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Study Abroad in Amsterdam and the Netherlands

Submitted on September 28, 2022 - 2:50pm


Summer 2022 fortunately enabled the reemergence of study abroad offerings through the UW School of Art + Art History + Design. We were pleased to send undergraduate students on a 10-week immersive Art History program in Amsterdam and the Netherlands led by Associate Professor Marek Wieczorek with assistance from PhD student Inji Kim. The length of the program allowed students to earn 15 credits of Art History coursework and the opportunity to participated in daily life in Amsterdam. Participant and graduating Art major Aly Stuart shares their experience in the program — the benefits, the challenges (especially during Covid-times), and the power of on-site learning.


Would you introduce yourself and what you studied at UW?

My name is Aly Stuart, and as of this fall, I will have graduated with a degree in Interdisciplinary Visual Art and a minor in Art History!

What program did you participate in this summer?

This past summer I was fortunate to be able to attend the Art History in Amsterdam and the Netherlands study abroad program led by Marek Wieczorek and Inji Kim. The trip was centered in Amsterdam for the most part, but actually began with a substantial period in Belgium with visits to cities like Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent. Here our schedule was densely packed with excursions where we learned about early art of the low countries. It was also on this leg of the trip that the whole group of 20 really got to know each other, so that by the time we migrated to Amsterdam, we had built up a sturdy team structure. In Amsterdam, we moved into dorms that would house us for the 40-day period that would comprise the majority of the trip and began to settle into a weekly routine. On two days of the week, we attended lectures at the University of Amsterdam, and once a week we took a trip to the Rijksmuseum. All other days were full of organized or personal excursions around the city or to further out areas of the Netherlands like Haarlem, The Hague, and Rotterdam to engage with the work of both old masters and contemporary figures in the art world. On the last week of the program, we took a train to Kassel in Germany to attend Documenta 15, a contemporary art festival held once every five years.

What were some of your favorite experiences and what was it like learning Art History on site?

One of the unique aspects of this particular program is its pacing. The trip is long enough that you are able to glean what it’s like to really live and experience day to day life in Amsterdam, rather than jumping place to place every day in an exhausting attempt to see every attraction. The educational aspects are well balanced with free time for personal exploration, so one need not worry about missing out on the markets, canals, and the social scene of the city. That being said, the selection of museum visits and tours curated by the program organizers was spectacular. Highlights of the trip included a visit to the Rembrandt House to see how the artist might have lived, occupy the space he lived in, and look upon some of his famous, impossibly fine etchings, as well as the Royal Museum in Antwerp, where I was shocked by the colossal scale and vibrancy of Rubens altarpieces. Of course one has to mention the Van Gogh Museum, which, despite being more crowded with tourists than other places, stuns visitors with the opportunity to see some of the most iconic paintings of all time in person. Seeing these master works without the barrier of a screen is surreal and incomparable. There is vibrancy and detail that cannot be captured by photographs or reproductions. Lectures provided ample information to appreciate the works visited, even for those without a background in art history. If you have a desire to see and appreciate a truly wondrous array of famous European art old and new, I can’t imagine a better opportunity than this trip.

What was it like to be abroad with COVID? Did this change your experience?

Of course, going abroad during the pandemic came with some trepidation, but we were assured that the program had planned precautionary measures. We were lucky enough to have individual dorm rooms for much of our stay, as well as access to free self-testing kits from the University of Amsterdam. When inevitably some people in the group did test positive, they were able to isolate in their rooms while they recovered. The rest of the group banded together to ensure that they had plenty of food and supplies. So, while it was a bummer to have to miss out on some part of the trip, the experience of being sick was not so bad. When I unfortunately caught COVID around week eight, the timing was perfect in that it allowed me to hunker down and finish the essays I had been procrastinating!

What advice would you share for others who are considering going abroad?

For those considering going abroad, I would highly recommend applying with a friend. Traveling with someone who you trust and get along with is incredibly fun. If you and your traveling companions are adaptable, go-with-the-flow people, then no matter what plans go awry, you will still have a good time navigating those unexpected adventures.

What comes next for you and did studying abroad impact your plans for the future?

Going on a quarter abroad was my last hurrah at the University of Washington. With those three courses, I completed my minor and have officially graduated! I now plan to enter the animation industry, and the sights I saw and things I learned on the trip will absolutely inform my work going forward in life. Everything I experienced will become a backdrop from which I can seek inspiration. It also made me determined to continue traveling when possible. Even after 10 weeks of constant exploration, the trip has only served to make the world seem larger than ever before, because I know there is so much out there that I have yet to experience. I am incredibly fortunate to have been able to go on this study abroad program, and I can only hope that the future will herald more opportunities like this.

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