Now it is 7 months since I moved to Amsterdam, and I have gotten a lot of questions about what it actually is like living here, moving away from home, and being a student. I have therefore decided to make a post about this, and about what it was like moving to Amsterdam.
There is never anything you can do to prepare yourself to move. I have moved before both abroad and within what was a “home country”, but every time is different. What made this time so different was that I moved on my own. I have been lucky enough to have a very supportive family, and a boyfriend and his family, who have helped me a lot during the process of moving, and who still are. However, some things no one can help you with. Moving to Amsterdam was something that I really wanted to do.
I have known from I was ten years old, that when the time comes for me to study, I will move out of Norway. This is not because I don’t like the country, or think that I cannot get a good education there, but because I have had a need to see more, experience more cultures, and I feel like this is the time to do it. I moved to Dubai with my family when I was nine years old, and the experiences and memories that I carry with me from there have helped shape who I am today, and they have shown me all the amazing things there are to see outside of Norway. My family has also always travelled a lot. This has made me very interested in other countries. For a long time I wanted to go far away. The United States or Australia, but the closer I got to applying the more I realized I could not move that far away from my family and friends. I still want to go there, but I could never live three years, only seeing my family around two times a year..
When I received the news that I had passed IB in July 2012, I knew that I would be going to Amsterdam. I had been given an offer from two universities here, and had already decided that the Vrije Universiteit was what I preferred. I decided this when I went to visit the universities earlier in the year. I loved how it was all one big campus, as opposed to the University of Amsterdam which is more spread out around Amsterdam.
On the 17th of August my dad and I left for Amsterdam. Luckily my dad could come with me as I had not been allocated housing yet and Steffen and his family were on vacation. If it weren’t for my dad being able to come with I think I would have felt extremely alone that first week. After a couple of days the introduction week started and I met lots of people. However, the first days were all about signing up for housing, bank accounts, etc.; all which I could not do as I was staying in a hotel. The only thing we had managed to fix was a prepaid phone account and a new iPhone( wooop :D). My dad and I searched the streets for housing agencies and went to look at some rooms that we had found online. All these rooms turned out to be fake, and all the “owners” couldn’t meet us because they now lived in London. Really, you couldn’t be more imaginative? At home my mom was searching desperately online, but we couldn’t find anything.
After the introduction days were over the introduction weekend started. This was more about having fun and getting to know people. I met some amazing people that weekend, and made lots of friends, but they are almost all gone now as they were exchange students.. After the weekend I went to live with Steffen and his family, as my dad had gone back to Norway, and with my uncertain housing condition, it was too expensive to just keep living in a hotel until I found something. When I got to Steffen’s I got a lot of help with registering on their address and signing up for a bank account. After a couple of days, Marion was calling to ask DUWO if they could put me up for the housing lists that the Dutch students are on, but they came with the news that they had found a room for me! I was so happy! So thankful for all the help that I had gotten!
The next day Steffen and I went to see the room! It was nothing like anything I had ever expected. I had been warned by Marion that the room would probably look really bad but I was still shocked. After having some time to absorb everything I went back and signed the contract. I went back home with Steffen, and the next day Marion and I spent 4 hours cleaning the room before we went for a trip to IKEA. The change was incredible! In addition my parents came in September and we did even more IKEA shopping. Ahh lucky me to have so many amazing people around me!
My room was in a house with 14 other people, whom I shared a kitchen with. I shared a bathroom with two. Since I am naturally a shy person, at first at least, it took a while before I got to know these people, but they all turned out to be really friendly and I had some amazing six months with them. In the end of January, nine of them left to go back home, and I was offered a new room because I had a lot of mould in my room. I took this offer, and moved 30 minutes (by bike..everything is by bike here) away, into a personal studio. I still see those that are left some, and am planning on inviting them over for a dinner and to see my new place.
Living with so many people the first six months I think has helped make this such an amazing experience. There was always someone there, and I did not have to feel lonely. Also, I have always been terrified of being alone, and have only spent one night home alone in my whole life (which was spent awake with my dog as a pillow), before I moved here. Having someone I knew around therefore helped me adjust a lot!
LIVING IN AMSTERDAM
So far, I am loving living here. I have made a lot of friends, some very close ones and some that I see every now and then. Off course I miss my family and friends back home. I am used to living with two sisters as well as both my parents and a dog. Now I live alone. When I moved to Amsterdam, my biggest fear was living alone. I was so sure I wouldn’t manage. I made Steffen put his phone of airplane mode so I could call him when it got too bad, but in seven months that has only happened once. And that was because I thought there was a spider on the ceiling (I am pretty sure you can say I have Arachnophobia, so a spider on the ceiling is an absolute nightmare for me, and not something I can just ignore and go to sleep with.) It took me about an hour to man up and spray it with hair spray (couldn’t smash it incase it attacked me) … turned out it was a mosquito. I have really had to grow up after I moved here. There is no parents to come pick me up after going out, and no one (/no car) to drive when it is dark. Now I don’t even think about the fact that it is dark outside when I bike. I am still not confident biking alone in the middle of the night and always have to plan to go with people, but just the dark is a huge improvement.
Amsterdam is an amazing city to live in. I was scared that there would be a big language barrier between me and the Dutch when I moved here, but they are all really good in English. Even the people I meet outside of the study. I have also taken a Dutch course so now I understand what people are talking about (usually), but still answer in English unless it is the basic everyday stuff like if I want the receipt etc. The friends that I have made through my study all don’t mind speaking English and are all very good at it so we can talk about anything. I would say that I have more Dutch friends here now than other. On the first day of University I met Tatjana who was in the same situation as me, so we bonded quickly. We still hang out many times a week, and are in the same group of friends. When I lived at home I would spend most evenings of the week relaxing at home with my family. Luckily my days aren’t like that any longer. Think I would go crazy from myself if I didn’t have anyone but me, myself and I around most days. Now I have things planned for most days. Today I am alone, but yesterday I went to a burger evening, Monday I was with Steffen, Tuesday I went for a drink and some pool with some friends, tomorrow Tatjana is coming over for dinner, and Saturday Steffen and I have invited Rindi and Lloyd(two of my old room mates) over for a dinner. The days that I am not with people I study, tidy, and relax some. Today I had university until 17.30 and studied until 20.30 so now I will write this and enjoy a movie.
I am also really enjoying my study. I have off course had some subjects I really did not like, but the study overall I am very happy that I chose. It has been hard adjusting to how it is to study though. We only have classes three times a week and never have a full work day at the university. However, we are expected to study about 30 (40 in total with university) hours on our own. Managing this amount can be hard, as I have to plan and to motivate myself to read. However, the longer into the study I come, the better I have gotten. For now at least. Now I study more or less everyday, and know more what I have to read and what is not so important. In the beginning I would read every word, and when you have to read 100++ pages each day, this can be hard. As you have to really understand it.
Overall, moving to Amsterdam has been one of the best things I have done in my whole life. I am having the time of my life, making good friends, enjoying being a student, hanging out with my boyfriend, and doing things I enjoy. It has off course not been a total walk on roses, as I am shy and need time to adjust and to get to know people. I am not the party starter, to say it mildly, but now I have met a lot of people that I am confident around and that I have an amazing time with. I have also had some problems because of being so scared of everything, but once I knew I had to do it, that there were no parents to come get me, I really wasn’t all that scared. In addition I do miss my family, but I am so lucky as to see them quite often. I was home for christmas, again in late January and a week ago I went to Barcelona with them. In addition my parents have visited me twice, and my whole family once. If you are ever considering going abroad to study I would say GO FOR IT! You will really have the time of your life. And just because you move away from your family, you will not be forgotten and things will be the exact same when you get home as where you left it. That’s my experience again. The only difference is that I appreciate all my parents do for us A LOT more now!!