I will be studying abroad in Amsterdam for five months from February - July. I have never traveled outside of U.S. any tips for a beginning traveler?
What a wonderful opportunity! And, you'll be there when the Tulips are at their peak, and during King's Day! I would definitely try to get the Leiden where the Bollenstreek (Tulip fields) is. And, for King's Day, any of the big cities will be awesome. The country goes a little mad - lots of orange outfits, markets, and yummy food! Try Keukenhof too - a beautiful garden that's there year round, but again, during the peak of the tulip season it will be pretty special!
Overall, just try to relax with your first o/s experience - Amsterdam is a great starting point - the locals will all speak plenty of English, and will be glad to offer you a hand! And the public transport system there is really very good!
I've studied and lived abroad many times in my life. Common sense, some money and/or a smile will get you ANYWHERE ;-)
What I always did was buying a travel guide of the city or country I would live in. This way you get a glimpse of the culture, nature and places to stay, eat or dance. For Amsterdam, the (English) 100%guide is really, really good. It will take you to a lot of nice places. Read more here (http://www.100procenttravel.com/Footer/Partnerships.aspx) And the Eyewitness guides will tour you around the must-visit top-ten places with extended information why it's a highlight and why it's worth visiting it. Combined together you'' ll get the full story. And last, you'll meet fellow students, all in the same situation, who will want to join you probably.
When you've learned how to navigate a bike in this crowded city, you'll be fine!
As soon as you have 'explored' Amsterdam and it's surroundings, go see Utrecht, Maastricht, Leiden Zaanse Schans etc. Or take a train to Antwerp, London or Paris! All is possible, and is a short ride away and really worth it. There's too much to see and explore for you, good luck and enjoy it!
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I studied abroad a few years ago in France and it was my first time leaving the U.S. Too. If you want to get the most out of it do lots of research about the place. There were so many things I read in book after I came back that I had wished I knew about. I loved all the little cafes in Amsterdam so make sure to get out and see things. Talk with as many people there as you can and don't be afraid to ask what they like to do or a favorite restaurant. Be aware of your surroundings but not so much it stresses you out. Remember you are there to learn and have fun so live it up and soak it all in! :)