Sorry for going AWOL for the past couple of months. For someone so organised I'm terrible at keeping to schedules. But I'm turning over a new leaf - I promise!!
My absence means I've got some things to update you on. The most obvious being that I haven't returned to Edinburgh this September. Instead, I've somehow managed to wind up doing a year abroad in Amsterdam.
For the next year, I get to call this city of canals, bikes and mismatched houses, home. So get ready for the Amster-spam coming your way!
I've just completed my second week of lectures and, after almost a month in this beautiful city, I think I'm starting to get my head around Dutch culture.
So to celebrate my first three weeks in the Netherlands, I thought I'd share three things that I've discovered about living here.
Anything, and I really do mean anything, can be transported by bike.
3 dogs? No issue, just chuck them in your basket. A Hoover? Perfectly normal. A bunch of flowers in one hand and an umbrella in the other? Sure thing!
The best part is that no-one is the least bit surprised when someone cycles past with everything but the kitchen sink balanced precariously on their handlebars.
I think the Dutch must have evolved over time to have superior stability and a suicidal-like confidence on two wheels. Both of which I'm still trying to master.
Something people seem to forget to mention about Amsterdam is the rain. And I'm not talking about the light drizzle we get in the UK. I mean full on, Biblical downpours that suddenly appear even on the most beautiful of sunny days.
Case in point, yesterday morning I headed out to the shops in sunglasses and a t-shirt. By the afternoon when I cycled off to uni I was in full waterproofs. Laughing with a local at traffic lights about the flash flood that covered the cycle lane and meant I arrived at my lecture looking like I'd been swimming in the Amstel.
The weather is so temperamental that there is even a rain-tracker app. Although even that can't always keep up with the weather's random mood changes.
The final thing I've discovered is something Unis in the UK, especially Edinburgh, could learn from. And that's having 15-minute breaks during every lecture.
In all aspects, the Dutch seem to have got their work-life balance pretty spot on.
All lectures and seminars in the Netherlands are seemingly 2 hours long (or sometimes even longer). But after 45 minutes the lecture is paused for a quarter of an hour and people head off to get coffes or eat their lunch. If you have a 3-hour class then you simply get another break after the next 45 minutes.
For me, the 45/50min mark is around the point where I start losing the will to live during a lecture. So it's a godsend that I can now grab a stroopwafel and chill for a bit before being droned at for another hour.
(I know I said 3 things but who doesn't like an extra surprise?!)
If you thought Fraternities and Sororities were the reserves of American Unis, then you might be surprised to discover that they are very much a thing in the Netherlands too.
Like in America they are highly elitist, with the same intimidating initiations, and ridiculous names. They are also an only Dutch club so as an international student I sadly won't get the chance to be a sorority girl. Although I think my short hair and aversion to fake tan probably would've ruled me out anyway.
But the next time you're in Amsterdam pay attention to the canal houses, and if you see a giant flag with some sort of Greek symbol on it then you've discovered one of the Unis fraternities/sororities.
There are still lots of things I'm yet to discover/understand (like a single word in Dutch) but so far I'm head over heels in love with this place. I'm just worried that I'll never want to leave!