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4 posts from September 2013

09/23/2013

Fall 2013, I

NewsletterBannerAmsterdam686x101After the hustle and bustle of orientation, students are really getting settled in Amsterdam. They have gained a sense of direction in the city. Luckily for the business and culture students, classes are all taught at the Faculty right across from the CIEE office. See the picture below.

CIEE office and the FEBThey have perfectly adjusted to the unpredictability of the weather in the Netherlands. Students always bring a jacket now – because they know that even if Amsterdam is sunny in the morning, it can be pouring rain in the afternoon!

But they also jumped into their studies at the University of Amsterdam just like that. Classes at the Faculty of Economics and Business started on the 2nd of September. And there have already been some midterms this week. Classes that Business and Culture students are following this semester range from Information Management, Organizational economics and Marketing to Corporate Social Responsibility, Cultural Industries and Dutch Culture.

But of course we also have a true Dutch activity program besides the study calendar. Last week CIEE went to Prinsjesdag in The Hague, that’s when our king opens the political year by reading out the budget and government plans for the upcoming political year. Balkon2-980x652We went on a canoeing trip in the forests of Amsterdam. And we had a cooking workshop about how a traditional Dutch ‘Stampot’ is made!

StampotAnd some activities in the planning are a company visit to VANMOOF, an innovative Dutch company that invents, produces and sells modern bicycles. Tomorrow students are going to an exhibition of Pixar, to see the history from 25 years of Animation. And next week, all CIEE staff members will host a group dinner for students at their homes. Hopefully students will enjoy the Dutch food just as much as we do!

Cato van Hees

Program Coordinator Business and Culture

PRINSJESDAG: THE START OF THE DUTCH POLITICAL YEAR

After this week, students will get the chance to see Dutch politics in full swing, as our new king has opened the political year by reading out the budget and goverment plans for the upcoming political year. Although the contents of the kings speech have leaked before he spoke, as they do every year, reading them out means that protests, reactions and debates are now starting. Which could in the end mean, that the policies read out this week will change again. Dutchnews PrinsjesdagRead more about the speech in the Dutch News

CIEE Amsterdam took students out to see Prinsjesdag, which is as famous for its political importance as it is for its traditions and kitsch. All ladies in government wear hats to the speech, the Queen wore another wonderful Jan Tamineau dress and the King, who is just installed since this spring, read out his first official government speech. Also, the queen and king travel to the meeting in style; they use the golden carriagegiven to Queen Wilhelmina in 1898, something the students and me where anxious to see.

IMG_0758Our best view of the golden coach

We went to Den Haag with 20 students and two staff members to greet the king and queen from CIEE! Some things that our students where surprised about;

  • Dutch people make almost no noise when the king and queen pass by. No cheering, chanting or screaming, they looked, and then they waved.
  • It's quite surprising to see how a modern monarchy functions, the king doesn't have anypolitical power, how does this system work?
  • The Netherlands has the image of a progressive and modern country, on Prinsjesdag we saw an oldfashioned and traditional side of the same society. Surprising!

IMG_0763this is the view we had

Balkon2-980x652this is what it must have looked like up close

And so we saw the royal family on the balcony of the palace! And like real Dutch people; we waived. And then we were Americains and cheered for them. How multicultiral!

Annabel Thomas

Projects and Activities Coordinator 

QUEER INTEREST GROUP ACTIVITY #1: A REALLY GAY TOUR OF AMSTERDAM

As one of CIEE Amsterdam's interest groups, the Queer Interest Group (or QIG for short) was set up to allow students to explore different facets of gay life in Amsterdam in the specific and in the Netherlands at large. This semester, I am proud to serve as the group's leader, and together with Lindsay van Clief (who, after her involvement with the QIG last semester, will be co-running the group with me) we kicked off this semester with a "Really Gay Tour of Amsterdam."

We began our tour at the Homomonument, which commemorates all gays and lesbians who have faced persecution because of their sexual orientation. This unique memorial, which was inaugurated in 1987, consists of three pink triangles, which represent the past, present and future dimensions of gay/queer life in the Netherlands. Gay Tour of Amsterdam #1In the picture above, we're sitting on one of the Homomonument's three consituent triangles, which represents the present and points in the direction of COC Nederland, the oldest continuously operating LGBT organization in the world. 

Pointing toward the Anne Frank House, the second triangle (which is pictured below) is placed at street level, in keeping with its investment in the past. It is inscribed with the words "Naar vriendschap zulk een mateloos verlangen" ("Such a boundless desire for friendship"), a line from the Dutch Jewish gay poet Jacob Israël de Haan's poem "To a Young Fisherman."
Gay Tour of Amsterdam #2The third triangle (pictured below), whose vertex angle points toward the National War Monument on Dam Square, looks toward the future. Reflecting its message of hope tempered by vigilance, this triangle is placed in water, the one constant (variable) in Dutch life.
Gay Tour of Amsterdam #3The three triangles are connected by a strip of pink granite, signifying the intimate connections between past, present and future. Seen from the air, these three triangles form one larger, fourth triangle.

All of this was explained to us by our guide, Bobby Brown, who moved from the US to the Netherlands more than 17 years ago, which allowed him to chart the more recent development of Amsterdam as, arguably, the gay capital of the world from both a cross-cultural and personal perspective. That said, Mr. Brown's history of Amsterdam extended far beyond his own personal memories of Amsterdam; in fact, he traced the history of gay life in Amsterdam back to the 17th century, when, against the backdrop of the immense prosperity that characterized the Dutch Golden Age, homosexual behavior was largely condoned. It was not until the 18th century, when the sheen of the Golden Age began to fade and the Dutch economy took a severe downturn, that laws were passed that prohibited homosexuality (or, as it was then called, "sodomy") -- on the penalty of death.

A great deal has changed since then, and as a fitting end to our tour, we ended our tour at Café 't Mandje, the oldest gay bar in the city, which was founded in 1927 by the legendary and larger-than-life lesbian Bet van Beeren -- and which has, against all odds, stood the test of time.Gay Tour of Amsterdam #9The city of Amsterdam may seem like a haven of tolerance today, but if there is anything that our "Really Gay Tour" of the city made perfectly clear -- from the sodomy laws of the 18th century to the persistent bullying of LGBT teenagers today -- it is that we must remain really vigilant in order to protect and extend the hard-won rights of LGBT citizens today, tomorrow, and in the ages to come.
Jonathan Key
Program Coordinator Social Sciences

Canoeing in the forest of Amsterdam

Orientation weeks have come and gone, schedules are set, and all classes have started. Time for some sports Guido and I thought. Guido is a huge athlete, who is very keen on extreme sports. Together we are responsible for getting students to do some Dutch sports while they are here in Amsterdam!

But luckily Guido allowed me and the students to start the semester off with a bit of a quiet sport, canoeing through the Amsterdam forest. Well, you could make it as active as you wanted.

The forest is situated a bit outside of Amsterdam, so we decided to bike there together from the CIEE office. When we were all gathering to get our bikes, all of the sudden it started pouring rain. Dutch weather can be quite unpredictable. Students who were wearing shorts were not too happy with that! And how was our activity going to be in the rain?! But luckily there is a Dutch weather app called Rain Alarm, which shows a graph of when it’s going to rain and for how long it will last, in a graph! It predicted that the rain would only last for 5 to 10 minutes.

Dutch weather app

So, when we got on our bikes luckily the rain stopped and the sun began to shine. The evening turned out to be one of the last summer nights here in Amsterdam. After a beautiful bike ride along the Amstel river we arrived at the Amsterdam Forest, which is actually a huge park with water, meadows and forests. The citizens of Amsterdam are so proud of it that they like to call it a forest.

Canoeing AmsterdamWe got our canoes and went for a round through the forest of about an hour. The scenery was beautiful, with small canals with trees hanging over them, but of course we couldn’t bring our cameras as we were in canoes! When we got back we were rewarded with some ice cream, more sun and we headed back to the city.

This was a good start for an active semester. Next on our program is a boot camp in the city center. Boot camp is very popular among the urban Dutch, because any open space, like a park or a simple waterside, can be your gym!