Profile: Emma Greszes '21
Major/minor: Computer Science with minors in Architectural Studies and Art History
Year abroad: Spring 2020
Study Abroad Program: IES/Amsterdam: Psychology and Sciences
Reason you chose this program: I chose IES Amsterdam because of the programs approved by Brandeis in Amsterdam, this one had classes best suitable for my degree path. I chose to study in Amsterdam because I was looking for a city where I could fully immerse myself in the experience, a big part of that being an unfamiliar language. I also am minoring in architecture, so Amsterdam has always been fascinating to me. Amsterdam is also known for its world famous art museums all over the city, which was another big factor drawing me towards studying there.
Favorite classes: My favorite class was Dutch language. I don't think I ever would have taken a class like this if I wouldn't have studied in Amsterdam. It was awesome to learn the language of where I was living, and about the culture and history, while also meeting so many other study abroad students having the same experience.
How did you incorporate your Brandeis areas of study into your abroad experience? I did not take any classes for my major or minors while abroad, I only took elective credits.
What are some parts of your identity that you thought about while considering study abroad that other students may want to talk to you about? One of the most important factors of my identity is my connection to my religion. I grew up in a Jewish Modern Orthodox community and I go to Brandeis University, a school with a flourishing Jewish life on campus. Study abroad was the first time in my entire life that I was taken out of a comfortable environment and put in a place where my Jewish life was not as easily accessible, and I therefore had to put in effort to find it.
I contacted the Chabad Rabbi of Amsterdam Zuid and I ended up feeling at home there. I went there every Friday night for Shabbat dinners, and even a few times a week for special events or weekday meals. I met so many Jewish students from countries all around the world and formed a special bond through these weekly experiences unlike any with the other students from my program or school. Not only did I form lifelong friendships with these students, but I also learned so much about myself. This was the first time in my life where my Jewish identity was truly in my own hands, and not influenced by those around me. I formulated my own opinions and was able to strengthen my connection because it truly was my own decision.
I have never felt more empowered and connected, and the feeling was exhilarating and unexpected. I am now so much more confident in myself both as a person and as a Jew, and this would have never been possible without the opportunity to study abroad.
Housing situation: I lived in an apartment with 5 other IES students. We all had single rooms and there were two bathrooms, a kitchen and a laundry/dryer machine.
Best memory: In Amsterdam, I lived in an apartment with one of my best friends from Brandeis and 4 other people we met on our program. One weekend, the other four students were all traveling, so about 6 of our best friends from Brandeis who were studying in Europe and even some friends that were still at Brandeis for the semester (it was the week of February break) all came to Amsterdam and stayed in my apartment. We filled every moment with an adventure and had so much fun.
This is my favorite memory because it was the last part of abroad that was really normal before COVID-19 started to impact us and I got to spend it with my best friends in a city that I started to call my home and loved.
Greatest challenge: My greatest challenge was COVID-19 related. I was in Israel with my family the weekend that everything started to get bad in Europe and I couldn't make my way back to Amsterdam. My parents ended up making me fly straight home with them and I had to deal with getting all my belongings shipped home from the program in Amsterdam.
Did you apply for any scholarships? Yes, I applied for the IES scholarship and it helped me pay for housing. The rest of my scholarship was from Brandeis.
What you know now that you didn’t know before: Dutch!
Fact about The Netherlands that you think people would be surprised to learn: There are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands!
“Not only did I form lifelong friendships with these students, but I also learned so much about myself. ”
Emma Greszes '21