My Experience Working Abroad

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Kees Lynch
June 2, 2024

I am in the minority of students who study a full academic year abroad as opposed to just one semester, and this extended period of time changes the scope of one’s experience. Eight months provides ample time to get accustomed and settle into your host city. By the time my friends from last semester were saying goodbye to Amsterdam, I felt like I was just getting settled. Two semesters also means twice as much spending, and the bit I saved up from my summer job was not nearly enough to last me eight months. Given my lack of funds and my excess of time, I decided to get a job, which was by far the best decision I made here and has been the highlight of my study abroad experience. 


After soliciting at several cafes and clothing shops to no avail, I noticed a “staff wanted” sign in the window of a local bar and restaurant on Spaarndammerstraat. I walked into Café de Walvis, and several days later had my first trial shift. As I am a dual citizen and bilingual, it was very easy for me to get the job. However, it is possible to get a work visa, and speaking Dutch is a nice bonus but not necessary for jobs in Amsterdam––I have been to many cafes and restaurant where the staff can only speak English. I also had no restaurant experience, or “horeca” as it’s called here, which is an abbreviation for “hotel, restaurant, café.” I quickly learned how to make cocktails, tap beer, carry trays with drinks, interact with a kitchen, and ultimately how to be a good and effective waiter. My wage was around €10.50 per hour, which is typical for someone working in the “horeca” at 20 years old, and though it doesn’t sound like a lot, it was largely spending money for me as I am fortunate enough to have my parents support my food and other costs of living.


The restaurant where I worked was quite local, and as such quite Dutch. This experience single handedly improved my Dutch language and understanding of the culture more than anything else I did in my eight months here. I learned about Dutch food, drinking culture, politics, relationship drama, soccer, and everything in between. I also liked just about every single one of my coworkers; two of them became my best friends here, and I have seen them almost every day for the past few months even though I only worked two or three days per week. It is really refreshing to talk with and befriend people who aren’t university students my age. Universities are such an echo chamber of culture, social values, and recreation that it can be suffocating. Many people become indistinguishable and unappealing to me, which is a sad thing because there are so many great people at my home school, your home school, and the University of Amsterdam, but their unique and attractive qualities are overshadowed by this hive mind of social expectations. My coworkers ranged from my 22-year-old best friend and makeup artist to some 17- and 18-year-old high school students to my millennial manager to my Ethiopian dishwasher and my Moroccan chef, and we all got along like a family, making jokes, gossiping, and getting serious when we needed to. 


The work was ultimately very fun––I enjoyed being a waiter. However, it definitely took its toll on me sometimes, namely the fact that on Fridays and Saturdays we stayed open until two a.m. My sleep schedule thus changed drastically, as my few days per week staying up until two a.m. or three a.m. turned into every day. I slept in quite late and didn’t always get a great start to the day, which made me feel like I missed out on other experiences. In retrospect, however, my experiences hanging out with my friends after we closed or interacting with the very typically Dutch customers, or our sometimes-strange regulars, made it well worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and I made some lifetime friendships and memories at Café de Walvis, Wallie for short.

Editor's Note: Working abroad is subject to local labor laws and immigration restrictions. IES Abroad requires its students to abide by all Dutch labor and immigration regulations. Depending on your student visa type, it may not be possible for you to work in the Netherlands. Please check in with your program advisor to discuss your eligibility to work while in Amsterdam.

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Kees Lynch

Despite being a history major and studying history at the UvA this year, I am a passionate musician. I have been playing piano for over a decade, focusing largely on jazz, but I love to play guitar, banjo, and mandolin in my free time!

2023 Fall
Home University:
Skidmore College
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