July 17th, 2015– Bikes and Brews

Today was the bike tour of Amsterdam with a conveniently timed stop at a local brewery. I, naturally, went for the beers with the highest alcohol content and ended up with the Columbus beer. As this was the first time I’ve ridden a bike in years, it started off pretty shaky and I was waiting for the inevitable ten bike pile up. Luckily, that never occurred. After the bike tour was finished I had my first overseas fish and chips experience at a restaurant adjacent to our building. Around 11:00 last night we went out to the bars/club. The atmosphere at the bars in Amsterdam is completely different from back home. The night ended around 4:00 in the morning after successfully navigating the streets of Amsterdam via the night bus.

  1. Food in Europe, no matter what it is, is better than the food in the U.S.
  2. Red and blue lights in the Red Light District are not a good thing.
  3. Tax is almost always included in the price
  4. People dress nicer to go shopping than they do to go to the clubs
  5. Crossing the street in Amsterdam is like playing a game of Frogger.
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Friday July, 17

After finally getting some sleep we were fully ready for day 2 in Amsterdam.  We went shopping again for essentials like routers and towels and I began to realize it’s far easier and more enjoyable to travel around in smaller groups.  After shopping and eating lunch we had to go straight to Mike’s Bikes for our bike tour. We learned how to get around on “bikeies” as we weaved in and out of the crowds. This was my favorite way to get around in Amsterdam and I definitely plan to rent bikes very soon.  After biking and going to a brewery, we went to dinner at the place cattycorner to our apartment. I planned on a small nap and then going out for the night, but I ended up sleeping the rest of the night.

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“Bikies,” a guided tour.

Friday morning began with some shopping to get some items we needed to sustain us over the trip. This small trip killed enough time until the main event; the guided bike tour of Amsterdam. We met up with another professor from the political science department and then embarked on our journey of Amsterdam, on bikes. Our tour guide, the girl Mike as she was referred to, a Dutch native with a priceless accent. I believe she emphasized her accent for show, however it was still humoring. Through the lecture prior to departing about basic safety and rules of the road, she kept referring to the bicycles as “bikies,” so this became the trend within the group. Rule number one: stay out of other bikes way, and don’t get hit! Rule two: bikes have the right of way over pedestrians, much different than the US. Three: the traffic lights operate similar to the U.S. You must obey them. If we followed these rules and were vigilant, we were assured we would come back with all limbs attached.
Immediately upon departure I realized this wasn’t going to be a quiet stroll in the park like it would be in America; this was far more dangerous. Less than a mile into the tour we had to stop a few times due to the groups getting split up by traffic and I managed to dodge bikes, pedestrians, vehicles, and trams to stay alive; it was a real-life game of frogger. Mike showed us around the beautiful city and some wonderful attractions like museums, pieces of art, parks, and even the U.S. Consulate. Aside from all the museums, my favorite stop was Vondelpark. During the “flower power” era of the 1960s/1970s this park was a symbolic place where anything could happen; which it did. During this time many “hippies” gathered around the park to express their beliefs, this included smoking marijuana and having sex in public. Some say the name of Vondelpark comes from all the “fondling” that happened during this era, but it was actually named after an author, Joost van den Vondel. Nudity became such a problem in this era that the city allowed nudity solely in this park, and after the movement they failed to change the laws. Technically, it’s still legal though I didn’t see any during out visit.
Next, we wondered to the only windmill in sight, which happened to be a brewery. Brouwerij ‘t IJ brews 30+ different beers; including some seasonal on a rotating tap, is a hit with the locals. We arrived late in the afternoon to find a full house; it took 15 minuets just to get a drink. The juice was worth the squeeze! I had a brew call “Columbus,” on permanent tap, which was one of the best craft beers I have ever tired. A word of advice when traveling to Amsterdam: try this brewery if you are a beer connoisseur. You’re welcome in advance. This place provides a great atmosphere to “chill out” with your friends.

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Lastly, we embarked on our journey back home dodging traffic trying to make it back in one piece. Successfully, we arrived with all appendages intact. After saying goodbye to Mike and our new friends, we make it back to our dorms with another day in Amsterdam under our belts. This adventure was just scratching the surface on what we are in for in the weeks to come. Thus far I have had a superb time, which just kindles the fire of excitement for the weeks to come. Until tomorrow, Amsterdam. Doei!

 

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Canal Tour July 18th

This morning we set out on another beautiful day to take a tour of the surrounding canals. The sun was shining and the temperature perfect for the quaint little trip. We were the only group aboard and had the rear deck entirely to ourselves. We saw a variety of architecture spanning several centuries, including a floating brick house.

Eye

Categories: Seth Hulsey, Student Comments | Leave a comment

Bike Tour July 17th

After watching cyclists since landing, it was now our turn to navigate the streets. Split into two groups we traveled through Amsterdam seeing various areas including the museum district, Vodelpark, and local brewery. The local sights were a treat, but only after getting semi-comfortable riding the bike through the narrow streets. The tour guide, Carl, had a wealth of knowledge and witty jokes paired with his self proclaimed hipster attitude.  Biking is a very convenient, widespread, mode of transportation throughout the city and the tour helped acclimate many of us to riding in the city.

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The Hilltoppers are coming soon.

 

Greetings from Amsterdam.  I have been here for four days now getting thigs ready for the arrival of the students.  The weather has been better than expected.  I left 90 degree weather and most days the high has been in the 60’s.

The flight is scheduled to arrive Amsterdam Thursday at 7:15 a.m.  Most of the time I have checked recently, the plane is 15 – 30 minutes early.  Thus, in order to make sure I can be there when they arrive, I plan to leave the apartment by 5:45 6:00 6:20 a.m. on Thursday morning.  I will greet those travel weary puppies with a packet containing their train tickets to get to Amsterdam Centraal Station and their first week transportation passes.  As long as the plane arrives on time, nobody has problems with customs, all the baggage arrives, and nobody leaves their bags behind in the secure area, we should take a few minutes to grab a snack, visit the necessary rooms, and hit the train.  For most, this will be the first time they are on a train.  Once we arrive at Central Station the students will have their first look at Amsterdam and their first look at the sky in 15 hours or longer.  Cross your fingers that everyone makes it off the train in the short time it will be at the station.  We will then navigate the escalators with their luggage, board the Metro, and take a 3 minute ride to Weesperplein, then a five minute walk down two blocks of Sarphatistraat.  Our ETA at the apartment is about 9:00.

Because many current residents are not leaving until Wednesday, the apartments for our students will not be ready until after 1:00 on Thursday.  What does one do when he has 24 people showing up with luggage for a 3 ½ week program and no apartments for them to check into?  I am turning my apartment into a lounge.  I will rearrange my furniture for maximum unobstructed storage space providing ample access to all electrical outlets for them to recharge their phones and laptops.  I already purchased plastic glasses so I can serve them water and soft drinks, along with some cheese and crackers.  I will turn the bathroom and storage closet into changing rooms.  Oh, and the most important thing, I will go and purchase a jumbo package of toilet paper and probably a supply of air freshener.

We will go shopping for them to purchase those items they cannot live without and did not bring with them – electrical adapters, deodorant, shampoo, shower soap, etc.  We had a late lunch scheduled for them and today I changed the reservation at Saturnino so we will eat at noon then check into their rooms at 1:00.  Some will take a short nap and wind down, and I will take the others on an expedition – after they have a chance to take a shower.

In the meantime, I am supposed to meet the caretaker that morning between 8:00 and 10:00 so he can replace the light switch in my apartment and provide illumination to the other half.

I am off in search of an ATM (the one in our building is out of order), schedule the Saturday canal tour, purchase some file folders that are designed for A-4 paper (longer than letterhead but shorter than legal), then back to prepare the welcome packets and catch up on the accounting for the program.

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July 1 — T minus two weeks and counting

Today is also the first day of my transition into retirement.  I will spend up to five years where my responsibility is only in the classroom.  I will teach a reduced load and will not participate in those wonderful committees and meetings that make up the university setting.  These students will comprise my first class while I am no longer on the full-time payroll at WKU.   What a way to kick off this new chapter in my life than to teach my first class leading twenty-three students on a three-and-a-half week adventure in Amsterdam. The class begins two weeks from today with a 1:00 departure from the Nashville airport. Raise a glass to my first 29 years at WKU.

Two weeks from today, July 1, twenty-three students and my colleague Matt Pruitt will depart Nashville airport on a trip to Amsterdam.  Seventeen of the students will study economics and six will be enrolled in Matt’s sociology class.  My students are to keep a journal.  Today is the day they are to start.  They have until Sunday to make their first entry outlining their preparations and expectations.

We have eight female students and fifteen male students.  With one more guy we could sing the song “Two guys for every girl.”  This is an eclectic group of students.  There are several world travelers and several who have never been on an airplane.  We have honors students and students who have experienced the anxiety associated with academic probation.  Four students have never been able to purchase alcohol legally in the United States and a fifth will have had the honor of being 21 for only six days when she departs.  Three students do not quality for reduced international train fares in Europe.

My expectations are high for this group.  In our pre-departure orientation and social gatherings, they seem to be the most energetic of all groups we have had.  If you knew the history of some of our past students you would know this is quite exceptional.

My typical modus operandi is to start packing soon prior to departure.  This time, however, most things are already in my bags.  There are only a few things left that can be cone from here to prepare for the students’ arrival.  Those who know me well will wonder who is writing this.  Perhaps it is this sort of retirement thing.

The most rewarding part of leading a study abroad experience is to see how the students grow over the trip.  In both classes they will be able to observe first-hand the theory they study in the classroom.  They return home much different and much more confident that when they left.  Here’s to one more group of WKU students in Amsterdam with Pruitt and Dr. Dan.

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20 Days and counting

Twenty days from today the students will be in route from the Nashville airport to Amsterdam. This blog will chronicle their adventures and their learning experiences.

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