I remember landing in Schiphol Airport completely on my own in a new city for the first time without my parents it was exciting but also, I had no idea where I had to go. Luckily, I was not the only one wandering around at 5 am. I found others like me completely lost and we slowly managed to work things out for us all. It can be nerve racking to meet new people but instances like that were we are all in a new environment automatically builds some form of comradery, a common identity and makes building friendships a lot easier. I found the first glimpse of that in the airport but that same sense of community between exchange students extended to the other groups I got paired with. I met the most amazing people while in the Netherlands and I miss them every day.
My home for half a year was in Science Park, a neighborhood a bit on the outskirt of Amsterdam Central, the center of the city. While in the States, I was a little upset about that because I wanted easy access to the city but I found out literally on my first day as I was getting the keys to my apartment how small Amsterdam is. My apartment was right by the train station, and if I took the train it was only two stops to get to Amsterdam central. If you compare that to where I live now in New York, the outskirts for me into Grand Central would take me fifteen stops or so. I fell in love with Science Park instantly because it was not to far from the city and had a calmness to it.
Setting up a European Bank Account
Now onto the practical side of things since I was spending a long time in Amsterdam I opened a bank account with ING Bank. I found this bank a lot more reliable than the banks in the states because of their dedication to cybersecurity, which now I see is slowly being used here back home. But any bank in Amsterdam should work fine for someone who is studying aboard there. The only problem I had was when it was time to close my account. I had to keep some money(20 euros) in while my account was being closed and I had to send those 20 euros to another European bank account. Doesn’t sound like an issue if you are from Europe but for me it was inconvenient so I just sent the money to a friend and we used that money for a meal and some wine.
Data for my phone
Before leaving my boyfriend told me to check if I needed to unlock my phone from my country. When he did during the end of his exchange, his phone was locked to the US and he needed it unlocked so he could use it in Brazil. Luckily if your service provider is Verizon like me, all 4G phones are automatically unlocked. I chose Vodafone as my cell phone provider because they had a prepaid plan for 20 euro a month that included 100 mins of talk and text and 1 GB of data. All I cared about was the data because I wanted to be able to use maps, I knew I was going to get lost and I wanted to be able to always find my way home since I was commuting everywhere the local way; by bike. My GPS was a lifesaver because I always managed to get lost, the structure of the city is so different than Manhattan that it took some time for me to get used to, instead of the grid that I was born and raised on I was navigating in a huge circle. I will say though my phone battery was terrible while in Amsterdam, because of that so I have invested in portable chargers for all my travels.
While in Amsterdam I believe I paid $174 for health insurance for 6 months from AON student insurance. I did not think I was going to need it but it came in handy when I had to see a doctor because my body was reacting to the changes in food adversely for a bit. It is always better to be safe than sorry. And one should be not skimp out on their health.
These basics are essential for one to have a safe and fun study aboard experience.