My Fall 2018 semester has been nothing short of awesome. As a junior at Hamilton College, I elected to take my coursework in the beautiful city of Amsterdam, Netherlands this semester through a study abroad program called IES. I took a course called Conflict Studies at the University of Amsterdam, which gave me an introductory glimpse into world politics, a topic I previously had little knowledge of. My other three classes, Gender Studies, Dialogues on Difference, and Dutch Language and Culture, were situated in the Dutch context, allowing me to analyze racism, homonationalism, and Islamophobia outside of the United States. My identity as an activist and white ally only grew as I attended protests and shattered preconceptions I had of the Netherlands being a liberal utopia.
Outside of my studies, I cared for three French-Dutch sisters aged 4, 8, and 11 twice a week. I rode the ‘bakfiets’ while taking care of them, which is essentially a bicycle with a huge basket in front to transport the littlest one. Cycling is the main form of transportation in Amsterdam and I quickly learned there is a real skill to biking home in heavy rain while carrying grocery bags and maneuvering past mopeds and oblivious pedestrians! Some weekends I spent traveling to nearby countries, but many times I stayed in Amsterdam exploring all the city had to offer while developing lasting friendships with other students in my program. This semester would not have been possible without the financial support of MVYouth, as it is a real privilege to experience life in another country while continuing my studies. I feel full of gratitude for MVYouth as I reflect on this adventurous and eye-opening semester. I will be in Copenhagen, Denmark next semester for the second half of my study abroad year. Stay tuned!