Cycling and Studying in Amsterdam

I have been participating the Summer School of the Universiteit van Amsterdam for a couple of days now. My student colleagues are mostly studying psychology, neuroscience or computer science, so I must admit I am behind them in my knowledge in these topics. They are so talented young people, and also highly interested in these topics. I have had to admit, that I am not a computer scientist or a neuroscientist, and when accepting the fact and my limitations I can deal with it.

It’s been very mind-opening start in the summer school. Campus itself is very nice, in the very heart of Amsterdam. It’s easy to believe people get good studying results in this kind of lively environment, so these two weeks are quite an important experience for me. At the same time it’s very important for a humanist like me to remember what my own interests and strengths are and what they are not. Computer science is definitely something that is far beyond my expertise. I still have a good time at school and in the city, and probably I can pass the course despite being totally on my uncomfortable zone with the topic and team work conventions.

About team working…

The basic target for the team work is that we are supposed to plan a research. Our group’s theme is value-guided decision making, which is basically a very important and interesting topic. Our planning leaves from computational modeling, where we have an agent and some theoretical directions, where the agent can move. There are also rewards and punishments that are supposed to instruct his choices. Maybe the agent gets a coin (reward) or an electrical shock (punishment), or something like that. Well, if I was taking part in an experiment, where I should collect coins, I would take a straight direction home and throw myself to horizontal position on my couch instead. Let’s see some alternative setting. In my mind value-based decision could be like deciding between my own action in case of red and green light in a crossroads, where you have exactly two choices: 1) to keep going on a red light, which allows you to move on quicker (reward), but you have a bigger probability to get hit by a car (punishment), receive disapproval and honks from car drivers (punishment) or a fine from a police officer (punishment) and act against traffic rules (punishment) or 2) wait for the green light, which is slower option to move on (punishment) and you probably won’t make it to the destination in time (punishment), but you gain smaller probability to get hit by a car (reward), no probability of getting a fine (reward) or disapproval (reward) and you act by the laws and moral rules (reward). We could add a stressor, which could be time, which means you need to get from point A to point B as soon as possible. Actually it could be the case, that you couldn’t make it to the destination on time if you stopped in all the green lights. Survival is quite an important motive in our decisions, but also being on time is important – at least for people living outside Spain. In this kind of experiment setting it could be tested, whether we prioritize being on time or our own safety and acting by the rules in different situations  in our decision making. This could be tested in VR environment. The advantage in this kind of traffic light experiment would be that it’s derived from decision making in common situations in everybody’s everyday life. I am still not a neuroscientist, so I don’t know what kind of measuring we should use and what kind of results we could get. Plus this kind of experiment is not what we are planning right now.

Anyway, that’s all about my studies for now. In any case I’ve decided to enjoy my time here despite feelings of being totally out of my comfortable zone. It’s actually very interesting with an exciting contrast to be a student in the daytime and a city tourist in the evening. So let’s just be happy. On second thought maybe I am a city tourist on the daytime, too. Who knows…

Cycling in Amsterdam

I have already ridden my bicycle some 220 kilometers during these four and half days I’ve stayed in Amsterdam. It’s been so great to have my own bike with me. And despite all the warnings I’ve got about bicycle thiefs, my bike is still there and not missing. Once my wheel was loose, so I had to get it fixed. I also purchased some inner tubes in case of similar situation, and now I must buy a new monkey wrench, ’cause my former one had dropped somewhere this morning while cycling to school. No… Believe it or not, I still found it from the very bottom of my cycling bag, so all good! Phew…

Bike Repair.jpg
My bike was fixed at the MacBike Amsterdam. They didn’t want to lend me tools, and it needed some negotiation to get my bike fixed straight away.

Anyway, I cycle to school every morning from my Airbnb-accommodation, that is located in Alsmeer – about 20 kilometers away from the center of Amsterdam. It takes a bit over one hour to cycle, because the traffic is so smooth. It took a few days to get used to the traffic system, but now I already do it a lot better. It feels really good to cycle here, while you don’t need to be too worried about other people’s mistakes − like in Helsinki you never know what happens, so you have to worry all the time. So the major thing to be worried about is that you are not causing any harm to the other people doing something stupid.

3 thoughts on “Cycling and Studying in Amsterdam

  1. I think there is quite an important piece of information missing: whether there are any cars in the crossing or not. If there is no traffick / you can clearly see that you won’t be hit by a car, it is quite another situation than if there is traffick. In the latter case, if you decide to cross even if the light is red, you are quite frankly stupid. In the first case, not so much. You would still break the law, however, and might get a bad conscience because of your actions. Or not…

    Anyway, I hope you have wonderful weeks in Amsterdam. And as we have discussed, it’s only good to get out of one’s comfort zone every now and then 😊

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    1. Exactly, Johanna 🙂 I didn’t plan the exact situations for riding a bike or crossing the roads yet. Anyway, each particular crossing requires decision making whether to go or stop, and if you have tight schedule and stress, that might weaken your decision making. Anyway, I’m a beginner here… 🙂

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    2. Well, if you are a beginner then what am I? A total beginner 😂
      By the way, remember to take also the weather into account…

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