Crazy that I’ve been in Amsterdam for six months now. I just went to Brussels with my friends for two days during midterms week (already halfway through the semester). It was an amazing trip I highly recommend to anyone studying abroad in Amsterdam; only $20 euros for the Flixbus roundtrip, cheaper than Amsterdam, great museums, great beer. My friends and I decided that Brussels was a bit like a Parisian Amsterdam. I felt a little more judged by people on the street, but the city itself, walkable and charming, had the air of Amsterdam. I always like the feeling of being a tourist in another European city, getting to say, “We are from the United States but we are studying abroad in Amsterdam, we are only here for a few days” and everyone is as excited about the experience as we are. What I also like about leaving and returning to Amsterdam is the sense of familiarity I have come to attribute to the city. Only having two months left of the semester and of my entire study abroad experience didn’t hit me until one of my friends pointed it out, and I was stunned everything could happen so quickly when I still remember the feeling of being accepted into the study abroad program, my excitement about how my life would change.
What’s interesting to me is that sometimes, when I’m walking through the city after class, listening to music and taking in the bright blue sky, I forget that Amsterdam is as temporary a place to me as New York. One of the things I love/hate about my college experience is that for four years, I live out of my suitcase, flying back and forth from New York to California, opening and closing so many storage units, staying at friend’s houses, relatives’ apartments, all to make the most of it. I am more at home in Amsterdam than I was at Sarah Lawrence in New York, which could be attributed to the fact that I’m in the same dorm (I used to switch housing each year) Amsterdam is much smaller than New York, all that. I feel so at home, sometimes I dread commuting all the way back to Nieuw West. When I first got to Amsterdam, I was always ready to take the metro or tram, excited to see a new part of the city. I still haven’t had the urge to hurry and do everything while I can, go out, try new restaurants, visit new shops or spots around the city; although as the weather warms up, the less time I want to spend in my room.
Another observation I have at this sixth month is the way spring brings a new Amsterdam to life. Last semester, when I arrived at the end of August, I was entranced by the lively green parks, the lovers languishing beautifully on the grass, people leaning out their windows and balconies, feeling the slow, syrupy energy of a city during the bottom end of summertime. Steadily, I can feel that same energy seep into the city again. On bright, sunny days, cafe patios are full of people smoking, sitting, faces tilted towards the sun, scarves loose around their necks. At the parks, it is hard to find a free bench so I just sit up against a tree, using my backpack as a cushion. Kids play soccer on the illuminated green lawns of Oosterpark. Off leash chase each other, their owners strolling far behind. Several old men sit up on the hill on little fold out chairs, overlooking the duck pond, sharing a cigarette with their bikes parked behind them like patient, tethered horses. Purple bell-shaped blossoms cluster together in the green belts, daffodils wave their starry yellow faces, the trees are starting to take on tiny, tiny traces of white buds and green leaves. The canals shine under the blue sky, the merchant houses stand up straighter. Laughter rises from behind the bike racks; a friend group sits on the edge of the canal, sharing jokes.
Amsterdam was a different city when the days were getting shorter and colder last fall; now the sun sets around 8:30 p.m. I remember, sometime around the start of last December, I went to the museum with one of my friends. We initially wanted to go to the zoo, but the forecast strictly forbade any outdoor activities. We paid for overpriced tickets to the Moco, spent a little under an hour looking at the artwork, got hungry and ate doner at a Doner Plaza Mercator. We stood in the biting cold for almost ten minutes waiting for the tram. It is such a vivid memory; even in the moment I was thinking, this is probably the coldest I have ever been. I looked at the pale gray sky and thought, If it were to rain right now, it would turn to snow. Everyone hurried about in huge long coats, scarves wrapped all around their heads, girls’ hair spilling out, men’s eyes peeking under their beanies. It seemed in everyone’s best interest to move from where they were to where they needed to be as quickly as possible, and spend as little time as possible in the relentless weather.
Now, on a good spring day, I wake up at 9 a.m. to sunlight on my ceiling, I don’t have class so I bike to a cafe, I bike everywhere, I lay at the park, I go out with my friends until 10 p.m., when the sun is still making its calm descent, scattering pink and gold across the city. It is still incredibly windy some days, but the sun changes everything. Here and there, the sky blanches white and douses the city with a steady sprinkling, but it isn’t icy the way it was that day we went to Moco. In some ways, spring days in Amsterdam remind me of New York, the way the city as a whole leans into the warm weather, waiting for summer to break loose, and no one is unhappy.
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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.