Prequel 5: Back in Amsterdam

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A Trip to Four Cities in Europe in Two Weeks

Kate Clark

Four years ago, when I graduated from high school, my Dad and I took a celebratory trip through four cities in Europe. He had done this with my sister as well when she graduated from high school. They had traveled around India, seeing the Taj Mahal, eating all kinds of spicy foods, and having a great time. When my turn to plan a trip came around, I couldn’t decide on just one place – so we went to multiple!

Vienna

We started our trip in Vienna for one main reason: the early 20th-century painter Gustav Klimt. I have held a spot for Klimt’s works in my heart for a long time. Seeing the painter’s hometown was something I will never forget. We also got to see one of his most famous works, The Kiss, up close and in person at the Belvedere museum. The Belvedere is full of wonderful architecture and sculptures, as well as paintings from other artists as talented as Klimt. We visited St. Charles Church, or Karlskirche, and got to climb up some (slightly rickety) stairs all the way to the top of the dome. As if that wasn’t high enough, my dad and I also went on Vienna’s giant Ferris wheel. Finally, we did a bike tour, which was our favorite way of seeing the city and visiting the big hits. It also helped orient us into the new metropolis.

Prague

After Vienna, my dad and I traveled by train to Prague. Like the tourists we are, my dad and I immediately go to the astronomical clock and the city center that very night. The next day, we went to Prague Castle, which included almost too many steps but a church and museum that were immensely worth it. It was a little hard to locate the exact museum I researched. The whole of the castle is technically a museum, but we were able to find it. We enjoyed gorgeously decorated rooms, including one with swords as decor. We also went to see the Lennon Wall, a barrier covered in graffiti, featuring Beatles lyrics and other inspirational quotes.

Berlin

In Berlin, my dad and I went to (you guessed it) more museums. Berlin has a whole Museum Island that my dad and I were able to get multiple-day passes to explore as much as possible. Sadly, their main Pergamon museum was closed, but we saw quite a lot nonetheless. That’s always a good reason to schedule a return. Plus, I had just taken AP Art History, and was astounded seeing so much of what I learned in person. The pictures I took and the postcards I purchased also helped me two years later when I took a German Art History course in college. I wish I could have seen these works after I had learned more about them. But it was still amazing to see them. Berlin is also where we hit history harder — visiting pieces of the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Brandenburg Gate.

Amsterdam

Our last in our trip to four cities in Europe was Amsterdam, where, as a special twist, we stayed in an AirBnB houseboat! While it sounds fun, the motion of the water isn’t great for sleeping. But we spent our days out and about, so it didn’t matter too much. Our first stop was, of course, the Rijksmuseum. We saw some beautiful art and got plenty of photographs in the “I AMSTERDAM” statue out front. We also went to the National Holocaust Museum and the Anne Frank Huis, which were stunning learning experiences for both my dad and me. Then we did another bike tour, which was a little scary with all the cobblestones and traffic at times. But it was gorgeous going over the various Amsterdam bridges. Finally, I absolutely loved going to the Van Gogh Museum but I did feel rather special already, having seen his Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, only 45 minutes away from where I grew up.

Even though this four cities in Europe trip wasn’t a traditional study abroad, I certainly learned a lot, especially about art and history. This came in handy in college, as I minored in Art History. Now that I’m graduated from college, my dad and I will be going on another celebratory adventure – once the world is open for tourists. The only thing left is to decide where to go next!

Wherever we go, I know I’ll learn even more, and I’m so excited to see more of what’s out there.

What Is a L’Oreal Internship Really Like

Ajay working from home for his L'oreal Internship

Since Ajay’s first interview, he’s returned from his study abroad program in Singapore. Ajay is currently interning with La-Roche-Posay at L’Oreal in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Although limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, he explained how his summer internship has helped shape his perspective on marketing. Ajay is working on social media among marketing projects in the digital sphere.

Due to the strict COVID measures, he goes to the office every other week on a rotation basis. Ajay completes the other part of this internship at home. He talks about how he feels the work is still valid but misses some of the social aspects an internship brings, such as random interactions with colleagues. Nonetheless, Ajay’s enjoying his internship and continues to maintain a positive attitude.

How did you find out about the L’Oreal internship?

“It is quite an interesting story about how I ended up at L’Oreal. In April 2020, I was in close contact with Jacobs Douwe Egberts to discuss a potential marketing internship in the Netherlands. The marketing manager at JDE at that time used to intern at L’Oreal. She had been talking about her time at L’Oreal. Her words were so inspiring that I decided to apply for a marketing internship at L’Oreal to see if it was something for me. After three selection rounds, they offered me an internship at their Dutch office in Hoofddorp. “

What are the requirements of the L’Oreal Internship and how long will it last?

“In order to begin my internship at L’Oreal, I needed to successfully pass a psychometric test, on top of having marketing experience. Since I had an active role at Ticketmaster and UEFA’s marketing department, I met those expectations. I’ll have my marketing internship at La Roche-Posay (L’Oreal) from July 2020 until January 2021.”

What is your role at L’Oreal over this period of time?

“I am responsible for the marketing and communication content of La Roche-Posay. I spend most of my time creating posters, banners, and displays for products like Effaclar and Cicaplast. Besides that, I also work on the video content for digital displays located in pharmacies all around the Netherlands.”

 

How has COVID-19 impacted your role at La Roche-Posay?

“COVID-19 had and still has a huge impact on my work at L’Oreal. Employees are expected to work from home 50% of the time. As an intern who just started at a new company, it was odd to integrate into the new role from a distance. Especially at the beginning, when everything was still new, I noticed the little things such as quickly asking a question about an issue or having small talk with my colleagues were not as easy as I expected it to be. A few months later, I have found my way to cope with the situation.”

What is your favorite part of the internship?

“One of the most vital aspects of doing an internship is building up a network. At L’Oreal, there is a huge focus on broadening the range of people you know. They insist on having koffietjes (little coffee meetings) with people from other divisions, other teams, or even other companies. I myself try to fully take advantage of that opportunity.

Besides that, L’Oreal allows other interns and me the opportunity to develop ourselves through the customized intern program they have. Their focus lies in giving every intern the chance to reach their full potential. Personally, I liked the emphasis on having more responsibility. Simultaneously, I want to work on my creative skills. Throughout my L’Oreal internship, I will be responsible for creating a variety of communications materials such as banners, flyers, stickers, and short videos.” 

A picture of makeup brushes, which could be used by Ajay during his L'Oreal internship

What is the most challenging part?

“There are multiple aspects of working at L’Oreal that are challenging. While COVID-19 has made a huge impact on everybody, I would say that I’ve become increasingly productive after a couple of months. The biggest challenge I have faced so far is the enormous amount of information I’ve needed to learn. Because the company itself is huge, there is a massive amount of data coming towards me that I have to understand and fully utilize as soon as possible. I noticed that I have been spending so much time comprehending every little detail, that I sometimes don’t get enough time to work on the creative aspects of my role.”

Ajay working from home for his L'oreal Internship.

What do you hope to achieve while interning at L’Oreal?

“In order to leave L’Oreal with a satisfied feeling, I want to achieve three goals:

  1. Lead a successful project.
  2. Increase my network.
  3. Leave my mark on the business through my knowledge and/or by being an example for others.

If all three of my goals are achieved at the end of my internship, I can happily say that my internship at L’Oreal has been successful.”

Ajay working from home for his L'oreal Internship

Ajay is working on his second bachelor’s degree in International Business & Management at Amsterdam University. We will catch up with him in 2021 to find out how he is doing. Keep an eye out for this upcoming interview.

by Leesa Truesdell

Things to Do in Amsterdam

In my last article, I talked about the peaceful Amsterdam morning.

After spending the early evening relaxing at the hotel, the group decided to check out Amsterdam’s nightlife. It was someone’s birthday and we had all decided what better way to celebrate than by visiting Rembrandt Plein and seeing what it had to offer. As soon as we got there, we were ushered into a club that was entirely empty except for us. I guess 10:00 was a little too early for the Amsterdam nightlife to have started! Although I don’t remember what the club was called, I do remember being impressed with its disco floor splashed in icy blue. It was almost surreal standing on something I’d only ever seen in movies.

Because the club was so dead, the group decided to split up. Some decided to stay while others wanted to return to the Red-Light District. Although I told everyone I wasn’t too confident on getting them exactly where they wanted to go, they assured me a ballpark was good enough.

Alleys Red Light District

Bad Alleys in the Red-Light District

As we headed towards the Red-Light District, things started escalating. Some of the people I had been guiding had indulged in Amsterdam’s lax restrictions regarding drugs, which hit as we ventured out into the streets. Because I was the one leading them around, I felt responsible for making sure nobody was separated, and that everyone was ok. Then the catcalling began.

It seemed like everywhere we turned, there were groups of guys leering at us. Howling followed us everywhere because one of our group members had a large tattoo of a wolf on her thigh. There were even groups of men that followed us around for a few blocks. We never made it to the Red-Light District; I turned everyone around to head back to Rembrandt Square – back to safety. Be sure to plan appropriately if you plan on spending any time in the Red-Light District as a woman. Dress on the more conservative side to avoid unwanted attention and always have someone with you.

When we returned, we’d found out that our party had mostly fizzled out. On top of that, everyone I’d been with was in a bad mood from the experience heading towards the Red-Light District. We all decided to call it an early night since we had a bike excursion planned for the next morning anyway. We ran into the rest of our group members waiting for the trolley, Nikos included. I immediately felt a wave of relief wash over me.

IAmsterdam tour

The “I amsterdam” Sign

We all woke up to a misty and drizzly morning. It was disappointing that our idyllic bike ride through the Netherland’s countryside had been interrupted by rain, but I admit that the mist added a mysterious element to it. We walked towards a pier, where the bike rental company was located. We all made sure to stay out of the way of the bikers. It was easy to tell that this was where all the locals were; if we weren’t paying attention to the bike lane, we were sure to get cursed at or clipped. The rental company offered us simple bikes, raincoats, and helmets before heading out for our adventure.

As we set out, we took a ferry that led to the infamous “I amsterdam” sign. We all stopped to take a group shot of us hanging out in the letters. Fortunately, because of the rain and the early hour, there was nobody at the sign and we were free to appreciate it without a crowd. I recently found out that the sign was taken down due to the large amounts of tourists it drew. The city council felt that the sign was sending a bad message (too many selfies) and that it was detracting from the museum that the sign was in front of.

Things to do in Amsterdam

The Misty Countryside

After visiting the sign, we biked through a wooded area briefly before arriving at a large field that stretched for what seemed like miles. There was a hilly dirt path for us to follow that had been covered in mud from the rain. We stopped at a windmill so that our tour guide could explain to us the significance of the windmills to the Netherlands. She told us that the windmill was one of the only surviving traditional windmills in the area.

Windmill Tour
We also made an unplanned stop to look at cows. Because I grew up in a small town, I thought it was a little silly for everyone to fawn over the cows so much. Nonetheless, I gladly accepted the break (I am not known for my physical prowess). We made a final planned stop at a small tennis court that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. Our guide handed us some sandwiches and we had a nice picnic. The sun began to shine and erase some of the dew that had been stuck to the grass all morning.

cows

Trouble in the Country

I wish I could say that our trip back to the pier was also uneventful and idyllic, but it was actually a little scary. The tour deviated from the field and traveled up an extremely narrow road through a small neighborhood. There were flowers poking into the sun from planters and children playing soccer in the street. We had to stop to wait for a member who had been separated. I was looking around, enjoying the scenery when I heard a screech and a crash. As I snapped my head to look back, there was a little boy and a bike sitting in front of a scooter looking dumbfounded.

His father rushed over and brushed him off. We were too far away to hear what was being said between him and the driver. Fortunately, the boy was able to stand up and even started biking around before they finished. I assume he was fine, but it was scary being so close to what could have been a very nasty accident. After witnessing that, the group’s mood was understandably low. It only sank lower because we had to cut the bike excursion short. The rain had come back with a vengeance.

Join me next time for our last evening in Amsterdam and our trip through the Black Forest!

Europe’s Sin City – Introduction to Amsterdam

If you aren’t caught up, check out my last post about my final days in Paris, France.

From here, our journey became a road trip. The touring company provided our group with a gigantic charter bus – one where each of us had our own row of seats. Our driver was from Germany and taught us snippets of German during the traffic jams we hit on our way to the Netherlands. On our way there, we took a pitstop in Gent, Belgium. People were not kidding when they said Belgium’s waffles were to die for. This cute town warranted a few days to explore all on its own, but alas, it was back to the bus to Europe’s Sin City.

europe education first friends abroad

A Night Tour in Amsterdam

castle in amsterdam red light red light districtWe arrived at our hostel just as it was getting dark. We were in bunk beds once again, but luckily, Dounia and I were placed in the smaller room with just two other girls. Dounia and I met Nikos downstairs to begin our traditional group tour of the city. He pointed out all the major squares, districts, and castles. Our hostel was a little far away from downtown but was just a quick trip on the public tram. We danced across the many bridges, laughing with one another as we dodged drunk and stoned tourists (Amsterdam is famous for more than pretty sights – it’s known across the continent as Europe’s Sin City). We were all finally starting to grow into the group and become good friends. And finally, we arrived: the Red-Light District.

We suddenly became salmon swimming upstream. The many alleyways were so crammed with people that it was all I could do to keep track of Dounia and the rest of the group. Personal space did not exist within those streets. It was the most crowded and trapped I’ve ever felt while still being outside. The alleys were lined with large windows and glass doors, where the women twirled around to show off to those on the other side. Some had curtains drawn to show that she was busy. I didn’t know whether it would be rude to look or not look so I tried to avoid being in front of windows entirely. The whole stint was probably only five minutes of meandering through the crowd, but it felt like eternity. I didn’t go back there after dark for the rest of the trip.

Hunger Strikes in Europe’s Sin City

After the tour, we were free to explore Amsterdam on our own. It suddenly occurred to all of us that we hadn’t really eaten since the Belgian waffles that morning. We decided to try and find a place for dinner. I wanted to go back and eat near the hostel somewhere, as the trams there stopped operating around 11:30pm. Our tour had finished at 11:20pm. Somehow, I had gotten roped into guiding everyone away from the tram and towards the Red-Light District for dinner. Everywhere we turned, it seemed like it was just a bar or club. Restaurants were few and far between at such a late hour, which I found surprising for Europe’s Sin City.

cassidy kearney amsterdam travels

Finally, one of us snapped and dragged all of us into some Argentinian place that was kind of pricey. I was officially annoyed. This only worsened as they tried to map out how to get back to the hostel while using their phone’s GPS. I don’t remember what I said, but I have a feeling I may have also snapped and told them all to “Just. Trust. Me.” Fortunately, it worked out and we got onto the last tram of the night. Looking back, I hope I didn’t step on too many toes.

Without a Pocket Map: My Worst Nightmare in Amsterdam

By now, I was starting to feel pretty confident in my navigational instincts. Boy, did Amsterdam pull one over on me. After the first night, I couldn’t find a good map for the life of me. I was navigating this city on memory alone. Luckily, Amsterdam was small enough that I couldn’t get horribly lost like we did in London. But it was big enough to misjudge our destination by several blocks. And getting back to the hostel without a tram? Forget it! Luckily, it was never a big deal. Regardless, it certainly knocked my confidence level back quite a bit. Maybe I didn’t have that instinctive head for direction like I had thought.

street art europe amsterdam red light red light district

After Amsterdam, I made sure to find a pocket map everywhere I went and not to give it to anyone. Usually, our tour guide gave us street maps and maps of the public transportation in the area, and if he didn’t give us those maps, I made sure to pick them up in the hotel or hostel we were staying at. My pocket maps became my holy grail, and I keep them preserved to this day in my travel journal. I may be just like an old man when it comes to these maps, but nothing quite beats the feeling of true travel confidence.

Join me next time as I talk about our first real day in Europe’s Sin City!

amsterdam river with boats