A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: AnneO

Research Abroad!

Hi everyone! This blog will detail what ended up being a rather unexpected trip to the Netherlands. As you may know, I work a lot with study abroad. In fact, I will be bringing a group of students to Barcelona in January. My trip after that, in January of 2018, will be to London and the Netherlands. Having never been to the Netherlands, I wanted to go there and do some research so that I know what I am doing when I put together the study abroad program. It turned out that there is also an international education conference in the Hague on December 1 and 2, so I could go to that conference, then stay a few extra days to research the study abroad program. On top of it all, I was able to secure a grant from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Center for International Education. That means that my trip will be entirely grant funded! So this has worked out spectacularly.

Tomorrow I drive down to Chicago to catch a flight to Atlanta, and from there to Amsterdam. I will arrive on Nov. 30, and the conference is the following two days. I will then spend a couple more days in the Hague visiting international courts, businesses and hotels to find the best options for student travel. Finally, I will spend two days in Amsterdam doing the same.

So, follow me on this unexpected adventure! You can get a sense of what it is like to create a study abroad program, which is quite a bit different from leisure travel. Of course, I will still do fun things and eat great food, because that is the case with any European trip, whether for business or pleasure!

See you on the other side!

Anne

Posted by AnneO 17:14 Archived in USA Comments (1)

A New Country Added to the List


View Netherlands 2016 on AnneO's travel map.

Well, I made it to The Hague without much difficulty, and I really like what I have seen so far from this city. I have a feeling this might become one of my favorites. Everyone here has been so friendly!

My day started yesterday when I left Green Bay at 7am to drive to Chicago. I don't much like driving as it is, and I was concerned about navigating through the tolls and figuring out where to get gas before dropping off the rental car. Not everything went as smoothly as I had planned (I missed a toll and because of that I also missed the exit I needed for where I originally planned to get gas), but with the help of the GPS I figured it all out. I dropped off the rental car and took the shuttle to the terminal at O'Hare. Getting through security was a breeze with TSA pre-check, and I was at the gate about three hours before my flight.

I flew to Atlanta, where I had another couple of hours to wait, and then on to Amsterdam. The flight was completely full and they were offering $1000 to take a later flight. I wish I could have taken advantage of that but it would have made me late for the conference I am attending here. The flight across the Atlantic was pretty uneventful: the food was bad but I actually slept for a couple of hours I think. Getting through immigration in Amsterdam wasn't too bad either. I was on my train to The Hague just a little over an hour after the plane landed. The train to The Hague from Amsterdam's airport takes only about half an hour, and my hotel is just outside the central train station, so getting here was really easy.

My room wasn't ready yet, so I left my bags there and headed out to explore the city a bit. The Hague's main square is about 5 minutes down the road from the hotel. It isn't much really, especially compared to the main square in Kraków that I fell in love with this summer. But it is lined with cafes and I might try one out while I am here. A lot of the streets in the area are pedestrian and bike only, so it is great for strolling. Everyone here rides bikes it seems. You don't really see that many cars, compared to what you would expect.

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I got to the end of the pedestrian area and came across a canal near the Dutch Parliament building. I will be touring Parliament on Saturday.

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I stopped for lunch at a cafe, and when I was looking at my map while eating I noticed that the Dutch Supreme Court and a trial court building were not far away. So I thought I would see if I could go in them. They wouldn't let me in to the Supreme Court, but I was able to sit in on a hearing at the trial court. I don't speak Dutch so I didn't know much of what was going on. I could tell it was a criminal law case because there were several police officers there and the judge said "first offense" once in English. The hearing didn't last long and there was nothing after it, so I was debating whether to try to get the judge's attention after the hearing. I decided to give it a shot and was excited to be able to talk to the prosecutor, the judge and the judge's paralegal. The case was a burglary case. The actual burglary part had already been settled, but apparently the defendant insulted a police officer and the hearing was about that. I told the judge I would be brining students there in a year so maybe we would come see a hearing there. He gave me his email address and told me he would help me arrange a visit. So I am glad I worked up the courage to talk to them!

By this time my room was ready and I got checked in. It is a pretty standard hotel room by American standards. The thing I found funny is that the mini bar is just snacks sitting on a table with a price list.

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After getting settled in and checking email, I went back out to go back to the pedestrian area to get a stroopwaffel. Yum!

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I headed back to the hotel again and stopped at a grocery store to get something to eat for breakfast tomorrow, and I am calling it a night. I actually am a lot less tired that I usually am my first day in Europe. I am surprised after such a long day of travel. Tomorrow I go tot the conference in the morning. It will be strange because sunrise here isn't until about 8:30am. I have high expectations for the conference so hopefully it is as good as I am anticipating.

Anne

Posted by AnneO 08:48 Archived in Netherlands Comments (1)

COIL Conference, Business Visits, and Shopping


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All day yesterday and until about noon today I attended a COIL conference. COIL stands for Collaborative Online International Learning, and the idea is that a classroom in one country works on a project with a classroom in another country. This is something I am very interested in doing, and the conference was excellent. I met a lot of great people from all over the world and hopefully will be able to use the contacts made to create a project for one of my classes. The conference was at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. We were in a very interesting and unique building.

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After the conference, I set out on three planned business visits. I want to try to make contacts so that when I bring students here in 2018 we can tour one or more of these businesses. My first stop was Royal Dutch Shell. The receptionist told me that in order to get a tour you have to know someone there, which I don't. She gave me a general information email that I am pretty sure will result in nothing. So I was disappointed in my first stop, although as you will see later it might work out in the end.

My second stop was a logistics company called Damco. When I got there, you couldn't just walk in but had to buzz them from the street. Not speaking Dutch, and unsure how communication would go in English over a speaker, I decided not to even try. I figure I can look something up on the Internet for that one too.

By this time I was hungry for lunch so I stopped at a doner place. These are cheap fast food type places with either chicken or beef sandwiches primarily. They are cheap, fast and yummy. The meat hangs on vertical spits, and they use something that looks like an clothes iron to shave off the meat. I had one of these sandwiches for the first time in Vienna this summer and loved it, so I interested in trying it again here. One thing that was funny was that the person who took my order called me "lady" instead of something like "ma'am" when asking me questions about what I wanted. So it was, "do you want ketchup or mayonnaise with your French fries, lady?" It just sounded so funny.

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My final business stop, and one that was successful was AT&T, which has its European headquarters in The Hague. I was able to meet with the Director of Managed Services and Outsourcing and he was very willing to set something up for when I come with students. It sounds like they do this with a school in The Hague so he had an idea what I wanted. So I just have to email him a few months before we visit and he will set something up. He asked what else I would be doing with students, and after telling him I mentioned what happened at Shell. He said he knew some people there so he would contact them and email me a name if someone at Shell would agree to that. So I am much more hopeful that I was when I left Shell.

All in all, my hope was to get at least one of them to be willing to work with us and that is what I got. If I can get a second, I would be thrilled with that.

Having had what I deemed to be a successful day, I decided to go shopping! There is a pretty large pedestrian shopping area in The Hague, so I walked around there for a while. I am going back sometime this weekend during the evening to see the streets all lit up with Christmas lights, because it looks like it will be really cool to see. One thing that was exciting is that, because people are are generally fairly tall and therefore I guess have bigger feet, I was actually able to find stores that carry my size 12! I bought a pair of boots from Ecco so am very happy about that.

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It was time for a snack! There are lots of little walk up counters in the shopping area with all kinds of treats. I decided to get some churros, which were warm and yummy.

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I then went back to the hotel for a while, and took the opportunity to ask at the front desk about whether they have rooms with twin beds and if they have a group discounted rate. The location of this hotel is ideal. It is right next to the central train station, all the trams stop here, and so much is within walking distance. If it works out price-wise, this would be a great place to stay. Sunday is the day I plan to visit some other hotels so I can get a sense of what other options we have.

For dinner, I intended to go to an Indonesian restaurant, but they didn't have any tables available and the wait would have been almost 2 hours so I decided to find something else. I am going to be in that area tomorrow so I might try again for lunch. I settled on a place called Burger Bar and enjoyed a very good cheeseburger. On the way home I stopped at one of the bakery carts/trucks that you see all over the city. The picture below is one example, but not the one I went to tonight. I got a chocolate covered waffle, which was the perfect thing to end the day.

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Tomorrow I am touring the Dutch Parliament and the International Court of Justice. These are both places I intend to bring students so I am checking them out. They are places I would visit anyway even if I was here on vacation. I am really interested in seeing both of these, so that will be fun.

Anne

Posted by AnneO 11:18 Archived in Netherlands Comments (4)

Where Should My Students Visit?


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Today was dedicated to checking out a couple of sites I thought would be good for students to tour. I want to make sure they are places that my students will get a lot of value from seeing, whether from a cultural or program point of view. The first stop was the Binnenhof, or the parliament building. While the capitol of the Netherlands is technically Amsterdam, all the government buildings (as well as the royal family) can be found in The Hague. The Binnenhof is about a ten-minute walk from my hotel. On the way, I stopped at a bakery and bought a chocolate croissant which I ate while walking the rest of the way there.

Typically, these tours are in Dutch and English speakers are given an audio guide to follow along. However, I was the only person taking the tour today so I got a private English tour! My tour guide had just graduated from college with a political science degree, so he was very knowledgable and was able to answer all my questions. I tend to be too intimidated in a group to ask much, so it was nice to have a one-on-one tour. The tour included a short video at the beginning to introduce the history of the Binnenhof, and then visits to the Hall of Knights and the House of Representatives.

Outside the Binnenhof and the Hall of Knights:
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The arched door on the left in the entrance to the Prime Minister's office:
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I always like to tour the state houses or parliaments of places I visit, so I enjoyed this tour. However, I don't think it is a must-see for my students. The House of Represetnatives is a pretty new building so there isn't much historic value to seeing it, and the rest of the tour isn't that comprehensive. I think the time would be better spent visiting another business or court, and students can visit the Binnenhof on their free time if it is something they are interested in seeing. This is the value of doing a site visit before a study abroad when you are planning it yourself from scratch rather than using an experienced third-party provider. You get to see first-hand what will be the best for a student visit. Time is precious when you are doing a short-term study abroad, so you want everything to be of the highest value if you can help it.

After the tour, I stopped at McDonald's for a quick lunch and then took the tram to th Peace Palace. This is something I have really been looking forward to because I teach an International Law class where we talk about this building. It is where the International Court of Justice is housed, among some other institutions. It is a very cool building. I was expecting it to be further out of town than it was, but it really is not far from the center of the city. Before the guided tour, you have time to walk through an exhibit in the visitor's center that talks about the history and purpose of the building. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside the palace, though. This tour is excellent and is something I think my students will enjoy, especially those who take the International Law class. It is always exciting to see something you have learned about in class.

Peace Palace and Imagine Peace Wish Tree (where you can write down you your wish for peace and tie it to the tree):
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From the visitor center:
Fan signed by all the representatives from the countries who set up the Permanant Court of Arbitration which was one of the first international courts:
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Check for $1.5 million given by Andrew Carnegie to pay for the Peace Palace:
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The current judges at the International Criminal Court:
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Each country that is a member of the Court has a chair with that country's emblem on the back. These are two from countries that no longer exist. I don't remember what the one of the left is but I think the one on the right is Austria-Hungary:
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I intended to take the tram back to the city center, but I got turned around and ended up just walking back to the hotel. It really wasn't as far as I thought it was so it wasn't a bad walk. On the way, I came upon a hotel I had planned to visit tomorrow, so I took the opportunity to stop in while I was in the area. It is a hotel called EasyHotel, which is a chain owned by the cheap European airline EasyJet. Like the airline, these are completely no-frills hotels. You pay a very cheap rate and then pay for any extras you want. So, for example, if you check in before your room is ready and you want them to hold your bags for you, you have to pay for that. Because it is so cheap, I wanted to check it out. Keeping costs low on a study abroad is important, but sometimes you get what you pay for as well. Let me tell you, these rooms are TINY. Think cabins on a cruise ship, and not the nicer cabins. The rooms is a wise as the two twin best with about a foot in between them. There is no desk or dresser or wardrobe. The only thing is a little shelf big enough to hold the remote for the TV. The bathroom reminds me of a bathroom in an airplane, but with a shower attached. The door to the bathroom becomes the door to close off the shower. It is hard to explain. It is in a decent area, seems clean and the people at the desk were friendly. It would save quite a bit of money, but will students want to save that money for this kind of room? I don't know. It is something we will have to discuss when I get home. Personally, I prefer the hotel I am staying in now. It is so easy to get to from the train station, and because all the trams stop at the station, you can get anywhere fast. Lots to think about...

I then came back to the room to rest for a while. On the way, I stopped for another stroopwafel.

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After about an hour I decided to go for dinner. I wanted to try sitting outside on the main square and see how it was. It was great! I found a table right next to a fire, the ceilings of the tent had heaters, and there was a blanket at my table. It was 43 degrees when I got there and 38 when I left and I felt comfortable the whole time. I started with an amazing pumpkin soup. It is one of the best soups I have ever had. I then had a porkchop that came with potatoes and vegetable and something called "sauce of squirrel bread." I have no idea what that is, but it was really good. Definitely a cream-based sauce of some kind, hopefully make out of some kind of bread and not actual squirrels. :)

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Tomorrow I am going to visit three different museums and check out at least one more hotel. The first museum I am going to doesn't open until noon on Sundays so I am going to take advantage of the opportunity to sleep in! I am also going to see if there is any way to watch the Packer game. So far no one I have asked knows and I haven't found anything online so I am not optimistic about that. I also plan to go out and look at the Christmas lights in the shopping area. It will be my last full day in The Hague before I go to Amsterdam on Monday afternoon after I visit the International Criminal Court Monday morning.

Anne

Posted by AnneO 12:48 Archived in Netherlands Comments (1)

Last Day in The Hague and First Day in Amsterdam


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I didn't get a chance to blog last night because I got back to the hotel quite late after going out to watch the Packer game. So let me catch you up on the last two days.

Sunday was my "day off" so to speak so I slept in until about 9:30. My plan was to go to three different museums, and the first one didn't open until noon. On the way there, I wanted to stop at a place called Happy Tosti, which I had passed by several times but was never able to stop in. Tostis are grilled sandwiches. The store was really cute, with some of the seats being swings. I got a ham and cheese Tosti, which was very good.

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I then made my way over to The Hague HIstory museum. It was very interesting and I learned a lot about the city. My next museum was a prison museum, but I didn't need to be there until 2:15 for the English tour. So I decided to check out the Royal Palace. It isn't really that impressive as far as palaces go.

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Nearby is an Irish Pub called O'Caseys that I thought might be a place to watch the Packer game at night. I stopped in to ask and they told me that they don't always get all the games but at a minimum they would have the NFL Red Zone channel. I figured that was better than nothing and made plans to return at night.

I then went to do the prison tour. This was great, if macabre because they talked quite a bit about torture. But the guide was excellent and it was a worthwhile visit. It is something my students would enjoy I think. They also have a legal walking tour for groups that you can organize, so I will have to look more into that. I think this would be a good thing to take the place of the parliament tour I had originally thought I would do.

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My third museum was going to be an art museum, but I wasn't feeling too hot so I thought I would just go back to the hotel and get everything packed to go to Amsterdam the next day. That way I wouldn't have to do it really late after the Packer game or really early in the morning.

The Packer game was at 7pm local time, so I made sure to give myself some time to walk around and look at Christmas lights. You can see some of them below, as well as a picture of O'Caseys. They were able to find the game for me, so I didn't have to rely on the Red Zone channel.

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This morning I got up and checked out of the hotel. I left my bags at the hotel and took the bus to the International Criminal Court. I was really hoping to spend a couple of hours watching hearings. It turns out I got to see all of about five minutes. There are two trials going on, and both were in closed session almost in their entirety. For one, you could still watch when they were in closed session but they have the mics off so you coudn't hear anything. I watched for a little while and then went back to the hotel to pick up my bags.

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The trial I was able to see a tiny bit of was a trial of a man from Congo who had engaged in a lot of terrible acts: murder, rape, forcing children into being part of the military, etc. He is just a few months younger than I am. Sitting in the courtroom in his suit and tie, he looked like a normal business man. It is hard to comprehend all he had done. I am glad I went, but I just wish I could have observed more.

I then took the train to Amsterdam. I have a really nice apartment a little bit out of the center. I dropped off my bags and took the train into the center.

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I walked down a street until I came to Dam Square, I hadn't eaten all day, and it was about 2pm so I stopped at a hot dog cart.

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I then made my way to the Anne Frank house. Along the way I crossed the canals that are in every picture of Amsterdam you see. They are really cool. I also came across a rubber ducky store. I bought a judge rubber ducky.

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I got to the Anne Frank house and there was a long line. It only ended up taking about 4o minutes to get in, which wasn't terrible. The house is interesting to see. The secret annex where they hid was bigger than I thought it would be. But still, thinking about the number of people hiding there, for more than two years without being able to go outside, and having to sit still most of the time, it certainly would not have been comfortable. The place is packed with visitors and you move very slowly through the rooms in big groups, so I wouldn't recommend anyone with any claustrophobia to go through it. I am not claustrophobic and I was uncomfortable. It was neat to see her actual diary (which is actually a few notebooks and many loose pages).

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I then made my way back to the train station. Along the way I stopped to get a waffle that was covered with a pistachio coating. Chocolate is better, but this was good too. You could get a lot of different flavors here.

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I also was able to see all the Christmas lights when I went back through Dam Square.

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I took the train back to my apartment,, stopped to get some soda and food for breakfast tomorrow, and ate dinner in the attached restaurant. I realized when I started looking for it that I left my plug adapter in the outlet in my room in The Hague. Fortunately, they have some at the front desk here (probably also forgotten by past guests) so I am still able to charge up all my devices.

Tomorrow is my last full day here, then home on Wednesday.

Anne

Posted by AnneO 11:25 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

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