FALL 2014, ISSUE I
Arrival Fall 2014
On August 18th we welcomed our largest group so far; 78 students from all over the United States here in Amsterdam to discover the country, culture and academics. After settling into their new homes and perhaps a little catnap, students were invited for an authentic Indonesian rice table at a restaurant in the heart of the city.
On the next day, we arranged the students’ main means of transport, which in Amsterdam is a bike. After bringing their new bicycle (and soon to be trusted friend) home, our students started their adventure with the International Student Network (ISN). The ISN is part of the Erasmus Student Network that is active in 36 countries; their aim is to optimize social and cultural integration of international students in Amsterdam. Each semester over 1,000 international students join ISN for an introduction week in Amsterdam.
After the hustle and bustle of ISN, we started with our very own CIEE orientation, with the aim to bring students up to speed on the academic culture in the Netherlands at large and at the University of Amsterdam in particular, our very own CIEE courses, our activities and Interest Groups, and much more. To wrap it all up, we went on an orientation daytrip to Haarlem and Wijk aan Zee, the former being the capital of the province of North Holland (and an erstwhile competitor of Amsterdam for the most prominent city in the Netherlands), while the latter is the prime beach spot for Amsterdammers.
Although the Netherlands does not have a Liberal Arts tradition per se, the University of Amsterdam’s College of Social Sciences is the closest analogue, offering students a wide variety of courses in such disciplines as Communications, Political Science, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Anthropology, and Urban Studies. Each year, the College of Social Sciences organizes their own Introduction Day for all of the international students who enroll at the College, and this year CIEE students made up more than a third of the entire student body, which is a testament both to the city of Amsterdam’s continued popularity and the University of Amsterdam’s pursuit of academic excellence.
During this Orientation, students heard from the Dean of the College of Social Sciences, who emphasized the crucial role the Social Sciences play in our increasingly volatile and politically unstable world. One of our very own CIEE students, who studied in Amsterdam in the spring and decided she was not ready to say goodbye to Amsterdam just yet, shared her insights on living in Amsterdam, budgeting wisely, and getting used to the Dutch classroom. (She was paid for her enthusiasm in fair trade Dutch chocolate!). After a stand-up comedy show that poked fun at Dutch customs and biking habits, students went on a canal tour of the Amsterdam canals and celebrated the beginning of the academic year (and their last days of freedom) with bitterballen (“bitter balls”), fried meat balls with a gooey meat stew in the middle, a Dutch delicacy that words do not fully do justice to.
Business and Culture
The Business and Culture program is already in its third week of classes, which means that the first midterm exams are around the corner. To give you a bit of a context, a semester at the Faculty of Economics and Business is split up into two blocks of eight weeks, during which students generally follow 5 courses. These courses typically consist of two lectures per week; students’ progress is continually tested in the form of a midterm exam, multiple check-in assignments and a final exam.
After the first midterms, however, we have a fantastic company visit to the Heineken factory coming up. Being the second largest beer brewer of the world, Heineken is one of the most popular and largest corporations in the Netherlands, amongst other leading Dutch companies such as Unilever (have a look at their brands in the US), Ahold (the parent company of famous Albert Heijn) and Royal Dutch Shell (one of the 6 oil and gas super majors).
During the visit we will have a look at how this mega factory operates on a daily basis. Please click on the link to see how National Geographic reported on the Heineken factory when they paid the factory a visit.
A weekend in Belgium
Every semester, CIEE staff take students on a three-day overnight excursion that usually features sleeping in bunk beds, a lot of biking and/or walking, a pub quiz to test students’ knowledge of the Netherlands (and CIEE staff!), a barbecue, and attempts at making s’mores over a campfire that invariably pales in comparison to the campfires of their youth (tireless efforts of CIEE staff notwithstanding).
This year, we decided to shake things up a bit by taking our three-day excursion on the road -- to Belgium, the Netherlands’ neighbor to the south. In the hopes that students would appreciate the change of scenery, we departed by bus from Amsterdam to the town of Gouvy, a small town located in the heart of the Ardennes, a hilly and forest-covered region that stretches from the southern provinces of Belgium into Luxemburg, Germany and France.
In Gouvy, students stayed in a retrofitted farm house and, in keeping with a Dutch saying that “many hands make light work,” everyone had to pitch in in one way or another: while some students cleared tables and rinsed dishes, others set up breakfast or were assigned to a cleaning crew. While the first night at the form was spent playing board games, the weekend started in earnest the next day, when we visited the Bastogne War Museum, a museum that commemorates the decisive role the town of Bastogne played in World War II. Through of the eyes of three eye witnesses (a local schoolteacher, an American soldier, and his German counterpart), and aided by a series of filmic vignettes shown in recreated environments, students gained an insight into the origins, progress and denouement of the war, which was in its last throes when, in December 1944, American troops successfully held on to the town of Bastogne and staved off a final German counteroffensive.Students visit the Mardasson Memorial, erected to commemorate the many American soldiers who lost their lives liberating the town of Bastogne, the country of Belgium, and the European continent.
After this sobering reminder of the horrors of war, students went on a nature walk through the Ardennes forests, where they learned about the history of forest management techniques, edible plants and berries, and last but certainly not least, about the beaver and the crucial role it plays in the ecosystem of the Ardennes. After a pub quiz that tested students’ wits (and a good night’s rest), students packed their bags and boarded the bus back north, with one important pit stop along the way: the Caves of Remouchamps. Students made their way through this cave complex both on foot, and by boat, since the Caves of Remouchamps feature the longest subterranean boat ride (coming in at 2,000 feet) in a cave in the world.
We are happy to report that all students emerged from the caves -- and our trip to Belgium -- in one piece, and we hope that this newsletter has given you the chance to share in their (and our) excitement as we all embark on this new semester.