If you are debating whether to go on exchange. Do it. Plain and simple. The semester I spent of my BEcon/BA degree in Amsterdam was by far one of the best experiences of my life and I will never forget the amazing places I saw, the rich culture of Europe and the wonderful and interesting people I met. Seriously.

Let me start with the gritty stuff. The Dutch education system will not let you stop to take a moments breath. I only had compulsory courses remaining for my Economics degree so I took rather difficult courses over there, I wouldn't recommend doing this to prospective exchangers. The UvA (Universiteit van Amsterdam) generally compresses courses from the 12-15 weeks per subject at UQ to essentially what works out to be 6 weeks of actual learning, with a single 3 hour lecture a week per subject. There are definitely plenty of easier subjects that you can take (Information Management being one of them). Having said that, the lecturers are quite jovial and quirky while being very qualified in their respective fields. The UvA also frequently has guest lectures from people at the peak of their professions ( I was lucky enough to attend an exposition by billionaire Ratan Tata.

The ISN, effectively the equivalent of QUEST at UQ organises some really good events for students to get to know each other and this really helps when you arrive and don't know anyone. I highly recommend going to all of these! The great thing about exchange is that everyone is keen to get to make friends so by the first week I literally knew almost all the exchangers. The Dutch generally tend to keep to themselves but you will meet many through the ISN and once you get to know them they are very friendly. Language is never an issue as basically everyone speaks flawless english, however be wary of stores as almost all groceries are labeled only in dutch! As I found out unfortunately when I came home with what I discovered was corn Milk?? and 0.0% beer.

I opted to have my accommodation organised by the housing corporation in Amsterdam together with the UvA and I was placed in a location just outside the city. Although I was disappoint at first, it turned out that the students at this location were the rowdiest and the rooms far larger than inner city dorms and I would not have wanted to stay anywhere else. My biggest piece of advice (which ISN will hammer into you the moment you get there) is buy a decent bicycle! Don't be afraid to shell out a little bit extra and buy from stores as the bicycles from markets, as my sorry friends learnt, end up losing handlebars and wheels sooner or later.

I was quite ambitious in my travel plans and managed to cover almost 30 cities across Europe during my time there even without any mid semester breaks. Make sure you plan early if you want to travel by air and you can get some really cheap deals. The most challenging part of the whole experience is definitely budgeting time, I quickly found that social events are a plenty in Amsterdam and after going out almost daily for the first 3 weeks, I realised I had to actually get some work done. Amsterdam definitely attracts a very outgoing exchange crowd and you will find very quickly that many people are not really interested in studying, which can be a bad thing sometimes.

Finance wise, I spent a total of 14,000 AUD in the 6 months I was there, inclusive of return flights from australia, accom in Amsterdam and Travel around Europe. I definitely overpaid for flights as most of my trips were planned last minute so you could very easily spend far less than that amount. Airbnb, skyscanner, hostelbookers, wikitravel and the citibank plus card are your best friends!

5 TOP TIPS:

  • Buy a good bicycle!
  • Go to all the ISN events
  • Use airbnb if you want an alternative to hostels
  • Study (just enough)
  • If you are debating doing something. DO IT. (#Yolo) or you'll regret it later.

I definitely hope you get out as much as I did on exchange, have a 'gezellig' time!

P.S. There is no english translation for the dutch word gezellig but you'll figure it out ;)
 

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