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Studying Innovation and AI in Amsterdam

New perspectives on culture, life, science and innovation are key themes as Bridget Peterkin, our Academic Excellence Scholarship winner, shares her experiences of studying abroad for a semester in Amsterdam and what she values about the Managing Digital Innovation minor programme that she is currently following.


My name is Bridget and I am from Omaha, Nebraska currently studying at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I am a third year student majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Business Administration, Digital Music Creation, and Math. Today marks the start of my fourth-week living and studying in Amsterdam. I will live here for four months taking courses at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam through the Semester in Amsterdam program. I am charmed by the way the city walks the line between a cozy European town and a lively capital city. I experience a comforting sense of community in the cozy cafes and markets scattered across the city. I have quickly made a habit of biking to a local park with friends in the evening to lounge and complete our school readings by the lake. I live in west Amsterdam which is about a 20-minute bike from the tourist center. Biking through the park near my apartment, the nostalgic feeling that this place could be home in another life washed over me. Yet under the surface of the idyllic parks and cozy canal houses is the youthful pulse that has earned Amsterdam international infamy. The nightlife never sleeps and there are a seemingly endless number of places to experience. For the conclusion of welcome week, VU gave us free tickets to experience three Amsterdam nightclubs. Even though my time here is just starting, I get the feeling that it will not be enough. Amsterdam has over 50 museums (free with my student museum card), insane vintage clothing markets, and a plethora of cozy canal-side cafes that I cannot wait to explore.


"Even though my time here is just starting, I get the feeling that it will not be enough. Amsterdam has over 50 museums (free with my student museum card), insane vintage clothing markets, and a plethora of cozy canal-side cafes that I cannot wait to explore."


The Managing Digital Innovation minor program

Despite the beauty and excitement of the city, the main factor that made me decide to study in the Netherlands was the unique academic offerings that aligned with my interests in AI and social entrepreneurship. I am taking courses from the VU’s Managing Digital Innovation minor program and Artificial Intelligence for Social Good tract. In my minor courses, I am learning about business strategy through the lens of technological innovation and how AI can be applied in business. I am learning a social science perspective on the applications of AI through a course called Robot Interaction. Next period, I will study text mining using Python and how these techniques can be applied to humanitarian and social science research questions. The courses I am taking this semester are pushing me to think of software development from the lens of social science. Even after a week of classes, I know I will carry the lessons from studying innovation and AI in Amsterdam with me for the rest of my career.


“The courses I am taking this semester are pushing me to think of software development from the lens of social science. Even after a week of classes, I know I will carry the lessons from studying innovation and AI in Amsterdam with me for the rest of my career.”


Immersing myself in different perspectives and ways of life

One of my primary goals for studying abroad is to immerse myself in perspectives different from my upbringing in the US. I believe that the only way to fully understand who I am, is to understand those who I am not. Through my experience living and taking classes abroad, I am exploring my identity as an American and global citizen for the first time. One of the most immediate differences between my American upbringing and the Dutch way of life is the prominence of biking as a form of transport. Amsterdam streets often reserve just as much space for bike lanes and pedestrian paths as for cars and trams. On my first night in Amsterdam, I learned the hard way that the bike lane traffic stops for no one when a motorcycle body slammed me instead of honking or driving two feet over. Yet despite the harrowing nature of learning the Dutch ways of cycling, I have found a source of mindfulness and joy commuting by bike. Surrounded by a dance of experienced cyclists, trams, and pedestrians, I am forced to be incredibly present as I navigate the city. From the seat of my bike, I cannot reference my phone and am forced to navigate from memory and sometimes just my gut. Historic buildings rush by as I experience the world around me from a new perspective and contemplate my role within it all.


I have found a source of mindfulness and joy commuting by bike. Surrounded by a dance of experienced cyclists, trams, and pedestrians, I am forced to be incredibly present as I navigate the city. From the seat of my bike, I cannot reference my phone and am forced to navigate from memory and sometimes just my gut. Historic buildings rush by as I experience the world around me from a new perspective and contemplate my role within it all.
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