Day 1: holy shit, I really did it?!
In my very first post on this blog (about 8 months and 5 posts ago…*cough*) I mentioned planning to go abroad for my Master’s thesis on deradicalization. Well, I did it – I got it all organized and moved to Amsterdam last week and am now working on said thesis (more on that soon). It was frankly exhausting to organize moving to another country while taking finals, and it all seemed surreal even while I was on the train to Amsterdam – it didn’t hit me until I got off the train and left Amsterdam Centraal station that holy shit, I really did it! I live here now! Is this what adulting feels like? Making big plans and actually following through? Wild.
Day 2: I live here now…
…with everything that comes with that. Living here means running around for a day to deal with stuff like registering at the gemeende and buying basic household supplies – and realizing that my most frequently used sentence in this country will be “Sorry, I don’t speak Dutch!” At the end of the day, my bank account and my feet were in serious pain, but neither could spoil the beauty of this city for me.
Day 3: this is my new campus?!
Are you serious? Yes! This is in fact the campus I’ll be attending for the next half-year, the Roeterseiland campus. The last few weeks before I got here, I had been struggling with the preparations for my thesis project – having to organize a whole research project on my own, which meant dealing with the ethics commission, acquiring funds to pay the participants and of course figuring our how to find participants from this very specific population had presented quite the challenge, which had left me somewhat disheartened. When I saw this incredible campus, though, I instantly recovered some of my usual can-do attitude – which was further helped by finally meeting my adviser, who turned out to be simply wonderful and supportive. This thesis better be ready for me, because I’m certainly ready for it!
Day 4: Yep, the campus again.
Last one of the campus for a while, I promise (…to try)! I head to the library to get some work done, because I quickly realize: I’ve never had a semester where I didn’t have classes to attend like I do now. It’s not like the thesis doesn’t keep me busy, but I’m suddenly lacking the daily structure, and I need to get it back somehow in order to get stuff done – so, the library it is! Which is, by the way, way more chill than the libraries I’ve used on German campuses so far – you get to bring your bags and jackets inside, people drink coffee and even have snacks (right in front of the no-food-allowed sign). I don’t stay too long, though – after all, who can focus on doing literature research when there is so much to see in this amazing new city?
Day 5: kitchen conversations.
This is my first time living in a dorm, meaning I’m getting the full International Student Experience (TM). This includes sharing a kitchen with about 10 people from all over the world (I won’t even address the utter mess that prevails in this kitchen) and meeting them there – which in turn results in the realization that not everyone remembers the Second World War, and not everyone understands why Austria is a separate country; indeed, it has been brought to my attention that it “just doesn’t make any sense”, “it’s so small, why aren’t they just together?” After all, they “get along well” in spite of the fact that “they had a war or something”. And of course, the obligatory “ah, you speak German? I know some German! Scheiße!” Ah, kitchen conversations.
Day 6: turns out moving with just one suitcase and one backpack is harder than I thought.
More specifically, it turns out that while packing I did not foresee how absolutely freezing it would be here. I moved from northern Germany, why the hell did I think it wouldn’t be just as cold here? And why didn’t I realize that this astonishingly flat country would obviously be very windy? Eh, no use complaining about it now – I abandon my thesis for the day to get a couple of warm sweaters and take some more photos of the grachten in the city centre. Yep, still not bored of all the water. Pro tip: when moving here, definitely bring at least 3 warm sweaters, a hat of some sort, and a hot water bottle (I have searched so many shops here and not been able to find one – which, combined with all the bare-ankled people in short pants and thin textile sneakers I’ve seen going about their day in -5 degrees weather, leads me to believe that these people have collectively evolved beyond the sensation of cold).
Day 7: My to-do list expands every day.
How I want to go to this opera at some point! And to the famous cinema Pathé Tuschinski, the Foodhallen, the lunchconcerten at the Concertgebouw, the Anne Frank Huis – actually, all the museums – actually-actually, I want to get the museumkaart. In hindsight, there is a chance that perhaps it would have been advisable to pick a more boring city for this semester so I would have an easier time focusing on my thesis. Then again, this must be this work-life-balance-thing people keep talking about…? Heard good things about that, so who knows.
Day 8: JESUS CHRIST ON A BICYCLE I’M TOO YOUNG TO DIE
Having been in Amsterdam for a whole week and having received some encouragement from my adviser, I decide to take a bike tour around the city.
How lovely and how very Dutch, right? Except I haven’t ridden a bicycle in about 10 years, and before that I have only ever done so in what is basically a village. It’s true what they say – you don’t forget how to ride a bike. You do, however, forget the rules of traffic – though to be honest, even if I ever knew them, I’ve never been in a situation where I had to apply them quickly. My little bike tour lasted a good one and a half hours, and consisted of equal parts of “they see me rooollin’ B)” and “am I allowed to turn – OH GOD, MOTORCYCLE, CAR! I’M TOO YOUNG TO DIE”.
Suffice to say I took longer than I expected because I got lost; how did I get lost? When I reached the point where, according to Google maps, I should have turned right, I wasn’t sure where exactly I was allowed to make that turn, so I did what seemed the safe thing – kept going straight ahead on the bike path. I had to decide quickly, okay?!
I did get to this lovely park, though, and all of the car drivers were friendly enough not to run me over.
Day 9: An evening-walk by the Amstel.
Just the thing after a long day of sorting my literature…just kidding, I spent about 30 % of the day going through the PDFs and tagging them in my Citavi-project, the rest of the time I wasted on Netflix. Damn, Netflix in the the Netherlands is the shit! I’ll never be able to see Netflix Germany the same after my return. My original plan for the day was to go to the Van Gogh Museum, but it’s been seriously freezing those last few days and it seriously increases my threshold for motivating myself to go outside. This evening walk was brought to you by: wearing a shirt, two sweaters, a winter jacket and a scarf! Worth it though – all those lights reflecting on the water give the river such a magical appearance, almost like Christmas lights; they make it look like truly, everything’s going to be okay.
Day 10: Let it gooo, let it –
no. I’m ashamed of that cheap Frozen reference, even more so since I’ve never actually seen the movie and all I’m referencing are countless memes – but frozen is what parts of the Amstel are at this point. In the areas where there are many house boats, the water between the boats and the bank is frozen over. Reports say that the grachten might actually freeze over for the first time in several years – oh how I’d love to witness that! Though I’m not sure I actually have the courage to go ice skating on them, like the Dutch do.
Will I keep doing this, a.k.a. briefly documenting every single day of my 5 months here? No. I will, however, start posting (somewhat) more frequently again – I will document the key steps of my thesis, in hopes that they may be of use to other people faced with theses to complete; the occasional love-letter to this astonishing city will find its way onto this blog, though, so please bear with me.