7 weeks! That's how long I have been in Amsterdam. In a perfect world, I would be approaching the midway point of my study abroad experience, but in reality, I will be heading back home to Sri Lanka in less than 3 days. It feels surreal. 4 days ago, I was in Paris. 48 hours ago, I was making plans with my best friend from college for her trip to visit me in Amsterdam. 24 hours ago, I was adamant that it would be fine, i would be able to stay on and finish my semester in Amsterdam. The rate at which the situation around us has escalated is both shocking and scary. With the Netherlands being determined a Level 3 risk country for Coronavirus, travel bans being introduced in the US and colleges recalling students, it feels like every hour the situation is completely changing.
This breaks my heart for more reasons than one. But it certainly doesn’t help that I was just starting to feel like I was settled in, in Amsterdam. The first month was a blur of getting lost, logistics like setting up a bank account, making friends and getting used to the weather. But now I am finally at the point where this is my ‘life’ and I am comfortable. But I have to say goodbye. I can be sad, and I can whine, but I have done that enough in the past few hours already. So I want to take a moment to share are a few things that make up my daily life in Amsterdam and that I will always hold dear in my heart.
I know I wrote an entire blog post about my biking experience here. But truly, my time here would not have been the same without my bike. Getting one was the best decision I made. I know I’m a slow rider, but slowly and steadily, my bike and I found our way through (almost) every neighborhood in Amsterdam; from touristy Dam square, to picturesque de Pijp to Amsterdam’s very own Chinatown. We have fallen together, been yelled at together and persevered through many a spontaneous hail storm.
This is the metro I took to get to class and pretty much everywhere else on the days that I was lazy to ride my bike or the weather simply didn’t allow it. My favorite thing about Dutch public transport is its silence. People rarely talk on the metro or tram; not with each other or on the phone and there certainly isn’t the sense of chaos that i associate with public transport in both New York City and Colombo. I hate background noise. I am the type of person that hates it when I’m hanging out with friends and someone pulls out a speaker to play music. So this is truly bliss. Being in a public place, able to just sit with my thoughts and enjoy the view for 25 minutes.
This may sound random but can I just say grocery shopping has been one of my favorite things about living in Amsterdam. Between Jumbo and Albert Heijn and Dirk Van Den Broek (3 of the main supermarket chains), I have been completely spoilt for choice in every way possible although Jumbo to me is the clear winner especially in terms of price. And on top of that, most neighborhoods have open-air markets a few times a week, where fresh produce is in abundance and ridiculously cheap. I bought a pack of strawberries for 1 euro!! Yes!! I have spent hours at a time wandering the aisles of the Jumbo and outdoor market near me; just a girl and her good translate app trying to figure out if she’s buying pancakes or tortilla and fascinated by the 20 different kinds of chocolate sprinkles available as a topping for toast.
I have a love/hate relationship with Dutch weather, more hate than love on most days. I have come to learn that my mood is incredibly sensitive to the weather and there are days when I have struggled to simply just get out bed when I haven’t seen the sun in a few days. But it’s also made me l appreciate blue skies that much more when I get the chance. It’s a constant reminder to seize the day and after Amsterdam, I will never take the weather for granted again.
It is easy for the study part of study abroad to get lost as a footnote in the midst of excitement and adventures. But with no exaggeration, this is the first time in my life I am so so passionate about what I am learning. Right now at the University of Amsterdam, I am enrolled in Gender, Human Security and Violent Conflict, and International Development Studies ( I also have a third class that was due to start in block 5). Both of these classes are emotionally taxing work and often leave me feeling sad about the state of humanity, but the amount of learning and critical analysis I have engaged in, I have never felt more stimulated in my life. I am sad that i will no longer be able to take these classes in person and have the wonderful classroom experience that has enabled me to thrive so much. But I am grateful, for Professors and students i have met from all over the world.
This list is not exhaustive. I could go on forever. But I only have a few days left in this magical city, so for now I will smile at the sun as it hides for a second to let a hail storm come through, eat a stroopwafel (or 5) and take my bike for one last spin. This is not goodbye.
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My name is Sumini Siyambalapitiya and I'm a junior at Lafayette College PA, studying Math/Econ and Women, Gender and Sexuality studies. I call the incredibly beautiful island of Sri Lanka my home. Some things I love in no particular order are: bubble tea, reading, working out, and This Is Us!