Tuesday, 24 July 2012

My box by the river

Prior to starting this blog, it is safe to say I went through my fair share of turmoil trying to find a roof to shelter my slightly larger than average head for the academic year to come. Upon learning that the university charge a finding fee of roughly £370, I promptly snorted in indignation and turned to the internet for answers (herein lies another aspect of the whole experience that might have been made clearer to me beforehand).

After days of scouring various websites in search of more pocket-friendly alternative, I realised I had 3 options:
  1. start paying just to see the listings on agency websites, with no guarantee of finding anything suitable.
  2. enter some bizarre kind of lottery in which you hand over your money and wait to see if you have, effectively, "won" a place.
  3. give up and pay the uni and consequently, the agency, a frankly extortionate fee.
So, I went with the latter, favouring ease and certainty over the possibility of living in a tree. I can't say much, or indeed anything at all, for the effectiveness of the first two options but if they seem more appealing to you, be my guest. But when they warn you on the university website that "it isn't easy," they aren't just having you on in some underhand ploy to steal your hard-earned pennies - it really... isn't... easy.

(On a side note, this is another aspect of the university lifestyle I feel could benefit from some sort of forum on which people can provide listings, advice, experiences etc.)

Begrudgingly, I paid the fee.

When I was told the last possible date by which I might get an answer was the 15th of August, two days before I'm due to collect the keys, I did start to worry slightly.

But today, I can inform you, o venerable reader, that I am wholly satisfied by the results. I was sent a clear outline of where I have to be and when, how I confirm my interest and details of the room itself. Although pictures weren't included, I did a little bit of excavating and found that it is centrally located and near the river in a part of Amsterdam called Westerpark. 

The walking route from my prospective place to the university.

Now I have the unfortunate disposition of being slightly superstitious, so I don't want to spout off about how amazing it looks, but I will say that I'm pretty happy.

If we go into street view...

...you get an idea of exactly the kind of accommodation I'm dealing with here. While I will assume there are those among you who may turn their noses up at this, the prospect of living in a student village again excites me to no end. It will be more about the atmosphere and community than the luxury aspect and having lived most of my life by considerable but no great means, I anticipate enjoying this.

Having seen a few pictures of the rooms, the majority of which I shall spare you, one example in particular really showed me how a bit of effort and elbow grease can make any living space, even these (apparently 25m2) rooms, an interesting and comfortable place to be.

While I think the method of finding a place to live in the first place leaves a lot to be desired, I can't really argue with the end result. It looks as if either way you go about it, you'll end up spending money trying to find somewhere. While there are some websites with free listings, I found them (usually) to be searching for rents somewhere in the region of 800 euros pcm+. 

I look forward to moving in and showing everyone my room.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Allow me to introduce myself

Recently I was accepted to study my Masters at the University of Amsterdam. I write this not to brag, (if you think that's impressive enough to merit admiration, then thank you anyway) but to set this blog off in the direction I'm wanting it to take immediately. Because after the few minutes of excitably bouncing around to totally blank looks from my family, I realised a) that they'd inexplicably typed the wrong name on the acceptance email and b) I had no idea what to expect from the approaching year.

After having cleared up the former, I set about educating myself on the latter.


No forums, no message boards, no facebook groups full of people to offer friendly advice on accommodation, restaurants, travel, the courses, the buildings. Like I say, nothing.

So I am writing this blog to set right this tragic wrong. In this modern age, when everyone's face is being pushed ever closer to the luminescence of some computer screen, why should I be left in the dark? Alas, it must be so.

From now on, I will document my experiences as a postgraduate student in Literary Studies at the University of Amsterdam - from living abroad for the first time and making my way around a strange city, to what type of bread to buy and which pubs serve up best liver damage for your dollar - through photographs, quick paragraphs, long essays and interpretive dance videos (maybe). All in the faint hope that someone will pick my lowly blog up and get a better shot at this than the running leap I'm taking, learn from my mistakes etc etc.

I am due to travel out to pick up my keys mid-August and move out for good at the start of September, so although I won't be able to provide much of a first-hand account as of yet, I think the preparatory stage is probably just as, if not more important.

On top of this, somewhat inevitably as I am indeed a literature student, I intend to share any ponderings, opinions or ideas in whichever form I may choose, verse or prose, as that is the price you are going to have to willingly pay for my sagacious words.

Fare-the-well for now.