On Saturday, August 13th around 11:15 am local time I landed in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. I might have been exhausted from the flights1 I had taken, but I was still daydreaming about the next five months in the Netherlands. When I landed I had pretty much gone 24 hours without real sleep, but my nerves kept me up because I had no idea where I was going to be in just a few hours’ time.
After collecting my luggage, a fellow SFSU student (studying at Erasmus in Rotterdam) and I waited about 4 hours in the airport until it was time to board the FREE pickup service Erasmus University provided. I was just tagging along with my friend because my host University didn’t have a pickup service available until a few days later. In reality we could have taken the train because I have come to find that the Netherlands has incredible transportation (so much better than Bart and Muni). It was actually really nice having a shuttle pick us up since we both had one really large heavy suitcase, a small carry on, and our backpacks (pack what you can carry).
Just 40 short minutes after passing out on the bus, we woke up in Rotterdam. The bus made 3 stops, and dropped us off at the city center at Station Blaak because apparently it would be easier to find a taxi to take us to our apartments from there. There were four of us students with our luggage in tow looking for a taxi, but little did we know that there really aren’t any taxis in this city. After freaking out because none of us had a working phone2, we finally came across some sweet locals who called us a taxi from a local taxi company. Finally two taxis arrived, and we drove off to our temporary place in the Kralingen neighborhood.
I spent the weekend at my friend’s apartment until my housing at the Erasmus International House3 was ready. Even before moving in to my place, I went to explore the area as soon as I could. Literally that same evening we were in a different world. Just like that my first day came and passed in the Netherlands.
Note 1: Cheaper flights can still cost you. Be sure to look at the services your flight includes, and prices for checked in luggage because those fees can really bum you out. You get what you pay for. I had bought a one way ticket to the Netherlands, and my flight included a layover in Reykjavík, Iceland. The first flight from San Francisco included no wifi, no TV, no movies, or free food, but thankfully I had brought enough snacks for 3 people and my tablet. The second flight was also very basic, but I didn’t mind that time since I finally fell asleep for most of the 2 hour flight. Make sure you will be comfortable on a long flight.
Note 2: For students taking the University shuttles be sure to research directions to your living quarters from alternate drop off areas, or have a working phone to Google map your way /call a taxi. I had T-Mobile at the time, and they told me my plan would work abroad in most of Europe, but it didn’t. T-Mobile has worked for other students abroad I know, but just have a back up plan. You can use wifi, but it always feels better to know you have data available.
Note 3: Erasmus International House has a great location. Across the street there is a metro stop (Concordia), and the stores are only a 10 min walk away, or less if you bike. I recommend picking a room in the 500-700 so that you get a better view. I picked a room on the 3rd floor and my view wasn’t as great as some of the other apartments, plus the roof was accessible from my window, so I didn’t feel safe leaving my window open when I wasn’t around. With Rotterdam University of Applied Science they informed me of when the housing portal would open, and since it is through a private company SSH, I had to make an account to register. Register early because you have to be approved by the University to use the site. Once on the site you can pick from the available rooms and reserve one (pick a high one for the awesome views). They go fast, so make sure to reserve asap. Also Erasmus uses this housing as well, but from what I’ve heard they don’t communicate the housing process well, so start research early.