When I came into my junior year at GWSB, I would have laughed if you told me I’d be in Amsterdam 5 months later. I didn’t want to go abroad, I thought it would inhibit my possibilities for future success later in my college career. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I applied to the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Economics and Business back in October 2015 just to see if I could get in. Fast forward four months and I couldn’t have been happier with my decision!
The Netherlands is very different than the United States. First off, it’s an all-around very liberal culture. Coming from Washington DC, it wasn’t too much of a culture shock but the Dutch people live by the motto ‘I don’t care as long as it doesn’t bother me’. Very few people are uptight, everyone keeps to himself or herself, and I haven’t seen one person raise their voice. The laws in the Netherlands contrast with those in the United States. Instead of treating drug addiction as a crime, they treat is as a mental health issue. Hate speech is outlawed. Everyone in this country has health insurance, and if you want to undergo gender reassignment surgery the government will pay for it. As outrageous as it seems, the Netherlands actually has a much lower violent crime rate than the United States.
I had my reservations about studying capitalism in a socialist country. Most Dutch students that I come across do a double take when I tell them I’m from the US, and nine times out of ten, they’ll ask me something about Donald Trump. The marketing class that I’m taking right now is phenomenal. We have a large group project that we’re working on for the athletic brand, Asics. The top four groups in the class are going to be heading to Asics’ headquarters to present the marketing strategies we’ve created for their new MetaRun shoe collection, and I’m hoping to be among those top groups! I’m also interested in real estate, so I was able to take an ‘ecological and sustainable development’ course which focuses on urban planning. This past week, Nobel Laureate Dr. Joyeeta Gupta came to guest lecture our class. She taught us about the different environmental initiatives that have been passed since the Kyoto Protocol and the way that they affect businesses all over the world. Since the University of Amsterdam is on a block system, I’m only taking three classes at a time. Later on in the semester, I’ll be taking an E-business class and a ‘Development Economics’ class.
My program also takes day trips and company visits. A few weeks ago, we took a trip to the city of Utrecht, which is south of Amsterdam. We also took a trip to a start-up firm called Konnektid which helps connect teachers (or really anything) with students ready to learn. This can manifest itself in a tutor for class but also for finding a piano teacher or finding a cooking class. It was definitely a cool experience.
All in all it’s been a really fantastic experience thus far. Since I’ve gotten here I’ve made friends from all over the world, I’ve managed to stay out of the consistent rain, and I’m really starting to gain a global perspective.
Walker Smith is a junior in GWSB pursuing a BBA with a concentration in Information Systems and Technology Management. He is currently studying Business and Culture in Amsterdam through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). Follow him on social media at @walkersmith2 and read more about the program here.