By Diana-Teodora Gaitan | October 13, 2021
Cover Illustration: The University of Amsterdam signage near Oudemanhuispoort in June 2021. Kira Guehring / The Amsterdammer
Magazine Reporter Diana-Teodora Gaitan reflects on her time as a student in Amsterdam and offers suggestions on how freshers can make the most of their time in the Netherlands.
Most of my friends graduated in 2020 without a ceremony. I remember feeling bad for them, but being quite optimistic that I would be in Amsterdam again by the time of my own graduation. Here I am in 2021, in my parents’ house, 2.000 km from Amsterdam, having just received the grade for my Bachelor’s Thesis. I expected this moment to bring a liberation of all university-related stress. I’m thinking about Amsterdam and Oudemanhuispoort, the building where most of my classes were conducted. I remember how pretty the statue of Minerva looked before our entrance door and how I used to take pictures of it when the yard was empty of other students (most likely because everyone was already in class, and I was late).
I remember my daily walk from the Spui station to school, and how cozy De Laatste Kruimel bakery looked on rainy mornings. I miss wandering through Vondelpark and the Oud West side, my favourite part of the city. I know I’m not the only one taken over by nostalgia, so I asked my fellow graduating colleagues at The Amsterdammer about what their regrets are, what are the chances they wish they took while being Bachelor students at UvA. Perhaps first year students should strive to turn these into reality for themselves.
Kira Guehring wrote: “The main thing I wish I would have done before I graduated was take more advantage of the unique opportunities you have while living in Amsterdam. From biking through tulip fields to the Japanese Flower Garden in the Bos, it is easy to enjoy seasonal activities when they are not busy. The university also offers a variety of different organized events, including the Health Week and Career Days, and I wish I did not wait until my last year to attend. One thing I really wish I did was follow up on those friendships that could have been, the ones that were budding when COVID hit but never got a chance to bloom”. Just like Kira, I didn’t get the chance to walk through tulip fields, which is such a shame. The closest I got to the tulips was on a train ride to The Hague in May, so a heads up: south of Haarlem, in Hillegom, is where the main tulip fields are.
If I should sum up and give fresh students in Amsterdam an advice, it is to get rid of inhibitions and get out of the student flat. Pick a stranger during a lecture break and chat with them about anything, it won’t be weird because they are just as eager to make new friends. Go to borrels even if you don’t like drinking and dancing, just show up. Walk through the city as much as you can, especially on warm days and evenings. I found this therapeutic. Have dinner once in a while somewhere in De Pijp, and take a train to nearby cities when you have a bit of free time. Register in unusual electives for your second and third year so that you can check how you fit in other disciplines. If you’re as bad at math as I am, just stay away from that Accounting course. Study in the Bushuis library when the Central Library is too crowded. Finally, although it might sound like a cliche, you have to make the most of your time in Amsterdam, because as the title of a book that I read in my first year says, “Life Moves Pretty Fast”.