In this fresh edition of Students of Amsterdam, Medium had a chat with Julia. As an international student in Amsterdam, it can get a bit weird sometimes.
Julia is a second-year Communication Science student, who is the living embodiment of Amsterdam. Born to a Brazilian mother and Jewish-American father on top of a fire station in New Amsterdam (New York City for the uninitiated), our faculty’s very own cosmopolite sat down with Medium to tell us a little bit about who she is, and what Amsterdam means to her.
So hello. Hi Julia.
Tell me about yourself. Give me a little rundown of your life, a little timeline.
Okay. Hmm. I was born in New York City, on 72nd and Lexington Avenue, midtown Manhattan, to a Jewish-American father and a Brazilian mother. My father’s from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and my mother is from São Paulo, Brazil. I lived in New York for about 8 years of my life. The first year was on top of a fire station, so I was the baby that never slept. It was going “dee-doo dee-doo” at least 40 times a day. So my parents were like, screw it, we’re gonna move 20 minutes out of the city!
In New York, I went to high school in a Gossip Girl environment
After 8 years, we moved to Berlin, Germany. We moved back to the United States when I was 12. Living in Berlin drastically changed my life. I think it made me a lot more open minded than… the average American. After leaving Berlin, we moved to Miami, Florida, which was very… interesting (laughs). We were often outcasted as Brazilian-Jews, they thought we didn’t belong and made us feel very unwelcome. After three years, we said “let’s get the hell out of here” and moved back to New York.
In New York, I went to high school in a Gossip Girl environment, which was fun and a very interesting learning experience. I would never take it back, but it was definitely a difficult learning experience. I was there for 3 years before I moved to Virginia, where I went to my first college, the College of William & Mary. I spent 2 and a half years there, before I just decided it was time for me to go, right before the Trump elections. Right as he was rising, I heard my own friends start to use the N-word with the hard R and say anti-semitic things. People there were very close minded, just like in Miami. They were very closed to people being raw, being themselves. It was very much an attitude of “fit into the cookie cutter”, and so I said, “I’m getting the hell out of here”.
I moved back home to New York and started attending the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). I continued pursuing my passion, acting, and I practiced at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. Now I’m here! I applied to the University of Amsterdam. I love this city. Out of all the places I’ve lived, I’ve never had better friends, and I mean that wholeheartedly. I’ve never been surrounded by more diverse, more unique, more passionate, more fun, more different people ever before in my life. And that, is my life story. The tip of the iceberg.
Well thank you. So in terms of your university experience, what do you think so far? Do you like studying here, and what you’re learning?
Now that, is an interesting question. I think that all universities have their pros and cons, I love what I’m learning but there are certainly some things that I hate that I have to learn.
‘At the end of the day we’re still a community.’
You’ve gone to so many different universities, so you can compare.
That’s true, yes. They all have very different systems, for example, in the US you apply per semester. You apply for four to five classes a semester, a maximum of 18 credits, and you take those classes for five months. We get breaks, you live on campus, and it’s a very on-campus feeling, if you’re going to a traditional American university. FIT was a little bit different because it was a city campus so you did have to be in the hustle and bustle of the city life. You could choose whatever you wanted to study, as long as you were fitting the classes required within your major.
Here, it’s a very program-like structure, and I oftentimes feel like there’s an emphasis on statistics, the rational, the numerical, and the facts with the research to back it up. I think there’s not as much room for creativity, which makes me very upset, because I remember taking economics, while taking dance, or taking politics, while taking an acting class. Here, I don’t really get that opportunity at all, and it infuriates me.
But the one thing I think is incredible is that all of us are in the same program taking the same classes, so if anyone needs help with anything, you can send the troops to help your friends. Send the WhatsApp troops! We’re all in the same boat, we all learn the same things, we all end up seeing each other at the exams, and that I love, because at the end of the day we’re still a community, even more so than the other universities I’ve attended. I just wish there was a little more room for creativity.
Do you do anything outside of regular university hours to try and incorporate creativity in your life?
Absolutely. I’m doing more yoga, which I love. I’m starting to run again, and I’m looking into dance classes. My boyfriend also gave me a gift for our anniversary, a semester’s worth of acting classes at CREA. He’s doing them as well, so it’s going to be very entertaining. I can’t wait to be weird and impulsive within the black box. Besides that, I work for Bumble, which is a social networking app. I’m doing their promotion, advertising, marketing. I do a good amount of things! I think we all do.
‘If you talk about the Red Light District, legal marijuana – it attracts a certain kind of crowd’
So what do you think about the city of Amsterdam?
Great, great place. But I think there’s a lot of things that the city has, that attract a certain type of people to Amsterdam – if you talk about the Red Light District, legal marijuana – it attracts a certain kind of crowd, and I think, the further you go into the center the more of that you’ll see. But not regular tourists from all over the world who go to the Nine Streets and are curious about Amsterdam. If you go to the center, you’ll get this tourist that is horny, and a little bit not… sober. That’s where things get a little bit tricky.
Then again there are some people who live in the city that are a little bit close minded, and I think that’s strange, because Amsterdam is generally not. For example I babysit these two kids, their parents are the coolest people ever. I hate to discriminate, but they are the coolest Dutch people ever. They’re like “Oh Julia, what are you doing tonight? Are you going to De Marktkantine or are you going to De School?”
I think wherever you go, you can find people of all sorts.
Have you ever experienced any discrimination here?
I’ve heard stories of people, particularly in terms of religion, people being discriminated against. I think sometimes, we look at people and say “Oh, normal person”, but they don’t know that person is Muslim, or Jewish, or Christian, or Catholic, because we just look at them and see a “normal” human being. But, if they see those little “things” about a person, what they’re wearing, how they’re wearing it, the colors, they will immediately discriminate. There are people like that everywhere, just as you said. But I myself have never been discriminated against. Thank goodness, but I hope the people who are not discriminated against do something about the people who are.
Well said. Would you stay in Amsterdam after graduation?
Absolutely, it depends on what I want to do, still have no idea (sighs). I’m not rushing to find out though. I would stay in Amsterdam though.
dedicate some time to venturing out and being a little weird
Would you say anything to students who are considering moving here in the future for university? What would you tell them?
Something that I love about Amsterdam, kind of reminds me of New York as well. If you go to different parts of the city, you get different sorts of energies and vibes and feelings, and it can alter the way you dress, the way you speak. For example, if you go to the Nine Streets, you’ll get a little posh, but also very touristy; sweet, but also stylish and retro-type people, and you’ll feel that vibe.
Or, you go to Noord and it’s kind of grungy, rundown and rusty, rugged and weird, and some people will go like “I can’t identify with this at all, but how cool!” I think if you shy away from a place because it’s too far away, or not frequented by many people, or a certain type of people go there, that’s so wrong, you can’t live your life that way! So I would tell them, yes, focus on your studies, but dedicate some time to venturing out and being a little weird. Because people here are a little weird. It’s the new norm.
Thank you for this interview!
No, thank you!
Photos: Thomas Korver
Want to read more? Here you can find all previous interviews.