Hallo uit Amsterdam!

23 Aug 2008

After a (relatively) short flight, I landed at the Amsterdam Schiphol airport the day before yesterday. I was greeted by a student from the ESN-VUNiverse, who explained the excellent public transportation system of Amsterdam while making the trip back. Getting to Uilenstede (a student housing community in Amstelveen, where I have a room) was a breeze, we reached in just around half-an-hour.

The first thing I noticed about Amsterdam is how much like a city it doesn’t look. It looks more like a quaint little town - there are no huge skyscrapers or crowded streets - overall very pleasing to the eye. The weather is pleasant, but mostly rain and clouds - haven’t seen much sunshine since I got here.

We arrived at my ‘corridor’, protected by a door of its own. Every corridor has 12 dutch students and 2 international students, sharing a common kitchen. I proceeded to my ‘unit’, which is basically my room - it is a lot bigger and cleaner than my previous room at MNIT.

Internet and Cable were ready to go from the very first day. I’m loving this place!

Yesterday, we had the ‘Word of Welcome’. I wasted no time in buying a bicycle, the standard transport vehicle in Amsterdam, so my trip to the university was a quick 10 minute ride. Most of the streets in Amsterdam have their own dedicated bicycle paths, complete with their own traffic lights. Bicycle theft, however, is also very common; so common in fact, that some people call it the ‘national sport’!

Immediately after lunch, we had the introduction programme at the faculty of sciences where we got upto speed with all the practical stuff that needs to be done (opening a bank account, registration with the municipality and so on). Then, we got a tour of the faculty: very very impressive! In the evening, we had a small gathering with the staff for drinks: I finally met Prof. Andrew Tanenbaum and Prof. Maarten van Steen.

Another thing I love about Amsterdam is that everyone speaks excellent English, and they’re not shy of showing off their bilingual skills. That makes it a lot easier for foriegners like us to settle down quickly. I am also trying to learn a few Dutch words though. I’m pretty sure I am going to have a fantastic time for the next two years: the course, the staff, the city, and the people are all top-class.

Classes start on September 1; but meanwhile, ESN-VUniverse has organized a few events that I’ll be attending. This weekend, we are touring Amsterdam, doing a canal cruise, some waterbiking and cycling. See you next post!