Bachelor of Laws/International Relations - 6th year
Bachelor of Laws/International Relations - 6th year

Academic experiences

While on exchange at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), I studied masters subjects in International Law.
The UvA as an incredible selection of subjects you can choose from.
I focused on public international law and it was very rewarding.
The academic system is very different to UQ - I actually preferred it.
It is really up to you to do the required work, you are not spoon fed or told what to do.
It is very broad and vague but ultimately, more interesting.
The classes are really for discussion of the material, current topics, problems in the law etc.
The students a big part of running the class and opening up discussion.
In the classes, the lecturers rarely teach you the law in a way that UQ lecturers do; that will be your responsibility.
At first this is challenging; the material can be overwhelming and the classes difficult because it seems everyone knows more than you do, despite the work you do!
I overcame this by making sure I did the readings and trying to add to the class discussions.
The classes also can be very small, which is great because there is better atmosphere for discussion and learning and you interact with each other more.
The only thing that I did not like was that the lecturers can be a bit vague about assessment, dates, times, requirements.
This is something you get used to however.
The workload is quite high, but the assessment is ultimately easy and marked very easily.

Keukenhof tulip gardens

Personal experiences

Exchange is the most rewarding thing anyone could ever do.
It is difficult to describe my experience in words, it really is something that everyone should do.
In terms of friendships, I have made some lifelong friends that I will never forget and am already planning to see.
It was really difficult for me to say goodbye so I actually have extended my stay and have not left.
Indeed, I have planned to go visit my friend at her home in South Africa next week, and at the moment I am writing this from a small village in the South of France, where I am visiting another friend.
The friends I have made here are invaluable.
For me, I really fit in to the culture, the people, the place and so I was lucky.
Amsterdam has become my home, mostly because of the people I have met.
The friendships are the most important things that I will take away from this exchange.
Travelling was my priority when I decided to go on exchange, but that quickly changed and soaking up as much of Amsterdam as I could became my new priority.
However, I did manage to travel to quite a few places.
My recommendation would be to not plan trips in advance, and just go with what people are doing and make spontaneous decisions.
I found that my planned trips I cancelled or enjoyed least whereas trips I did on a whim with my friends were the most fun I had.
Budapest, Croatia, Paris to help my friend house-sit his professor’s cat and more.
Each time, I was always eager to return home to Amsterdam however.
It's easy travelling from Amsterdam, but don't be shocked at how expensive travelling in Europe can be.

Canals and bikes are what make up Amsterdam

Learning Dutch is difficult.
Not because it is a hard language, but because everyone speaks English.
You really have to try to make Dutch friends, which is hard because you are thrust into the international community.
I recently hitch-hiked on a boat when trying to get home from a festival and met a big group of Dutch guys who quickly became good friends of mine, and it is only from them that I have begun to pick up some Dutch.
Not just by listening to them, but from music and movies that they recommend.
Dating a Dutch guy is another good way to learn the language.
I have also picked up on some French while staying in France.
It really is a matter of immersing yourself in the culture, language, food and people.
It has now become top of my bucket list to learn a foreign language.
You quickly realise how important it is to be multilingual, and how impressive it is that all Europeans speak at least two languages.
I have developed many new skills and learned many, many new things.
My career path has changed, I learned of new options, ways of thinking and learning.
Most importantly, I learned not to settle in life, for example in the same old job that I have been working at in Australia.
I have learned about different cultures, languages and how to be more open minded, accepting and to be less easily offended (the Dutch are very blunt).
It truly has been an eye-opening experience that no university in the world could ever teach you.

Kings Day

Accommodation

I lived off-campus.
The university organises accommodation for you and it becomes luck-of-the-draw as to which housing you get placed into.
Despite wanting a roommate I was placed into my own apartment, however I was very lucky with how things turned out.
I lived in Jordaan which is one of the best areas in Amsterdam, and made all my closest friends in my building.
While a little more expensive than the others, it was definitely worth it.
If you live alone, really make an effort to go to events, say hi to people in the laundry room or outside in the bike racks.
You won't make friends if you just stick to yourself in your own apartment.
Unfortunately, the housing is for international students so you rarely meet Dutch people.

World Pillow Fight Day in the middle of Dam Square

Budget

My rent was my main expense.
I paid about 600 euro a month.
The rest is up to you and how much you spend.
I made little effort to save on food and entertainment and I still did fine with my money.
Keep in mind travel is very expensive so if you plan to do a lot of it, make allowances for that.
Transport requires buying a bike at the beginning and then after that you are set for the semester.
I saved $25 000, however I am travelling to places like South Africa also and have not spent all this money.
While it is always safest to have more, I think you can get by with a lot less also.

Academic development and employability

Not only does going on exchange look great on a CV, it is something you can talk about in interviews, something that employers will immediately find interesting.
Your experiences on exchange will also teach you a lot.
As I said before, my career path has now changed and I have decided to do a masters and change my focus.
Exchange is truly rewarding and so great for development, both academic and personal and also employability.
I am coming home to Australia as a completely different person, exchange is the best thing you can do for academic and personal development.

Riding into uni

Highlight

This is difficult, because it is each experience that adds on to make an incredible journey.
The highlight is likely to be the people I met.
The friendships that I get to take back to Australia with me.
One particular experience that was also a highlight for me was when I hitch hiked on a boat and met a new group of great people.

Top tips

Do it!
I was terrified when I decided to do it and when I got on the plane to go but there was never a moment when I regretted it.
I didn't even get homesick for a second.
It is the best thing you can do for yourself.
If you go to Amsterdam (which you should, it is amazing), the first thing you should do is buy a bike, that's when you truly become at home in the country.
Attend events and meet people, get out there and try and be extroverted, even if you are not.
Don't just do touristy things and hang with other friends.
Get out there and meet new people and immerse yourself in your new home.
 

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