I arrived in Amsterdam in January and I will be here until late July to study International Relations at the Vrije Universiteit (VU). I love UEA, so I wasn’t too sure whether I had made the right choice to spend a semester abroad when applying to study in Holland. However, I have fallen in love with the city and the experience I am having! Amsterdam is beautiful, brilliant, vibrant, innovative, open minded, and above all, inspiring! I am not ready to leave and am so thankful for my experience here. I am even considering doing an internship, or a masters, and living here permanently in the future.
I have travelled before, and I have experienced my fair share of moving about from university to university and school to school. However, this didn’t stop me from being nervous when I first arrived. I just had to ensure that, like all things in life, once the decision was made I must stick to it and grasp it with both hands and I am so glad that I did. On the first night here, Erasmus had organised a welcoming party at the bar next to our halls. It was here that I first met a lot of the international students and this is what has allowed so many long lasting friendships to blossom!
I chose to live in halls as I wanted to meet as many people as possible, to widen my experience of different nationalities and cultures! I also opted for the cheapest halls as I was told that these are more sociable! I share with 12 other flat mates, and there are 7 floors to our building. The kitchen and living rooms are spacious, our cupboards are filled with bright chalk drawings which we continuously add to, we have our own mini herb garden (which is failing at the moment as we haven’t been watering it!), and some flats have collected random fabrics, rugs and paintings that has made the rooms all the more homely! Each flat has a balcony which has ladders to other flats – this is what I love best about my accommodation! Each morning I wake up and happily make my way to my friends flats via the ladders on our balcony, or wait for friends to climb up to have a coffee on the balcony, overlooking the lovely view of Amsterdam. The halls are super sociable and also play host to some of the most well planned parties I have experienced, thanks to the local DJs who bring in speakers, lights, sound equipment, beers and decorations – transforming our halls into a club!
Before I lived in Amsterdam, I had visited it for a short period of time and I must admit, I didn’t think it was very big. Yet, from living here I have discovered so many beautiful streets and places in the centre, as well as the outskirts of the city. Even though I have been here for 3 months already, I know there is so much more of the city that I have yet to discover! Amsterdam is filled with an array of food and clothes markets, street bars, squares, art space, parks, flower shops and coffee shops! Everything is relatively cheap here compared to the UK and there are many things you can do here for free! I cycle everywhere, taking in nature as I do so and I occasionally drink beers with my friends on the way to a club or bar too!
On a sunny day we can cycle ten minutes to Amsterdam Bos to chill next to the lake, bringing a picnic and a few beers, spending the day being lazy in the sun, or maybe taking a dip in the water! On Wednesday evenings we may go to Guerrillas Kitchen in a lovely venue filled with colourful old wooden tables, lanterns of all shapes and sizes, random art pieces stuck on the wall and it is always filled with fresh electronic music! It’s a food cycle organisation, based in the North, where you receive a three course meal, which you give a donation for (usually I give a euro).
Another one of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam is go to the industrial warehouses in Amsterdam Nord, a ferry ride away from central station. Here I have attended the IJ-Hallen flea market, the biggest flea market in Europe, selling everything you could ever think of! I have been to a few festivals based here too, for example DGTL festival in which I experienced some of the best techno DJs first hand, accompanied by the most insane light shows, making my techno experience not one to forget!
My favourite day in Amsterdam has been Kings Day, when Holland enjoys a public holiday in order to celebrate the Kings birthday. It is on this day that the people of Amsterdam flock to the streets to party! Live music, DJs, laughter, and bright orange colours (the colours of the king), fill the central streets. It was the liveliest and most exciting atmosphere I have ever witnessed!
The university itself is awesome. The buildings are modern, fresh and unique, helping to bring a creative vibe to the campus. We stumbled across what we call the ‘chill area’ in our first week of attending VU. This place quickly became one of our favourite spaces in Amsterdam. It’s located in the middle of the university, and is a place for studying, discussing, making food and chilling. Inside it looks like a creative living room, with comfy sofas, fabrics hanging across the walls and lights, a piano, a clothes rail with free items, and inspiring quotes and quirky comments written all over the walls and the floor. It also sells beers for just 1 euro, and food to make your own sandwiches!
The modules I have taken so far have been a mixture of interesting and boring. The lecturers are, I believe, of a higher standard than the UK but there are less seminars here, which I do not prefer. Yet, the exams are relatively easy if you put the work in and I seem to have an advantage seeing as English is my first language.
If you are considering doing a semester abroad I would tell you to 100% go for it! I am having the most relaxed time here which has made me appreciate taking things slowly, soaking up the good things life has to offer and exploring new places!