I finally made it to Amsterdam after lots of sad goodyes and a terrible flight cancellation. I was so glad when the plabe touched down and I had finally made it to the place I had been thinking of for almost a year. The first few days are usually the hardest for me considering the adaptation to a new environment and a meeting lots of new people. ISN really had a lot planned out for us, which they did to include from day one onwards. I honestly have to say that it is virtually impossible to feel excluded here!
On Wednesday, January 30th 2019, most people arrived at the airport and I quickly found some other Austrians who were going on a semester abroad too. The ISN people then picked us up from the airport and gave us a free shuttle service to the UvA building at Science Park Amsterdam to take care of all the bureaucratic stuff, like registrating with the municipality, signing up for the OV chipkaart, receiving your student ID card etc.
We were also assigned our groups for the following days filled with activities! I was so lucky with my group, which incidentally had the number 13. Our coaches were amazing and so supportive in every aspect. They were very understanding when someone had to leave the activities because they were too tired or simply had other stuff to do. I heard some stories from other groups about how the coaches would abandon the group and not take responsibilty for the activities. Some would even tell the students they were not fun when they didn’t feel like drinking. This to me was shocking, because the first few days should not be spent binge drinking in my opinion and you should never make anyone feel insecure and uncomfortable.
Jamie and Jana, if you ever read this, you were the beast coaches anyone could ask for!
The Introduction Week
Each day was filled with an exciting program of different activities:
Wednesday was for getting to know each other and we did a free boat cruise though the canals. ISN did a very informative presentation on their committees and their events. The canals were really impressive and the architecture is amazingly well preserved.
Friday had a focus on Dutch culture and history. We did some fun Dutch classes to learn some basics, which was relatively easy to me as my native language is German, but a lot of people struggled with producing the ‘g’ and ‘ch’ sounds. We also watched adocumentary on the Zvarte Piet and its relevance to modern Dutch society. I had heard about the whole Zwarte Piet controversy before, but I honestly do not get why this was chosen to be shown to international students who just arrived on the country. Maybe this particular bit of Dutch history is not the one you want to pick for this occasion. I would have expected some more background information on Dutch colonial times, but this was almost completely left out. Bummer!
On Friday evening, us Austrians teamed up to cook for the International Dinner festivity at Q Factory. It was a challenging task to fulfill, simply because none of us had any proper cooking utensils by that time and we only got three hours to prepare the dish. We opted for any easy dish and decided to make Kaiserschmarrn (well, a bad version of it consisting of a pre-mixed pancake dough). We did go to the party afterwards, but honestly it was kind of slow and a big buffet just didn’t seem like the right place to party. We decided to go to a bar nearby for a drink. Afterwards, I headed home as I was just too tired to keep on partying.
Saturday was the final day of the Intro Week and we went out for a quick brunch at the UvA campus first and then we were supposed to do some sports activities. I sadly couldn’t participate as I had to move into my room at the Student Hotel (and I really needed a break). A bunch of other internationals and me went out for dinner at Pizza Heart, which is really close to where the Student Hotel is. I didn’t even go to the final party because I was sooooo exhausted from the past few days. I honestly just wanted to unpack my stuff and settle in a bit.
I am so thankful that ISN made the effort to organize so many activities for us to get to know each other and find some friends. My biggest fear was not to find people that I vibe with but I was proven wrong by the time I entered the airport! I think that if you open up to people and make an effort to socialze and undertsand them, you can make friends anywhere in the world and under any circumstances. Attitude is key when meeting new people and I’m so glad that I immediately met people who have the same intentions as I do. Our coaches were so supporting and never made me feel pressured into doing soemthing at any time. I am so glad that these first few days made me feel comfortable and included right away.
Looking back at the Intro Week, I realize how important it is to keep a positive attitude and just get out your comfort zone. I really want to keep this attitude and continue to try out new things and hang out with different people when I get back home.