ISN Introduction

Trip Start Aug 18, 2011
Trip End Jul 02, 2012

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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Monday, August 22, 2011

This past week has been pretty busy for me with last minute business and my International Student Network (ISN) Introduction. On Monday (8-22) I spent the day getting a prepaid phone, buying a Museumkaart (Museum Card), and having my intake appointment at the university for my Residency Permit.

My phone only cost 20 Euros and it came with minutes already on it. I thought it was a fairly good deal. I'm going to use Skype to talk to everyone back home, but I needed a real phone in case I need to contact someone for something urgent.

Next I walked down to Leidsplein and bought a Museumkaart. It was another good deal - only $45 Euros to get into most of the museums in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. One museum costs about $15 Euros for admittance, so if I go to three it will pay off.

After that I went to the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA - students call it U-Vuh) for my Residency Permit intake appointment. It didn't take very long and the student who helped me gave me a lot of useful information. On the walk back to my apartment I decided to take a walk through Vodelpark, the largest park in Amsterdam. It was very nice and seamed to be similar to Oosterpark beside my apartment, but larger.

On Tuesday morning (8-23), our room was being painted and it was raining, so I decided to check out the Van Gogh Museum. I got in free with my Museumkaart and got to skip the lines, which was nice. The museum was amazing! Van Gogh is one of the Netherland's most famous painters. The museum had over 200 of his paintings and some drawings and letters. He produced 900 paintings throughout his life, so the museum has a sizable collection of them.

It was a great experience to get to see his work in person. I've had a poster of one of his paintings called "The Olive Trees" hanging in my room for a couple of years. The layout of the museum was neat, because we started out with his early works which used darker colors and you could see his progression from Pointillism and Impressionism to his own style with lots of colors. They had a large amount of his most famous works The Potato Eaters, Almond Blossom, Irises, Sunflowers and Bedroom in Arles.

They also had some paintings form other artists who influence him such as Renoire, Monet, and Manet. Seeing the Monet's they had was an unexpected surprise. Some of the paintings were so beautiful that I just stood in front of them for minutes taking them in. I really enjoyed it and will definitely be going back again. Unfortunately, they didn't allow photographs, but I did snap a shot of a room modeled after "Bedroom in Arles"

My ISN Orientation started on Wednesday (8-24). It's a four day orientation for international students at the UvA. In just my group we had people from Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Los Angeles, France, and Kentucky. Our group leaders are two Dutch brothers and they're very funny.

On the first day of orientation , we had lunch and then went to the Westerkerk (Western Church)
for the official school introduction. It was the first church I have been inside in Amsterdam, so I was shocked at how big it was. We learned from one speaker that the Netherlands was always very liberally minded. It allowed religious tolerance centuries before other countries in Europe. He also talked about how important business is to their society, which is very similar to America. You can definitely see this on the streets as business people walk to work in their suits. He also talked about the city's drug and prostitution policies. He pointed out that less people in the Netherlands use marijuana than in most other industrialized countries because it is readily available, but can be regulated like the US does with tobacco products. He pointed out that seeing the cafes and the Red Light District alongside the business people in their suits can be surprising to international students. I would have to say that it was to me at first too, but now after being here for a little over a week it seems normal to me. Afterwards we took a brief tour of some of the city's attractions. It was very rainy the whole day, unfortunately.

The next day of the orientation (8-25), we took a walking tour of the city with a tour guide. He showed us some good English book stores, the Begijnhof (a small historic square), Magna Plaza (a shopping center) and Dam Square. We also visited the Amsterdam Historical Museum. I got to see a Rembrandt painting at the Museum, but didn't get a chance to take a picture. Afterwards we took a canal cruise. The cruise was pretty neat, because we got to learn the history behind the major canals and different buildings.

I found out that the three canals in the canal ring were constructed during the Dutch Golden Age in the 1600s. They are the Herengracht (Lord's Canal, where all of the wealthy traders lived), the Keizersgracht (Emperor's Canal, named after Maximilain I, Holy Roman Emperor), and the Prinsengracht (Prince's Canal, named after the Prince of Orange) I also learned that the hooks on top of all of the canal houses are used to move furniture in and out of the houses because the stairs were made very narrow during the Dutch Golden Age to conserve space.

After the canal cruise, we watched a Dutch movie, with English subtitles. My friend and I missed the first part of the movie because we went to the grocery store, so I didn't catch the title. It was a modern murder mystery, and it was surprisingly pretty good. It was neat to see some of the humor in the movie. That's one thing I have noticed, is that Dutch people are generally very nice and have great senses of humor. Afterwards, there was a party for the international students at Coco's Outback Bar. Going out to dance seems to be much more about being with friends here in Europe than it is about getting drunk like it is in the States. I had a really good time dancing with my group that night. It was one of the funnest nights of my life.

On Friday (8-26), we had a day at the Artis Zoo, which is very close to where I live. It's a smaller zoo, but they had some fun animals. The lions, Elephants, Sea Lions and Giraffes all had babies we got to see. That day I also found out from the Universiteit van Amsterdam what classes I'll be taking. I'll be enrolled in European Union Law, Amsterdam in the Golden Age, The Contemporary European Union, The Reconstruction of Europe, Dutch Culture and Society I, and Extensive Dutch Language I. I was very happy with my schedule.

Saturday (8-27) was our last day of the orientation. In the morning we had lunch at the University Sports Center at the Science Park campus. After we got to choose to try out either soccer, volleyball, martial arts, or yoga. I watched a little of the martial arts and decided it was a little too intense for me. The Sports Center was recently built and seemed very nice, though. I'll definitely be going back to see what else they offer. On my way to and from Science Park, I got my first experience with the public transit. I rode a bus and a tram, and even though it wasn't that far, it saved me a lot of time. I'll probably stick to biking and walking because it's cheaper, but it's nice to have the public transit options in case I need to go outside of the city center.

Next, I went to the market at Waterlooplein (Waterloo Square) to try to find a bike. I had heard it was a good place to buy a bike. While shopping around, most of the vendors were too expensive (120-200 Euros!), but I found one with used bikes in good condition, and I bought a nice one for 85 Euros. I was so happy to finally have a bike, because I'd been walking around the city nonstop for a week and my feet needed a break. On the ride home along the Amstel River, I couldn't help but to feel that I was officially an Amsterdammer now that I had a bike. I had a smile on my face the whole ride home. I hadn't ridden a bike since middle school, so I was a little rusty at first, but it came back quickly. That night was our final party at Odeon. Everyone from the ISN Introduction was there. We danced from midnight until four in the morning and I had a blast.

I feel good now that I've met some other international students living in the city. The weather had been off and on rain all week, which was a little disappointing. Apparently from all of the Dutch and French kids I've talked to, this summer has been very odd with lots of rain. It's usually very nice and sunny, they said. Regardless, there is a lot of rain in the fall, winter, and spring here, so I'll have to adjust. My umbrella and I have already become best friends. Despite the weather, though, I had a really fun week with the ISN Introduction!

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