hands down. CIEE also hosts numerous "clubs" that meet to try different activities, games, book discussions, or trying different foods. I didn't do too many, but the ones that I did were loads of fun (bouldering became a new hobby of mine). My CIEE classes were very informative and gave me enough to work with while not being overwhelming. Bonny and Annabel were my two CIEE teachers; both of them were great. Beginning Dutch and Intercultural Communcations gave me a perspective of Dutch culture that I greatly appreciated both in my time over there as well as post study abroad. They also planned some fun excursions such as visiting an authentic Amsterdam canal house or visiting a voting booth on election day.
I also recommend taking advantage of the weekend home-stay that CIEE offers (included!) If you're staying in a dorm, it's a great way to gain some insight into Dutch lifestyle and culture. My home-stay was in Arnhem, NL. CIEE pays for your train ticket and I ended up being able to stay with my host family for two nights. I got to see the sites of historic WW2 battles that were fought during Operation Market Garden in and around Arnhem as well as see the production tulip fields in Noordoostpolder in Flevoland. Homemade Dutch food was also a massive bonus :)
My UvA classes were alright, but generally I felt underwhelmed with them. Some of it was the difference in academic environment from my home university, some of it was my awkward "this isn't my major" feeling since I was mostly taking elective classes during my study abroad. Overall they weren't bad, just not what I was expecting either.
Housing was alright. The location couldn't be better (I was in Prins Hendrikkade dorms) which are just outside of the city center. The accommodations were slightly underwhelming. My kitchen came with nothing and had no freezer or oven. My room was clean and comfortable though, so I can't complain there.
Top recommendations for things to do while studying in Amsterdam:
1. Get a bike. Learn how to ride if you don't know how, but seriously get a bike. Two locks, two lights, and awareness of your surroundings and you're ready to go. Biking in the city is so much fun and soooo much easier than dealing with public transit (which is still pretty good here). I recommend either renting one or finding a decent used one for sub 80 euros (any more than that and you're just overpaying for four months).
2. Try the various cafes and markets in Amsterdam. Waterlooplein is a great flea market and I highly recommend Two for Joy Coffee Roasters, Sweet Cup, and Lot Sixty One for some great third-wave home roasted coffee.
3. Travel around the Netherlands! Europe is awesome too, but if you spend all your time planning a trip around Europe, you'll miss out on the amazing Dutch towns and cities. Delft, Utrecht, Maastricht, and Haarlem were among my favorite that I visited. They're super easy to reach by train, though if you and your bike are up to it there's also bike "highways" between all of the main cities in the Netherlands.
4. Don't be afraid of being alone. If you spend your whole time worrying about not being alone, you'll lose a lot of sleep over nothing. Find your groove and your people. Try new things. Studying abroad isn't just posting cool instagram pictures, it's a time to learn more about yourself and the world around you.
My overall feeling about studying abroad in Amsterdam (in general) is that I would do it again. I would've made more of an effort to put myself out there in the first few weeks and make friends though. I struggled being alone a lot in the Netherlands both in travel and in day-to-day activities. Being away from my support system of my family and friends at home was big challenge for me. If you decide to study abroad (in any capacity), be ready for this.