Peace, Love, and Cheese

Elisa Stern
February 1, 2016

This past week of orientation activities have run the gamut from being extremely social and Western (read: ice skating and disco bowling) to as traditionally Dutch as possible (read: apple pie, clogs, and gouda). I can’t believe it’s only been one week since I was on a flight with a stewardess asking me a lot of questions in a language I’d never heard a word of before. (I just sort of nodded until she realized I had no idea what she was talking about.) Each individual day has gone by so quickly, but somehow we haven’t been here very long at all.

The two notable orientation trips so far have been to The Hague and to a Dutch family farm! Just some historical background, The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland, which is not to be confused with the capital of the Netherlands, which is Amsterdam. (Just kidding you can totally be confused – the whole Holland vs. Netherlands vs. North/South Provinces thing still throws me for a loop...) The Hague’s population is just over 500,000, and it’s considered the governmental hub of the country. Within it, the Dutch government and parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State are located, which basically means anyone who’s anyone in the political scene spends a lot of their time there. The city sustained a lot of damage during World War II, which holds a certain level of sad irony given that it’s also the home to the Peace Palace (Vredespaleis in Dutch). We actually got to stop at the peace palace during our trip, which was this beautiful building:

The Peace Palace in The Hague

It was first opened on August 28th, 1913, and was built to provide a home for the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Before this post starts to read too much like a history textbook, I’ll end by saying that in the short 30 minute tour we had at the building, it became evident that the Peace Palace is a momentously important building for the concept of “peace” as a whole. What I mean by this is that everything from MUN meetings to Queen’s and Emperors have walked through it’s doors all working towards the broad concept of world peace, whatever that may actually be.

After the Peace Palace we went to the Binnenhof, which, as stated earlier, is where much of the Dutch government sits. I’ve never been much of a government buff, but the tour guide was great, and the hall was incredibly beautiful and historically complex.


Yesterday’s “field trip” was a little bit less historical, but a whole lot more interactive. I made cheese!!! Yes, you read that right. Let me back up a minute. A large group of us went to a family farm, where their main source of business is selling Gouda made from raw milk (which I learned is different than the majority of cheese sold in stores because that’s made of pasteurized cheese apparently?). They demonstrated how to make it, and then we rolled up our sleeves and stuck our hands in the salty, chunky, luke-warm curd water (YUM am I right) and pressed some fresh soon-to-be gouda wheels. It has to sit for about 2 weeks, but then we can go buy our cheese! Pretty cool, pretty cool. Other farm activities included learning how to carve clogs, (did you know that wedding clogs exist?! Not to mention ICE-SKATING clogs?! It’s amazing what you can do with clogs, honestly) running through hay barrels, and Dutch apple pie. It’s their big thing! Aside from stroopwafels and poffertjes, the Netherlands is known for the apple pie, apparently. You learn something new every day (especially when you’re abroad!!)

They sold over 15 flavors of gouda!


 Traditionally, a man would carve his wife clogs for their wedding. 

Apple pie. That is all.

So there you have it: a week full of notable Amsterdam related activities and a blog post oddly full of parenthesis (I guess I was just feeling anecdotal? Is that what it would be called?) Classes start tomorrow!! I’m excited, but also incredibly nervous. I’ve scoped out the room already, so I’m hoping it all goes smoothly. Het is de eerste dag van de school helemaal opnieuw !