#StudyAbroadBecause it will be one of the most transformative and enlightening experiences you will ever have

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

David Wienir is the author of Amsterdam Exposed: An American’s Journey into the Red Light District, released in May 2018 with De Wallen Press in paperback, e-book, and audiobook formats. David is a business affairs executive at United Talent Agency and entertainment law instructor at UCLA Extension. Before UTA, he practiced law at two of the top entertainment law firms where he represented clients such as Steven Spielberg and Madonna. His previous books include Last Time: Labour’s Lessons from the Sixties (co-authored with a Member of Parliament at the age of 23), The Diversity Hoax: Law Students Report from Berkeley (afterword by Dennis Prager), and Making It on Broadway: Actors’ Tales of Climbing to the Top (foreword by Jason Alexander).

Educated at Columbia, Oxford, The London School of Economics, Berkeley Law, and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, David is married to Dr. Dina (to whom Amsterdam Exposed is dedicated), a pioneer of the cannabis movement who has been named “Queen of Medical Marijuana in LA” by Rolling Stone Magazine, and is the inspiration for the Nancy Botwin character in the show Weeds.

#StudyAbroadBecause it will be one of the most transformative and enlightening experiences you will ever have. ~David Wienir

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?
Studying abroad comes down to one word. Freedom. As I write in my memoir, Amsterdam Exposed: An American’s Journey Into The Red Light District, “we are born into a life situation that becomes the platform upon which we live our lives. Like all platforms, our life situation has boundaries, enforced by the society in which we live. The boundaries are both invisible and real, and shape how we live, and with whom we share our lives.” 

Sure, I moved to Amsterdam to study international law. I was about to start my legal career at the world’s oldest international law firm, and Holland is an important center of international law. I also wanted to write a book about the famous red light district. But really, my decision to study abroad was about nothing less than taking control of my life and breaking free from the societal constraints imposed upon me. Before moving to Amsterdam, I had studied in France and Israel in high school, and in Estonia and England during my college and post grad days. Nothing has proven more valuable. Sadly, education today in America is largely about control. Far too often, we are told what to think, not taught how to think. While studying abroad, one can see oneself, and the world, in new light. It provides perspective.

Most do not go abroad in law school, but when given the opportunity, I jumped on it. I knew I wouldn’t regret it, and it would change me forever. The dean tried to talk me out of it. She thought I might “miss something.” “After all,” she said, “there is only one Berkeley Law.” Her response made me smile, and made the decision to go even easier. 

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?
My experience studying in Amsterdam was so profound I spent the next 18 years writing a book about it. It changed me, to the core. I learned about love. I learned about life. Most importantly, I learned that, every day, we all have important choices to make—many of which go forgotten. Choices about who we want to be, and what our life should be about. I went to Amsterdam to study international law, but I also went searching for something. I was searching for the answer to how we end up where we are in life. How much control do we really have? It took a special relationship with a Dutch prostitute in the heart of the red light district to answer this question. My favorite memory is easy. It was the first time I saw Emma, bathed in red light. 

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad? 
Of all the lessons I learned while abroad, the most important has been the ability to live in the present, to be locked into the moment. While abroad, all your senses are blazing. Everything is new and fresh. You see the world differently. It’s hard maintaining this perspective once home, but the struggle to do so has made life fulfilling, and allowed me to truly live. As Marcel Proust writes, “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Academia in America has an unfortunate way of closing one’s eyes, forcing us into groupthink and ironically limiting our understanding of things. Studying abroad can counteract that, with a vengeance. 

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today? 
My time abroad has taught me I don’t need to live by society’s norms. I can create my own. As I write in Amsterdam Exposed, “When you live abroad, you gain perspective. You are distanced from a world once believed absolute. The grip of groupthink loosens, and the world is presented for what it is, a place of endless possibilities, where most limitations are self-imposed.” As a result of my time abroad, I have never desired to fit in. Rather, I have had the confidence to captain my own ship, write my own story, even if doing so might rock the boat. If it weren’t for my time abroad, I would likely never have become an author and might never have married my wife, who also lives well outside the box. My time abroad has allowed me to make big life decisions, with confidence. I have never looked back. 

What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?
There are many things in life one might regret. Studying abroad is not one of them. Yes, it can be challenging, and sometimes terrifying. Some of my loneliest moments have been while abroad. But that is when the transformation happens. You will have no regrets. No one ever does. The more financially challenged you are, the more worthwhile the journey becomes. It forces you to survive, by yourself, in difficult circumstances in a foreign land. As a result, it will provide you with a confidence and perspective that will take you to places you could never have imagined. Wonderful places. I have studied abroad several times. Each time, the experience has proven more valuable than the last. 

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?
My time abroad has both weakened and strengthened my cultural identity. It has weakened it as I have come to realize we are all the same. Our similarities far outweigh our differences. As human beings, we all share the same feelings, and many of the same struggles. Culture, while something to be celebrated, should not divide us, but unite us. Sometimes, our preoccupation with our own cultural identity does little more than alienate us from the world around us. We become preoccupied with morally irrelevant differences, rather than celebrate our commonalities. 

On the other hand, my time abroad has made me more proud than ever to be an American. In a world increasingly overrun by collectivism, our historic values of individualism, liberty, and self-determination are more important now than ever. There is inherent worth in the individual, in each and every one of us. America is the only country founded on this principle, which millions have lost their lives fighting for. We are an optimistic nation, which is not a symptom of naiveté, but strength and progress. These are values I appreciate more than ever after studying abroad. America isn’t perfect, has made mistakes and still has much work to do, but much of the world is a darker place. 

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
For those looking for inspiration or wondering what a semester abroad might mean for them, I encourage you to check out Amsterdam Exposed: An American’s Journey Into The Red Light District. 18 years in the making, it’s the culmination of all my time abroad, and the lessons I learned along the way. An American abroad and love story unlike any other, it’s a journey you will never forget. 

#StudyAbroadBecause it will be one of the most challenging, fulfilling, spiritual, transformative, and enlightening experiences you will ever have, and one you will never regret

#StudyAbroadBecause it will be one of the most transformative and enlightening experiences you will ever have. ~David Wienir


Find David online:
Instagram: https://instagram.com/RedLightDistrictBook 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmsterdamBook 
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38332473-amsterdam-exposed 
Website: www.AmsterdamExposed.com