I am one of the few IES Abroad students spending a year abroad as opposed to just one semester (which, if you ask me, is what every student should do), so I have the luxury of doing some things differently when I touch down in Amsterdam again at the end of January. After an exhilarating and exhausting semester, here are some things I wish to differently for my second semester.
Create a routine:
Classes at the University of Amsterdam are structured as such that you have even more free time then you do at your home school. I was appalled by how much free time I had in my freshman year compared to high school, where you’re busy for sometimes twelve hours a day, five days a week. However, my schedule this past semester in Amsterdam was more relaxed than any I’ve had before. Classes, both lectures and more intimate seminars, are two hours, though most professors teach for about 45-50 minutes before giving a break until the start of the next hour, then teaching for a similar length of time. This past semester, I had Monday’s off and only one class per day, except for my busy Thursday, where I had a whopping two classes. Thus, the majority of my time was mine.
It was liberating to have so much time at my disposal, especially to explore such an amazing city and spend time with new, wonderful friends, but at the same time, I was more responsible for my own schedule than ever before. My procrastination skyrocketed, especially when the sun disappeared and the rain took its place, and I probably caused myself some unwarranted stress. As such, next semester I intend to create a steady routine. The biggest change I want to make is staying on campus or in the city center after class is over. Too often I was on my bike within two minutes of class ending, on my way home to relax and do things other than my homework. However, the times when I stayed on campus to do work, or biked to some of my favorite cafés (Kriterion was my go-to—check out my blog post on that incredible space), I got more work done in two hours than I had that entire week. I plan on staying out after class every day that I can, either to be productive or simply to take advantage of the amazing city I’m living in!
Cut myself some slack:
Studying abroad is not easy—you are living in another city, completely by yourself, and have to assimilate into a completely new social, cultural, and academic setting. You might have to set up a bank account and SIM card (I also wrote a blog post about this—if you’re struggling with those cumbersome tasks, check it out!), and of course you are tempted to have fun all the time as well. I put a lot of pressure on myself this past semester to do anything and everything, all the time. This, obviously, is impossible, but with only a finite amount of time in an amazing city, it’s tempting to constantly be hanging out with friends, going to museums, stuffing your face with local cuisine, or exploring the night life. My council to myself and you is, go out as much as you’d like, but don’t overextend yourself. It’s totally ok to spend some days just curled up in your room, watching TV and drinking tea. Especially with the rain, wind, and cold, it can be quite cozy and comforting to take a few days off from socializing or immersing yourself in the culture. Studying abroad is an impressive feat, and likewise it is exhausting. Make the experience your own—then you will have the most fun and rewarding experience.
I felt a little lost at times this past semester, given the immense freedom and number of amazing things at my fingertips. I’m excited to make the experience my own, even more so than last semester, by focusing on the things that are important to me and giving myself some leeway at the same time to feel comfortable. I hope you find peace and mind in the spring semester like I hope to!
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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!