An Unexpected Journey to Amsterdam

Thinking back to about a month and a half ago when I first landed in London, after enduring an 11-hour flight from California, I was exhausted yet exuberant as Edinburgh felt closer than ever.  I got off the plane with my mom (who came over to Edinburgh with me to do some exploring of her own) and simply followed the signs to border control feeling like I was on autopilot, my final destination being the only thing on my mind.  Once at the passport check I went through the E-Gates without thinking twice — little did I know that this was a huge mistake.  

Upon our arrival in Edinburgh, I was expecting to stumble upon another passport check so I could talk to a border control officer and get my six-month student VISA stamp in my passport.  This is what you must do upon arrival in the United Kingdom if you are planning to study for less than 6-months, or a single semester. However, after seeing signs everywhere that said “domestic flight” my mom and I both knew that something was off.  After explaining my situation to someone in security they said I was supposed to see a border control officer when I arrived in London, not Edinburgh. They said that the only way I could fix this was that legally, I had 28 days to leave the UK and come back into Edinburgh, where I would then receive my stamp. 

So my mistake was this: I thought that flying from England to Scotland was an international flight.  However, because I was still travelling within the UK it was considered domestic, hence why I was unable to talk to border control when I got to Edinburgh.  This is something that was initially not explained very well by my study abroad advisers and I didn’t know any better because this was all very new to me. I actually met quite a few other people in my study abroad program who were in the same situation.  The advice I wish to give to anyone who is interested in studying in the UK for a semester is this: if your connecting flight lands in the UK you MUST speak to a border control officer when you first arrive there.  Do not wait until you get to your final destination. (Note that this applies to students who are coming from the US; you’ll have to look up the laws that are specific to your home country).  I know this is boring, logistical stuff but it’s super important to be aware of in order to ensure your arrival is smooth and laden with as little stress as possible.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can finally get to the fun part: going to Amsterdam.  Knowing I had to leave the UK and come back, and with only a small window of time to do so since I had to give the University of Edinburgh proof of my VISA by the end of the next week, I thought to myself: Why not go to Amsterdam for a day?  So about five days later my Mom and I boarded an Easy-Jet flight and took off.

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Here’s a helpful tip:  If you are looking to travel around Europe for super cheap, or you’re like me and need to flee the country immediately, I’d highly recommend using Easy-Jet.  They are inexpensive and very reliable. If you’re looking at discounted flights, make sure to do your research on the airline you’re using. It’s typical for some of them to tack on unexpected fees along with the airline ticket, but with Easy-Jet we didn’t experience that.  I was pleasantly surprised at how “easy” it was… I am sorry to inform you but all my puns are equally as disappointing. Please keep reading though; there are some pretty pictures ahead.

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My mom and I landed in Amsterdam feeling excited to experience a new place, if only for a day.  We hopped off the plane and took a cab to get some food. After doing some research we decided to eat at a cafe called Winkel 43 — they are centrally located and are well-known for their apple pie.  I was not disappointed. The inside of the cafe is very cute and welcoming and the food was delicious. 

After eating it was time to explore a bit before heading back to Edinburgh.  After seeing some of the sights I would describe Amsterdam as having a romantic, charming aesthetic with flowers and parked bicycles everywhere you look, locals and tourists alike casually strolling down the streets, and geese floating down the canals going about their business.  For a big city, I found it quite laid back and relaxing. Granted, we only explored a small fraction of the city on a Wednesday afternoon and it was raining most of the day, so there wasn’t a lot of the hustle and bustle one would normally expect out of a city such as Amsterdam.

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After exploring for a while it really started to pour outside and there was this bookstore I had stumbled across so I insisted we go in to get dry before heading back to the airport.  The bookstore is called Island Boekholt — most of their books are in Dutch but they have a small section of books written in English as well. After about half an hour spent in there it was time to head back to Edinburgh.  Overall I had a good time in Amsterdam; I wish I would have had more than a few hours to explore because the city is huge and there is a lot to see but I will probably go back at some point. I’d recommend a visit if you are studying in Edinburgh because it isn’t hard to find a short, cheap flight and it is a beautiful place worth going to!

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The journey back took longer than expected — our flight kept getting delayed because of the weather, but we made it back alive and I was finally able to receive my stamp upon arriving in Edinburgh (yay!).  Although the situation was pretty stressful, it worked out okay in the end and I got the opportunity to visit a new place. If you are studying abroad, just know that the first couple weeks will be overwhelming and sometimes unexpected things can happen that might add on extra stress, but remember that the dust will settle and it will all work out!  It’s just important to be prepared for these things in advance. I hope this post wasn’t too boring with all the information but if it helped you in some way then I have achieved my goal. I’m looking forward to sharing more of my experiences!

By Carli.