My O-Week Experience: Olivier

Wednesday: Arrival from France. Decided to do a bit of travel before my studies in Amsterdam so have been on the go for 2 months – I stink, my clothes stink. I’ve slept on far too many couches. I get my room key, my SIM card, my bank account, appointments with a million people. Sensory overload. It’s cold. Not as cold as France, but definitely in the negatives. Talk to a girl from Canada who said most winters it gets to -45 degrees where she lives. Woow. Arrive at my new flat – I’m on the 4th floor, only narrow stairs. I haul my 25kgs up the stairs and collapse onto my bed. Look out onto the canal directly below and over to the churches in the distance. I’m home.

Thursday: This place is absolutely gorgeous. The water, the bikes, the old buildings – I’m going to like it here – though the smells everywhere will take a while to get used to. We start our O-Week proper: there are something like 500 international students here. My O-Week group has Turks, Norwegians, Danes, Finnish, Latvians, Brits, French, Canadians, Americans… Awesome to meet people from a completely different upbringing, but again my brain struggles to take everything in. Our group leader is a very cool lad called Jos who shows us the ins and outs of the city.

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Friday: Beer, stroopwaffels and cheese sandwiches for brunch – a true Dutch start to the day. We cruise through the canals on my first boating experience in the Northern Hemisphere. A quick lesson in Dutch – their ‘g’s are like French rolled ‘r’s. Really rasps in the back of your throat. Speed dating – the only person who doesn’t know where New Zealand is, is a girl from San Francisco – “New Zealand’s near Kenya right? Do you guys speak French there?” The evening involves a trip to our new student haunt: “Coco’s” – a large ‘Australian’ pub where they serve ‘a range of New Zealand and Australian beers’. This actually means they serve Fosters, a drink hardly sold in Australia. No New Zealand beers are sold.

Saturday: The last day of O-week. I’m tired already, but we’re up again early for a hearty brunch and then a trip to ice skating. I am terrible at ice skating, I fall over, all the Europeans laugh at me. I laugh at myself, I look ridiculous. We’re off to Waterlooplein – the market where people buy secondhand bikes. The general rule is you don’t ask where the bikes are from, they sell it to you at a lower price. People call this the ‘Amsterdam market’. Your bike may get stolen, but then you get to buy cheap 2nd hand bikes. Everyone is very relaxed about this. My bike is black, a little bit rusty but goes straight, looks solid and doesn’t creak too much. My bike is better than most people’s. Disaster – our O-week group leader gets sick so can’t host the pre-drinks before the big final party. I offer to host in my room despite not having met my flatmates yet – luckily all goes well. The big final party starts at 12.30am and goes until 6am – they party late here. Somehow I manage to make it to the end, wander home and sleep all day Sunday. Welcome to Amsterdam.

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