10 Things I've Learned After Spending a Month in Amsterdam

katlyn clarke headshot
Katlyn Clarke
September 20, 2023
  1. Bikes are truly everywhere 

The way traffic works here is the most hectic, thrilling, and dangerous thing I’ve witnessed. Both cars and bikes do not always stop for pedestrians. Bikers can also emerge without a sound, so always look both ways before you cross the street! Drivers and bikers also move pretty fast. Personally, the biker life has not chosen me (I know, it’s crazy). However, many of my friends love biking here. Just be ready to fall off a few times and acclimate to the traffic patterns. 

  1. Routines are important

This one was tricky when I first arrived here. I went two weeks before classes started, so it was hard to structure my days. And even with classes now, it’s hard to nail down what to do in down time. I have about a 30 minute commute to the city, including when going to class and the grocery store. That being said, sometimes I don’t feel like going back to campus to study or use the library, and it’s difficult to focus in my room all of the time. So while I’m in my room, I try to stay busy. I’ve realized it’s great to have a morning and night routine. I make a nice breakfast in the morning and journal while I eat, followed by a little light exercise and time to get ready. Then an hour before I want to fall asleep, I make sure to shower, go through a skincare routine, and usually watch a show or read. It’s nice to have a set routine to fall back on, or little things to look forward to each day. 

  1. The fries and mayo combo is elite

Trust me, you will never go back. 

  1. Plan ahead 

Once you arrive, you’ll probably want to plan trips to other European countries, or even just make sure your weekend plans with your friends are nailed down. Pro tip: the earlier you plan, the more money you’ll save and the higher likelihood that an event will still have tickets available. I booked a flight to London the week before I wanted to leave and it was 140 euros for a round trip. The week before, it was 80 euros for a round trip. Plan as much as you can! 

  1. Do one thing for yourself everyday . . . do one thing with a friend everyday

I put these two together because it’s a good reminder to be social, while also taking time for yourself. In the first month of being here, I’ve spent the entire days with friends and gone back exhausted, or spent a day or two just by myself relaxing or on a solo trip around the city. Balance is really important here! I’ve realized that on the days that I solely just hang out with friends, or only be with myself, I’m more drained than if I plan a coffee date or a study session with someone and then spend the afternoon or evening in. Even walking to class in a group is a fun and easy way to see more people when schedules get messy over the weekends. 

  1. Yes, Dutch people are direct . . . know what you want.

If you’re planning to travel to the Netherlands, you’ve probably heard or seen this before already! And that is likely because most often, it’s true. I’ve personally been enjoying it because as an over thinker, it helps me to take things for face value and less personally. I’ve found my classes to be more collaborative and less competitive, and many students are confident in their academic abilities and career paths probably because they verbalize it. Not much is sugar coated or underestimated here. If someone is direct toward you, don’t be afraid to be direct back. Being direct does not mean being rude, it just means cutting straight to the point and telling others what you want. This can be done nicely!  

  1. People will stare

Something that is even more jarring than Dutch directness is the frequency and intensity to which people stare here. It may go along with Dutch directness, because it’s the first step in noticing someone else’s presence. I’ve had instances where I will glance up, to find a man’s gaze searing into my soul. They usually will not look away until you do. Many other students in my program, across the gender spectrum, also agree that people just stare more here than in the states. There’s not much you can do to prevent this, and usually a hard stare does not mean you’ll be approached for an interaction. Pro tip: If you catch someone staring at you, don’t sweat it. Look away or smile back, and rejoin the conversation with your friends. 

  1. Life happens at a slower pace

Personally, I feel like things move at a slower pace, or just one that feels right to me. Even though it’s a city, things don’t move like they would in L.A. or New York. There’s more time to sit and enjoy meals with friends, stroll markets for an entire afternoon, and classes don’t meet as often to give students more down time. 

  1. There’s a lot to do, but no rush

Sometimes you’ll be overwhelmed with the amount of things you want to do and the amount of time (or lack thereof) that you have to accomplish them. Take a breath, and plan! Ask friends to travel as soon as you want to go somewhere. Try not to get nervous that something won’t happen. Coordinate to the best of your ability, share schedules, and if there’s something you really want to do, you can also entertain the option of going alone. Personally, traveling alone as a girl makes me nervous, and I enjoy having experiences with others. You’ll find ways and the time to compromise and fit in what you want to do during your time abroad! 

  1. Your experience is what you make it 

Attitude and perspective are everything. Things will happen that you will not enjoy: a torrential storm will hit out of nowhere and you won’t have an umbrella, you might overpay for an experience, or not do as well as expected on your first graded exam. And that’s okay. Life isn’t meant to be perfect and most things that happen here are really funny when you look back on them. I’ve been run over by a biker, dumped fries that I waited in a 20 minute line for, you name it. You’re only in your city for 4 months, so make the best of it!

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs
katlyn clarke headshot

Katlyn Clarke

Hi! I'm Katie. I enjoy iced matcha lattes, sunset walks, and Bernedoodles! I'm a huge book lover, and will easily pick up the newest summer romance. I also have a knack for crafting playlists for friends and could listen to the same song all day!

2023 Fall
Home University:
Franklin & Marshall College
Creative Writing
Explore Blogs