Back for Round Two: Returning to Amsterdam

Headshot of Emma Basco.
Emma Basco
February 6, 2023

I returned for my second semester in Amsterdam last Sunday. After disembarking, I was surprised into sentimentality at how everything, the names of the metro stops, the towering high rises in Zuid, the rumble of the Intercity as it flashed by, rendered itself as familiar. I remember how jarring it was last fall to step off the plane and be immediately lost. This time, though, I calmly retrieved my luggage from baggage claim, took myself back to Social Hub West, checked in, and immediately fell asleep in my new room, different view, same hallway as last time.

I was proud at how efficiently I packed this time around. After retrieving the clutter I left in my storage unit, it took all of an hour for me to completely unpack and store everything. Looking around at my almost settled room, I was sobered by how comfortable I felt. I was still excited, but right away I realized how most of my friends from last semester weren’t there to make the hotel feel like home. A wave of nerves and anticipation washed over me at the thought of having to make new friends again, engaging in that small talk (“What’s your home university? Where are you from originally? What do you study? Oh, are you VU or UvA?”) before making dinner plans, exploring, etc, etc. I tried to expel the idea that I’d be “doing it all over again.” I wouldn’t be doing most of it all over again. Me and my friends who are also full-year students weren’t required to attend the first two days of orientation, so I spent my first days back in Amsterdam trying to correct my sleep schedule and retracing all my routes from last semester; down the canals, around the park, out to the lake. Without being given the chance to directly meet the new IES Abroad people, I was anxious about making friends. My anxiety was exacerbated by the fact that IES Abroad asked me to give a brief talk at the UvA academic orientation. I stood in front of all the IES Abroad UvA students, seeing their faces for the first time and giving my honest advice, trying to be as helpful as possible without coming off as a know it all.

But then I remembered last semester’s orientation and tried to apply my lessons learned. That meeting certain people right away didn’t mean we would immediately become best friends, and that some friendships formed much later on and still meant so much to me. I soothed myself with the thought that after the tumultuous first week of orientation, everything would settle into the way it should be, the way it did last semester. I’ve already met new, great people. There is no rain in this week’s forecast. I didn’t think I would be nervous coming here the second time around, but it’s okay that I was because now I’ve already started to move forward again.

My fourth floor window overlooks the Jan van Galenstraat metro overpass. I can see the 13 trams sidling in and out, the blue and yellow Sprinter making its mad dash between Sloterdijk and Lelylaan. At the very end of the day, hours after the sun’s gone down, I can see the last M51 and M50 metros speeding away for the night. I’m grateful my window faces the west. I’m already anticipating the brilliant spring sunsets that are going to make me appreciate my decision to return for the spring.


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Headshot of Emma Basco.

Emma Basco

My name is Emma Basco and I am originally from Sacramento, California. I am currently studying literature and writing at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. I love to read on the beach, doodle on post it notes, paint with watercolors, and unearth new cafes and restaurants. My hidden talent is that I can make an excellent pot of noodles from packaged ramen.

2022 Fall, 2023 Spring
Home University:
Sarah Lawrence College
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