Hello! My name is Bella and I am currently studying abroad in Amsterdam through the CIEE program. Studying abroad for me meant leaving the U.S. for the first time ever, so there were so many aspects of this experience that were unknown and unexpected for me. To help out any potential future CIEE Amsterdam students, I am sharing 10 things I wish I had known to be more prepared for this experience.
Things I wish I had known before coming to Amsterdam:
1.) Get a credit card without foreign transaction fees. I did not understand how important getting one is before you move to an international country.
2.) You make friends very quickly through this program. There’s a community of over a hundred students from the U.S. here going through the same thing as you that you share living spaces/have classes with all the time. Don’t worry! You are not alone.
3.) A lot of public bathrooms cost money to use. I was not ready for this. Be ready y’all! Have that cash or credit card on you at all times. You never know when you’ll have to go!
4.) Wait to finalize trips until your syllabi come out. I was ambitious over winter break planning trips that I had to cancel because of exams.
5.) Biking makes your life a lot easier here because it’s free and sometimes gets you places faster than public transit. AND ALSO, if you don’t bike (ex. Don’t know how to- aka me), it’s totally fine because you can either walk or use one of the many modes of public transit to get where you are going.
6.) You don’t have to stress about having to learn another language. I have not had to speak Dutch once in the month and a half I’ve been here. It’s nice to know and, if you have the time, learning it is fun. But generally, everyone here knows English.
7.) I packed way too much stuff! When they tell you 1-1.5 suitcases are enough. It is true! I brought way too much here. I could have left more than a few shirts behinds.
8.) This experience flies by. See what you want to see and go where you want to go, early. Some of my friends have already traveled up to three times so far and they were so smart for that. I cannot believe we are already a month in.
9.) Things that you expect to have to adapt to will be extremely similar and things you expect to be the same will be difficult to adapt to. I expected that learning the in’s and out’s of the metro would have been more difficult. It was quite easy and extremely comparable to the NYC subways…but cleaner. On the other hand, the showers were difficult to adapt to because mine has no curtains or doors!
10.) People go through waves of missing home, wanting to leave, loving it here, and never wanting to leave throughout the whole process. It’s okay! Everybody’s process is different and chaotic, but know that some else is feeling the same way and it is completely normal.
Thanks for reading and I hope this helped!