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  • John

My first impressions of Amsterdam: John

Our newest edition to the bloggers team is John, an exchange student from UK. Let's hear how he decided to come to Amsterdam and how is it to bike again after 8 years...this time without helmet.

Photo: Amsterdam on a sunny day

My exchange programme

As an exchange student studying at the VU for the next year, I have found it really exciting to move to a new place and have a fresh start abroad. As a man who grew up in a small town, and is currently studying at Lancaster University in the UK (although a top-10 university, its situated in the middle of nowhere), I am about as equipped to dealing with the city lifestyle as I was to the first time I rode a bike – poorly. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity that I have grasped with both hands, as I am determined to make the most of my fleeting time in such a culturally diverse city.

As a third-year law student, I decided to extend my education for one further year to have to have the opportunity to come to the VU and study some courses that I would not have had the opportunity to take in the UK. Such modules as Internet Governance and the issues surrounding Human Immigration Procedure are two such examples of this, and I am hoping that by selecting such diverse modules, I will be able to carve out a specialised niche in the legal sector that I will be able to thrive in in my later career. That being said, I known that by now I should know how the education system works, but I never thought I would see a blackboard in use again – I thought I’d seen the last of them in junior school! Next thing I know we’ll see the tape-player making a reappearance; I really am showing my age now…

Photo: Main building

(Re)discovering bikes and parks

Believe it or not, before coming to Amsterdam I hadn’t actually rode a bike in about 8 years, so clearly, I was going to have to learn quickly! I thought about purchasing a helmet, but then realised I would be quite literally the only guy in the whole of the Netherlands who owns one. I must say, I feel safer here than I thought, thanks to the genius who designed the bike lane; I don’t feel the constant threat of some careless driver clearing me off the road. Instead, I am quite happy to cycle along at my own pace and take in the sites of the city.

Near my accommodation at the Student Hotel West, I am situated in a place not particularly well-know for its natural beauty. However, if you do a little digging, you uncover a treasure-trove of parks to explore. I have had the good fortune to be within walking distance of three parks, each with different qualities. A personal favourite of mine is Rembrandt Park; with its bridges over shimmering lakes, and winding pathways into woodland, it is easy to get lost inside the park and while away the hours in the hot sunlight on a weekend. These places of hidden beauty really make Amsterdam a little hot-bed of secrets, and its up to us to go and find them.

World-centre of hockey

I also decided to come to Amsterdam due to my sporting background. Having played hockey in the UK to a very high level, I knew that coming here, to what is the world-centre of hockey, would be an opportunity that I simply couldn’t pass up. I have had the pleasure of joining AH&BC (Amsterdam Hockey) for the year, and playing at an extremely high level. As a goalkeeper, it is a privilege to play with and against players striving to be at the top of their game and pushing to be as good as they can be. Hockey is a major part of my life, both at home and here, and I am really looking forward to showing you what my life looks like during my time here.

For me, this is a year brimming full of opportunity. With so much interesting places to discover just around the corner, one could easily forget that you are here to study. I hope to explore some both well-known and obscure places in Amsterdam, and I really look forward to bringing you along for the ride.

My instagram - @jellis1441

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