Matthew McCloat - 2015 Program Participant

Bike riding in Amsterdam at night

Cycling to a Food Festival in Northern Amsterdam

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I have always wanted to study abroad in country that has a very different culture than the United States. I am very interested in foreign affairs as well, so it made sense for me to go abroad. What I didn't realize is that there were so many amazing programs to choose from. It took me over a month to decide which program I wanted!

How did you end up choosing IES Abroad’s program in Amsterdam?

I ended up choosing Amsterdam because the Dutch way of life is something I became really enthralled by. They have one of the highest ratings for overall happiness, live a very relaxed way of life, while also working hard and having fun. Amsterdam itself also was a big selling point for me; the canals are incredible, the cycling culture is convenient and fun, the food is great, there are many sights to see, and it is easy to navigate.

What was your favorite part about Amsterdam?

I lived in an apartment building right around the corner from a Dutch brewery that was located in the last functional windmill in Amsterdam. My friends loved going there after classes to hang out, and it was also an incredible sight from our apartment. I also loved being able to cycle everywhere. It helped us save so much money, it was fun, and it was nice to get exercise in every day.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Rijksmuseum

What makes IES Abroad’s Amsterdam program unique?

The program in Amsterdam is unique because it is one of the smaller IES Abroad programs, so everyone that is in it becomes one big family. Everyone is friends with each other, and there is never a point where you feel uncomfortable or awkward to approach anyone in the program. Our program directors also became part of our family, and we always had a great time hanging out with them, getting to know them, and just experiencing Amsterdam together.

How did the local IES Abroad staff provide support for you throughout your program?

We had four women on the IES Abroad staff when I was there. They all were extremely helpful with any questions about classes, culture, places to see, places to eat, and just to talk to in general. I had so much fun with them whenever I had class in the IES Abroad center, or on the field trips they organized.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I explored more places in Amsterdam. I went to many different museum, cafes, bars, restaurants, etc., but I eventually started going to all of the same ones that I liked a lot. There are endless amounts of places to go, and I know I saw a lot, but I definitely could have seen more.

What was a typical day like for you as an international student in Amsterdam?

I would wake up early each day, cycle to a cafe for breakfast and to do some work, cycle to class, go back to my apartment for lunch, hang out with friends on the roof terrace, go out to dinner, and then go out for drinks with my friends at night.

Brouwerij't, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Brouwerij't - The windmill brewery we lived around the corner from

What was one of your favorite parts of your program other than the coursework?

I really loved going on the field trip to Maastricht. It was a two hour train ride away from Amsterdam, and we only stayed there for a night, but it was so nice to go on a trip with almost everybody in the program, including the staff!

What was your housing like? What did you like best about it?

We all lived in studio apartments, and I had a roommate in mine. I really loved that we were all in the same building, so we never had to go far to see each other. There was also a great terrace on the roof that we always went up to to hang out, barbecue, etc.

How would you say studying abroad in Amsterdam has impacted your life?

Amsterdam truly opened my mind to so many different lifestyles, ideas, and people. I never thought studying abroad would actually make me grow so much, but it really did. If there is one thing I have learned overall, it is to never judge somebody until you get to know them; they might turn out to be your best friend!

Canal in Utrecht, The Netherlands

The Amazing Canals in the Netherlands (Utrecht)