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Amsterdam Study Abroad - A City Full of Culture and History

June 11, 2024
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
A framed painting of sunflowers

Falling in Love with Amsterdam Through its History while Studying Abroad  


Leaving my home and everything I’ve known up until this point to study abroad was a difficult decision. Yet after living in Amsterdam for a few months, I’d make the same decision a million times. Personally, I love to learn about anything and everything. I think we’re constantly evolving which means we should take in new knowledge, whether about the world around us or even ourselves. I truly can say that Amsterdam allowed me to discover and indulge myself in a community of people with a captivating and beautiful culture. 

A display case of wooden clogs in a museum

Clogs in a museum in Zaanse Schans we visited toward the beginning of our program. We saw lots of clogs, many with different uses, such as marriage (pictured here), working, and more. 

Two study abroad students standing at a stove cooking pans of food with spatulas

My friend Shane and I during our CEA CAPA Dutch cooking class. We made boerenkool stamppot (mashed potatoes, kale, and sausage). You can add toppings such as bacon bits and onions (both of which Shane and I are cooking here). 

What I Captured 

During my time there, I noticed so much art, not just in museums but on the streets, in the architecture, the canals, and more. I maintained my health and wellness while studying abroad and participated in CEA CAPA excursions too.  

A body of water bordered by buildings and small boats with bicycles lying on the street in front

This photo was taken in Leiden. It showcases the glistening canal and the beautiful Dutch architecture that borders it.

A framed painting of sunflowers

This is one of Vincent van Gogh’s famous paintings, “Sunflowers.” This was a breathtaking image to see, you can even see his brush strokes! 


This country is so full of life, which is emphasized through the role that art plays in its history. I visited Rembrandtplaats in Leiden. Here lies a garden, named after a wildly famous Dutch artist, Rembrandt van Rijn. I believe he owned the garden at one point. In the middle, there’s a sculpture of an artist (perhaps Rembrandt himself, no one knows) staring at an easel with Rembrandt’s face on it.  

A wall with multiple highly-detailed white marble statues embedded in it underneath a large gold clock

 The sculptures pictured are part of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. When visiting the palace, an audio tour is provided that discusses the significance and meaning of the art inside the building. 

Behind this is another sculpture of Rembrandt’s face, hanging on a brick wall. Being there felt as if I was standing in the middle of a history book, rich with meaning. However, this isn’t the only time I’ve felt this way. 

A statue of a person standing in front of a statue of an easel outdoors in front of a brick building

 This is Rembrandtplaats, a garden where there is an artist staring at an easel with Rembrandt’s face on it. The garden had a beautiful overlook of a nearby canal and a windmill on the other side. 


Anne Frank House

For those not familiar with the history, the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940. As a result, the Jewish population in the Netherlands suffered a great loss, one of them being Anne Frank, a young girl who hid in a secret annex with her family and others. She wrote what we know as “Anne Frank; The Diary of a Young Girl”—however, it was originally published under the name “Het Achterhuis” as it was written in Dutch. This title roughly translates to, “The Back House.” 

I had the privilege of visiting the Anne Frank House during my time there and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s one thing to hear and read about someone’s story, but to stand in and see it with your own two eyes is almost unimaginable.  

A wall of multiple shelves of books behind a glass pane

The dozens of copies of Anne Frank’s diary that have been published and translated. This is found at the very end of the museum, after you look at the original pages of her diary. 

Visiting this museum widened my perspective while looking at other homes in Amsterdam. It made me think more about their history and the people that could have lived in them. Although Anne Frank is a well-known figure of the Holocaust, there were millions of people just like her and many hid in homes just like she did. 


From what I saw, history is the backbone of the community that people built, but it doesn’t wholly define them. There are so many other ways that people connect.  

Two study abroad students' hands holding plastic containers of fried food

Kibbeling, a typical Dutch food. It’s fried cod, served with your choice of sauce (usually garlic or some sort of mayo). 

For example, food, sports matches, biking, singing, dancing, and so much more bring people together.  

A bicycle as seen from slightly above

Biking culture is huge in Amsterdam! There are more bikes than people, because many people own more than one. This is a photo from early in our program when we all rented bikes and traveled to a castle together. 

A soccer game taking place on a green field in a stadium

This is the Amsterdam soccer team playing at the Johan Cruijff ArenA. I went to this game with my brother, the team lost but still we had so much fun. The fans were chanting and singing, I loved it! 

I’m so incredibly grateful to have spent time abroad here in the Netherlands and experiencing all it has to offer.

This post was written by Alexx White, a CEA CAPA Content Creator and Amsterdam program alum.

Read more about our CEA CAPA Content Creators.
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