Amsterdam was the perfect place for exchange. The local lifestyle is easy going and people come across as really free spirited, happy and kind. English is spoken by everyone and it is really refreshing to be in a European city where local people see it as an opportunity for them to talk to you in english rather than an inconvenience. It is also really easy to get around once you have a bike and also a nice central European capital to base yourself for further travel. It is a buzzing multicultural city in which is one of the most gorgeous places I have visited, in sunshine and snow!

I finished my second year of my Bachelor of Social Work at Virje University. I had two elective saved from my first year which made it easy to find matching subjects. In addition to the two electives I also gained credit for subjects relating to globalisation, religion, development and conflict. The UQ social work program is more practical while the subjects I took on exchange were more theory based. While studying in Europe I realised how secluded Australia is, I feel like I have gained insight into an entire wealth of knowledge in regards to world issues that really isn’t discussed as often as it should be in Australia. The subjects weren’t as easy as I thought they would be and it was difficult to get used to exams which were weighted much higher (some 100%), rather than assignments throughout the semester.

Amsterdam (and Europe in general) is not as expensive as I had expected. I would say the cost of living is on par with Australia. There are great markets for fresh food, second hand clothes and bikes which should be taken advantage of!

I fortunately had some dutch friends before my arrival who suggested to take the more expensive accommodation as it was closer to the city. Although this accommodation was less social (no floor parties etc) its location was perfect and I was able to see a lot more of Amsterdam than other friends who lived on the cheaper campus accommodation. It made going out easier and it was close to the metro for when I had friends from home visit. In hindsight I probably would have preferred private accommodation. Although you are warned it is hard to find accommodation in Amsterdam you can still find accommodation and good deals. I was travelling before my arrival so opted to have the university organise it for me but if you have the time once you arrive there are registered real estate agents who can find you something just as easy and also anti-squatting agencies which offer cheap accommodation and often in good positions.

TIPS

  • Obviously buy a bike – get one as soon as possible! Public transport is not cheap and you won’t see the best parts of Amsterdam without one. Waterlooplein Markets have several second hand shops (though can be a bit dodgy – don’t pay more than 50 euro). Also ESN-VUniverse E-buy is the international student facebook page where students are often selling their bikes, join and keep an eye on the page as they go quick. Also buy a GOOD lock, not a cheap one from the supermarket!
  • Do a free walking tour when you arrive. It will help you get your bearings and you will learn a few quirky facts about your new home.
  • Never say no to an invitation – be willing to put yourself out there. Try different bars each weekend, branch out from your international student hubs and don’t get sucked into the touristy clubs! (try Canvas, Lux, Brandstof and Struik Café – make local friends as well they know the good spots).
  • Never underestimate Dutch weather. It changes quickly so always be prepared for rain but not afraid (the locals aren’t), cycling in the rain can be fun!
  • Visit Jordaan area, there are really lovely little shops and a good second hand market on Monday mornings! Get lost in the side streets and visit the 9 streets! Eat apple pie at Winkel Café! Visit the blue tea house in Vondel Park!
     

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