15 Sep 2016

Life is Life, Amsterdam

You may have been wondering what my life, here in Amsterdam, has been like these past two weeks. Am I settling in? How is the city? And what of university life?

These questions I shall address herewith. If you are wondering as to how the Ark is going, however, you may wish to signup to the mailing list instead. You will receive regular weekly updates on my progress, along with sneak peeks into the Ark—a privilege you will not be privy if you simply follow the Magical Realm.

Anyway, onto business.

University Life

Uni life is... interesting. Different. And at times hectic—though, I suppose, that isn’t saying much. School has been hectic for many years, now that I look back. Indeed, over the past 6 years or so, I have had nothing but exams. First it was SATs; then the 11+; then GCSEs (in year 9); then more GCSEs; then ASs, and finally A levels. Suffice to say that whenever I hear of a test or assignment, I feel a wearied expectation rather than a pulse of fear.

Nevertheless, university life does have two aspects that are foreign to me. The first is the schedule of the lectures, and the way the workload is distributed more generally. I have lectures starting at four pm and ending at six; I have lectures starting at 9am; and I have everything in between, from 11 to 2. There is no regularity between days.

Is this confusing, you wonder? Certainly. I often find myself working well into the evening; and yet my afternoons are frequently free.

The second aspect is of course the fact that I, not the curriculum, dictate what courses I take. Yes, there are some requirements—I need to do a certain number of courses for my major, I need to take a Big Questions and a Theme course every year (or something), and I have Dutch and French learning periods for two months—but generally speaking, I have a lot of choice.

I can take whichever theme course suits me—be it Energy & Climate, Social Systems, or a multitude others. I can select my big questions course; be it Big Questions in History, Big Books, or whatever other topic picks my fancy. And in my minor, I can choose to do everything from sociology, photography, physics or computer science.

There is something a little bit daunting about it, I will admit. I need to take a certain number of courses to fulfill the university requirements. I need to take certain courses to pursue economics further on in the 3 years and for my masters (if I choose to do that). But, you know what? I can deal with that; choice is no bad thing.

Bureaucracy and Incompetence

Other aspects of my stay here have been less pleasant. The IKEA bed I ordered is missing some holes; I have demanded a refund from IKEA. And as for my (mandatory) registration to City Hall, well; that’s a bit of a story.

Firstly, I didn’t know what documents I needed—because the exact documents were not stated on the municipality website. So, I phone them—dialing the local number unsuccessfully before trying the international one—am put on hold, and finally told that I need to register through the university.

I go to the university... only to be told they can’t register me and I need to book an appointment with the municipality.

I call the municipality again, learn that I only need my ID card and rental contract (with the birth certificate after 3 months), and manage to book an appointment with them—on October the 28th!

So, as you can see, I have been rather busy.

The City

I have visited three parks here: one called Frankendael, another one right next to me, and one other near the Van Gogh museum. I have also visited the city centre—in particular the infamous Regulierwardstraat in the red light district.

The place has a reputation that precedes it. Rather than a hotpot of dubious activity, the place is rather civil and clean; the most notable irregularity is perhaps a sex shop and some gay bars.

Anyway, I have taken these opportunities to take some photos. I will be releasing them soon, so keep an eye out on the Magical Realm.

Cooking

Another aspect of my life that has changed is of course the need for me to cook my own meals. Initially, this proved difficult; I have the wonders of ready made salads and pizzas to thank for my survival. But soon, I found myself cooking—simple dishes such as salads, sausages, pasta, snitel and the like, but food nevertheless.

I have no delusions about my ability as a master gastronomer, but I at least have a modicum of confidence in the kitchen.

Calories are also of great interest to me. I have, over the past few months, tried to gain weight—and with some success. I weighed just 59 kilos a few months ago, but I know weigh over 62. I hope to reach 70kg in time; a feat which requires a great deal of calories.

I shall also try and hit the gym, though my student card has yet to arrive.

Parting Thoughts

Life here has so far proven interesting. The students are diverse and some have caught my attention; the courses are generally stimulating and interesting; and while there are some all but inevitable difficulties (particularly where it concerns bureaucracy) I am generally in good cheer.

Keep following the Magical Realm for more updates, photos, and important news about my writing. Until then, may the stars be with you...

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