The Netherlanding

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I’ve been in Amsterdam for a week now, but the last seven days have cruised by so quickly I have barely had a moment to actually sit down and reflect on what all has been happening. I arrived a few days before we were able to check into The Student Hotel, the location that we are staying at for the duration of the program. It’s an awesome hotel that anyone can stay at, I believe, but is also very well suited to students who are staying in the area for more than a few weeks to study here. Our location is a bit far from the center of the city so I chose to stay at a hostel near Vondelpark, a wonderfully Alice in Wonderland-esque park that I fell down the rabbit hole for when I was fortunate enough to be in Amsterdam for a few days last summer, which is when I first fell in love with the city and knew I would have to return as soon as I could. Amazingly, one year later I am lucky enough to be back here, learning more about the place that has stolen my heart, along with parts of Dutch history that many locals often turn a blind eye to, it seems.

The official title of my program is Tolerance, Religion, and Gender in Amsterdam. I’ve become increasingly passionate about social issues since entering college in the fall of 2012, and have adamantly furthered my knowledge about as many subjects as possible over the past years–inside the classroom or out. When I found out that this subject was going to be taught as an exploration seminar in a city I dreamed of getting back to, it just felt right. Like there couldn’t be a more perfect program for me to begin my senior year with. I made the decision to come back to Amsterdam to participate in this program because combining multiple interests of mine seemed like a great way to reignite my passion as a student before entering what is shaping up to be the most difficult year of my academic career. I am fully submerged in the serious student lifestyle now, and must take every opportunity to further my knowledge and perceptions of the world as a way to supplement what I’m learning back home. It all adds up, of course. My expectations of this program are that I will learn to challenge views that have been instilled in me growing up as an American, to expand my thinking in order to understand and question the policies of The Netherlands, to begin to piece together international relations in countries where cultural clashes have defined attempts at multicultural societies in a shaky-at-best kind of way, and to end with a greater understanding of why this is critical to how lives of citizens are affected by government, societal, and familial expectations of these citizens.

Perhaps I hope to leave The Nehterlands with more questions than answers, as this will only give me further opportunities to research and explore this rich topic long after heading back home in mid-September. Here marks the beginning of my current journey, and I’m excited to track my findings on here to share with you all.