Humans of NDSM | Michelle about being a student at NDSM

In the column Humans of NDSM I go on the hunt for special stories of all people that can be found on the former shipyard: from users to visitors to creatives and everything in between. I am curious about what motivates them to come to the NDSM wharf. At the end of this section, the aim is to sketch a picture of who the humans of NDSM are and all their different ways of filling in and using the public space. For this edition I am speaking to Michelle Steenge, she is a student in the creative sector and lives at the NDSM wharf.

I meet Michelle on a sunny day. I’ve known her for a while, she lives in the same building as I do, along with many other students on the west side of NDSM. Since students are well represented on the site, I am curious about Michelle’s affinity and perspective is on this part of town. What is it like to be a student at NDSM? As we sit down at a picnic table next to one of the NDSM Billboards, I ask Michelle about this.

“I’m originally from Groningen,” she says, “a friend there told me about student studios in Amsterdam. I was accepted at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) to study so I registered for a house. I ended up here in the building on the NDSM wharf by chance, as they assign houses in te form of a lottery. I had been here once before to visit the IJ-Hallen. In retrospect I sometimes think: what a shame that I didn’t walk around the site for a while at that time.

That a certain image with certain combinations of colors can evoke a feeling

When I then came to view the house, it was raining very hard and I was lost on the terrain half the time. That si when I noticed what a nice atmosphere there is here and how nice the people are when you ask them where the ferry is. It was just in the beginning of corona, so it was quite quiet around here. I remember being surprised about that, that there are still parts of Amsterdam that can be so calm and pleasant.”

I then ask Michelle how she ended up in the creative sector. “I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do for a long time,” she says, “like a lot of people I think. So then I first tried two other studies and found out with both that it wasn’t my cup of tea. In between I was hired in a clothing store at a certain point, just as a side job I thought. When I look back on that, it was the moment that I realized how much I like fashion and that I wanted to continue in it. I’ve never considered myself creative, I always thought the way I see the world was very standard. I’ve always been involved in the world of clothes, but it’s a different thing if something is just your hobby or if you decide to make it your job. I often compared myself to what I saw online of young designers, I have found that you should not do that.” We both laugh, I recognize myself very much in what she says. Sometimes it can be difficult to disconnect the online world from reality.

Ultimately, after a nerve-racking admission, Michelle was accepted at AMFI and she could start following her real passion with the NDSM wharf as her basecamp. I ask her how the wharf inspires her as an up-and-coming artist. “I really like nostalgia, different colors and characters. I often see those three things here. At one point I saw a Tinker Bell (character from Peter Pan ed.) sprayed on a wall in very bright colors.

The atmosphere you will find here in terms of creativity you will not find anywhere else in the city

Then I also got the feeling of nostalgia really strong, I used to be a big fan of that character and apparently I share that history with whoever decided to put it on the wall. I get a lot of inspiration from moments like that. Those feelings really fascinate me; that a certain image with certain combinations of colors can evoke a feeling.”

I then ask her about her favorite places at NDSM. “I think I have two,” she says, “at the head of the Load-Out you can sit in front of a keel block and watch the ferries sail off and on over the water. There I completely relax. The second place is at the top of the Y-Helling, I always feel good vibes there.” Michelle tells me that she thinks studying at the NDSM is different than in other parts of the city. “The atmosphere you find here in terms of creativity you won’t find anywhere else in the city,” she continues, “it feels very free here, I’ve never felt like I was judged on how I look, for example. I have often had nasty comments about my hair in the street, I have never experienced that here. What you also notice is that because of all the art, the street scene is different every day. You also often see the artists working on site, it feels like you get a look behind the scenes in their creative process. I think that makes studying here unique.”

We bespreken in ons gesprek ook hoe we allebei een gevoel van vrijheid hebben op de NDSM-werf als student. Het is een plek waar je vrij kunt experimenteren in wie je bent en wat je eigen stijl is. Als je een paar uur op een bankje gaat zitten op de werf, komt er een regenboog aan verschillende type mensen voorbij. We zijn het er ook over eens dat de werf gemoedelijk, maar ook hard en feitelijk kan zijn. Aspecten die je als student best kunt gebruiken in je academische loopbaan. De conclusie voor ons allebei is dat studeren op de NDSM-werf vooral heel leuk is en een absolute aanrader voor iedereen die er over twijfelt. En nee, de pont moeten nemen naar de stad is niet vervelend, en ja hij gaat de hele nacht door 😉

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