I can’t believe that it’s already February 19th. I’ve almost been in the Netherlands for a month, and in that time I’ve only posted once. So I’ll try to divide my time into a few different posts. First, I’ll explain challenging it’s been to set up my life here in the Netherlands. Let me tell you, it’s not easy to start a new life in a new country.
When I landed in the Netherlands, it was a grey rainy day. It would have been a perfect Dutch welcome, had I not been pulling three suitcases. The International Student Network at the University of Amsterdam organized an International student welcome day in which they transport students from the airport to the University where they have booths to help students get settled in. There was so much to consider: transportation, registering with my municipality, getting my student card, ensuring that I’m enrolled in my classes, housing… I live in Diemen (which is not Amsterdam, but actually a neighborhood outside of Amsterdam). My commute to school is not very long, in fact, it’s about the same distance that my apartment in Ottawa was to the University of Ottawa.
First thing that I did when I arrived in my room was buy a router. It’s a weird set-up, but basically the housing company pays for the WIFI, but students have to pay to access the WIFI through a router. So, of course, ensuring access to internet came at the very top of my priority list. Haha, as did some other stuff too like plates, food, baskets to put my clothes in, and toiletries. What I struggled with at first was not having access to a car. In Ottawa, setting my bedroom up would be no problem! One trip to IKEA or Walmart and everything would be taken care of. Here, I’m on my own. It’s taken several trips to the local mall (which kind of reminds me of Billings Bridge in the small community shopping center kind of sense) to furnish my room and make it feel more comfortable.
Another struggle has been financial. The Dutch almost always pay with their debit-card. All of the financial infrastructure in this country revolves around paying by debit. The largest grocery store chain, Albert Heijn, only accepts cash or debit. They even have check out aisles only for customers paying with debit. A few times, I’ve had to stop grocery shopping and count the money in my wallet to make sure that I don’t try to buy more than I can pay for. I’ve really been forced to rethink how I spend my money. The process for opening a Dutch Bank account is pretty involved too, you have to make an appointment with the bank through the university. Thankfully, the hardest part is over and now I have my Dutch bank account with debit-card! Just waiting for the wire transfer from Canada. Almost there.
Finally, owning a bike is a necessity. People bike to and from the grocery store, they bike to class, they bike back home drunk after a night out… As a person with a fear of biking, finding a bike has been particularly stressful. There are lots of bike in Amsterdam, don’t get me wrong, but most new and used bikes in stores cost upwards of €100. So, for a solid 5 days, I scanned every inch of Facebook to find a suitable bike. There are Facebook groups for the express purpose of buying and selling used bikes, although, it’s important to beware because some the bikes are stolen. I managed to find a good working bike with hand brakes (instead of pedal brakes, for my Canadian friends, this kind of machinery is just so annoying) at a good price. Now, my next challenge is to get used to biking 20 mins everywhere… I didn’t expect it to be such a physical workout… that’s a story for another time though.
Now that the big stuff is taken care of, I can finally concentrate on my classes! I’ll tell you guys all about it in the next post. Until then, here are some photos of Amsterdam!