The students had arrived. The rooms were full. The pancakes had been eaten. Names shared, friendships begun, stories told. The week of arrival and orientation for study abroad students at a CIEE site is a non-stop flurry of activity. During the summer sessions, we have two days of orientation and round off the three-day orientation period with a daytrip to another city in the Netherlands. For our Summer Session II students, the day trip was to Zwolle, a smaller city in the eastern side of the country; about an hour and a half drive from Amsterdam.
One thing to always keep in mind about Amsterdam and The Netherlands, the people are at the mercy of the weather. While it doesn't often storm in the summer, it can rain, hail, be windy, be foggy, be cold, and, sometimes, it can be sunny and warm. Overall the weather is very unpredictable and the forecast is often wrong. So, when the weather forecast for the orientation daytrip came up warm and sunny (around 75 F), we CIEE staff were only cautiously optimistic. The day of the daytrip came and, as we had feared, it was chilly and cloudy when we gathered with the students to get on the bus. As we drove further inland, the clouds began to thin and right before we arrived in Zwolle, the clouds disappeared and the sun came out. The Netherlands is truly a glorious country when the sun is shining! We got off the bus, enjoyed a walking tour to lern about the history of Zwolle, and had a delicious lunch on a garden terrace.
After lunch, we split into groups and either went to the Museum de Fundatie, an art museum, or canoeing around the old city center. The museum group got to see the official collection of modern and contemporary art for the province. The canoeing group enjoyed the sun and the cool water as they canoed around the old center of Zwolle which is on an island.
All told, the entire group really enjoyed the day in Zwolle. After ice cream and a cultural debrief of the day, we all headed back to Amsterdam. The students had their first day of class the next day and are now settling into their new city nicely. What a great experience to start their time in Amsterdam: a day in Zwolle.