Amsterdam is a fantastic place to study, and I highly recommend it to anyone considering an exchange. It is culturally, historically and socially a rich and diverse city. I’m a Law/Commerce student and for the first semester of my third year in 2013 I studied at the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

Most of the courses at the UvA are taught in English, especially for Law and commerce/economics. The courses have lots of small (and somewhat annoying) group essays and presentations but this is a great way to get to know other students. The business, finance and marketing courses I took were of a very similar level to those at UQ. While I didn’t take any law courses, I understand (from other students) that the international and human rights courses are excellent; they involve attending and researching current cases in the various international courts in The Hague.

Amsterdam, and the university, is a great place to meet people from all over the world. The university attracts 200-300 exchange students each semester, and it’s a diverse, outgoing and interesting group. Since everyone is in the same situation, of not knowing anyone when they arrive, making friends is easy. UvA will allow you to build a network of friends from all over Europe, and from North and South America. The International Student Network (ISN) organises a host of activities, parties and trips away – I highly recommend the ESNOW skiing trip. Being able to speak Dutch helped me, but it is by no means necessary. Everyone speaks flawless English, from the cashiers at the supermarket (Albert Hein) to Amsterdam’s junkies trying to flog stolen bikes.

The accommodation is organised by housing corporations that are contracted by, but independent to, the university. Although some of the apartments are far out of town, most people are happy with their accommodation. I was lucky enough to be a 5-minute bike ride from the central railway station, in the heart of the city. I recommend going through the university and accepting their accommodation; finding accommodation through other means in Amsterdam – as with any big city – is extremely difficult.

As far as expenses go, Amsterdam was pretty reasonable. Groceries are of a similar price, if not cheaper than Australia – and you get good, fresh and cheap produce from the weekend markets. Since everyone bikes everywhere, and alcohol is cheap (10 euros for a case of beer), going out is inexpensive compared to Brisbane. My accommodation ended up being slightly more expensive than what most people pay (~$170/week). I took advantage of being in Europe and travelled a lot. If you don’t travel much, you could do an exchange to the UvA on a small budget.

If you want an experience that really facilitates out-of-classroom learning, and allows you to have a great time in a foreign country, then I urge you to consider an exchange. The 6-months you spend studying in Amsterdam will be some of the most interesting, exciting and rewarding of your life.

TOP TIPS:

  • Fly out of Eindhoven; there are cheap Ryanair/Wizz air flights to all over Europe and North Africa.
  •  Use hostelworld for hostels, and airbnb for apartments when travelling. They have the best and cheapest range.
  • Buy a good bike (a necessity in Amsterdam). I bought my bike from a shop (fietspirate) and got completely ripped off, but generally the bikes bought from shops are more reliable than those bought from markets.
  • If in Amsterdam in semester 1, get on a boat for Queensday (costs ~50 euro, but it’s well worth it).
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqEh0iFWlgs

If you have questions, feel free to email me at hugovisscher@hotmail.co.uk
 

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