Concerning the “Study” in Study Abroad

Kaylie Crawford
March 29, 2013

Study abroad…

Study abroad……


Oh. Oh, right.

It’s very easy to forget, when abroad in another country, you’re still, in fact, in college, working towards a degree in some field or another. Getting lost in the city or the language or the people is easy — finding your way into the practicalities of student life isn’t.

Thus, I apologize for the long gap in posting on the blog here. I’m piecing together my time and will be posting quite avidly in the coming weeks (yay!). Being that my time management skills are sub-par, it really isn’t surprising it’s taken me two months to actually figure everything out.

All this blubbering aside, I’ve come to talk about my courses! Surely academia is still of interest to me (I mean, I didn’t just take a semester off to go galavanting in Europe) and soooooooooo I shall discuss my classes!

Dutch Language and Culture

Recently wrapped up in block I, this class taught me about gezellig, language, and that the social system in the Netherlands is (in my opinion) much, much, much better and more sound than the one in the U.S. I’ve learned how integration works in this country, the history of food in Amsterdam, as well as the ever-important but always upsetting Jewish history of the city and the country in general. Not a difficult class so much as an engaging one, wrapping culture and language together in a delicious appetizer sampler really helped me to get a better grasp on Amsterdam and the Netherlands.

Highlights of Dutch Art History

One major reason I came to the Netherlands was for the art courses this Amsterdam program offers. Not to mention the sheer amount of art this country has. Ever hear of M. C. Escher? Rembrandt? Vermeer? Van Gogh? Dutch, Dutch, Dutch, and Dutch. Through this course, I not only learn about the artists and art history, but my professor whisks the class off on bike-back to this museum or that museum, exploring not only classics and masterpieces but the vibrant contemporary art scene in Amsterdam. The readings can be dense, but being a lover of history, I love this class.

Introduction to Studio Art

As I said, I came to the Netherlands for the art. This course is probably the most interesting, non-American-styled, and fantastic class I have. An IES course actually taken through the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, a well-known international art school in Amsterdam, this class is not about honing techniques or becoming the next great oil paint master. What it is about is learning what art can mean, what contemporary art does, how it does it, and the great potential it has. I’m learning what my identity as an artist is through creating my own body of work, alongside studying and learning about other contemporary artists through books, videos, and the occasional gallery-tour or trip to the Stedelijk. Did I mention the final is a gallery opening consisting of my class’ art pieces? No? Then I’ll mention it now: the final of the class is a gallery opening consisting of my class’ art pieces.

Dance Me to the End of Love: Studying Romantic Narratives

My one and only course taken, not through IES, but enrolled at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, this class is like a mini-UN with students from the U.K., Ireland, Singapore, America, Germany, France, Spain, Greece, and a couple local Dutch students. Aimed at examining the various discourses of romantic love, this class has a professor like no other: she’s energetic, engaging, adorable, excitable, and intelligent. She runs the course as one based on discussion (with supplementary readings), and we run the gamut of discussions from scientific inquiries into love, to queer theory, to sociology, to pop culture cinema. Let me tell you, love is not a simple thing. It’s messy, weird, confusing, frustrating, and contradictory. But I still love this class.

In a general comment, the style of teaching and conducting class in the Netherlands is different than I’m used to in the States, although being from a liberal arts college, it isn’t completely foreign to me. The classes meet only once a week for several hours, and the rest of the work is on you — the readings, the assignments, the discussions, all are expected to be done by the next class. Hence, my time management skills are pressed to do all that is expected of me. It is both a freeing and terrifying experience to have so much independence as a student.

But, the professors aren’t passive here. They are engaged and concerned with learning, and very, very easy to approach with questions. Also, the concept of grabbing tea or a beer with a professor is very strange for an American student, but I love it. The relationship one can have with a professor here is based more on mutual interest in academics than simply a teacher-pushing-information-at-student relationship in some U.S. classes. I’ve had a beer with my Studio Art class to discuss reactions to the Mike Kelley exhibit at the Stedelijk. I’ve had tea with my Art History professor to discuss how the class is going and what I plan to do for the presentation. My Dutch Language professor had dinner with me and several students before we attended a classmate’s harp recital. My Love Narratives professor friended us all on Facebook and made a Facebook group where we share thoughts and videos (sometimes even silly ones).

Independence and personalization are keys to being a student in Amsterdam. What else should be noted, though, is that the level of stress and competition present in American education is not here.

Vanished. Unfound. Invisible.

You’re not expected to be the best. You’re not asked to strain for above average. You’re not competing with others for grades and glory.

You’re a student. You’re studying. You’re learning.

And that, apparently, is all you really need.

And it’s all I want while I study abroad.


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Kaylie Crawford

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I&#39;m Kaylie Crawford, a tea-drinking writer with a desire for travel and poor coordination skills. I hail from the small town of Dracut, Massachusetts, and study writing at the gorgeous Ithaca College in New York. Besides doodling, snapping photos, and reading, I love adventuring with friends (or just staying in with a home-cooked meal and a movie). I plan to see the world and meet the many beautiful people in it, and share my shenanigans with others in hopes to spread some smiles.</span></p>

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