This week Medium had the opportunity to see Amsterdam through the eyes of an exchange student. Leo Nicholas Barnes is taking 2nd year courses in Political science at UvA since august 2018 and is very glad about the same.
His exchange being the first time he set foot in the city, Leo says how Amsterdam felt small compared to London. “It is kind of cosy and intimate and also very clean in comparison to London.” Culturally it was very similar for him “Dutch people are very similar to British people in terms of mannerisms and personal ability”. But later he discovered how some things are quite different.
Leo had a very idealistic image of Amsterdam in the beginning. He chose Amsterdam because he wanted to study in a busy and active city, unlike Durham, where he goes to university is quite quiet. Amsterdam seemed to tick all the boxes of having loads of things to do, great nightlife and easy to travel to other places etc. Over time he became familiar with discrete areas and lesser known parts of the city and formed a better understanding of the good as well as the bad. He realised that there was more to the city than just a liberal melting pot. And along with the liberal nature came something that he could not let go unnoticed. “Especially being interested in politics and upon reading more about it; one way in which my attitude towards the city changes is the problematic nature referring to sex trade, human trafficking, use and misuse of girls and women involved.”
Amsterdam seemed to tick all the boxes of having loads of things to do, great nightlife and easy travel to other places
My biggest challenge was coming on exchange right after my surgery” says Leo. He continued “I tore a couple of ligaments in my knee and broke my leg after I fell off mountain biking over summer.” He has fortunately almost recovered now and is looking forward to biking around the city for the true Amsterdam experience.
While comparing Amsterdam to London as a student Leo elaborated, “When you’re a student in London you feel like a civilian that happens to study in a couple of buildings but people who study in Amsterdam have a sort of allegiance to the city.” Although it was no metamorphosis for him to be here, “I feel like I’m a part of something big” tells Leo. The community here facilitates for a lot of things like accommodation, study associations and the University provides ample opportunities to socialize with abundant extracurricular activities. Leo has been a part of many of those, including but not limited to being an editor in an online newspaper, a treasurer at ISN Amsterdam, a student exchange ambassador, editor in a political blog and freelancer. As a student, UvA provides a challenging atmosphere and academic pressure to grow that he is deeply going to miss when he goes back to the UK.
When you’re a student in London you feel like a civilian that happens to study in a couple of buildings but people who study in Amsterdam have a sort of allegiance to the city
Do you smoke weed? To which Leo replied “No I don’t! But it seems pretty inoffensive and sometimes useful.” In his mind, he did expect it to feature more in the day to day lives of people but at the same time realised that “unless you’re looking for it, it doesn’t stand out to you and it doesn’t really affect people’s lives.”
Cover: Leo Nicholas Barnes/Final editor: Loïs Marcus