I am one of the lucky people from UEA who has taken the opportunity to study at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. I knew before arriving that the capital was one of the most international, cultural and fun cities in Europe and this is mainly what swayed me to choose to study here.
Amsterdam isn’t an exotic far-away destination for study abroad, (which is initially the appeal for lots of us when thinking about a year away from home) but hopefully my brief but informative post will explain why it is definitely in the same ball park as places like the US or Asia. If you’re worried that Amsterdam will be too touristy and not an interesting enough culture to experience for study abroad, this is definitely not the case. Not enough students choose to study within Europe, let alone somewhere in relatively close proximity to England.
Within a week of arriving, I had met people from almost every country in Europe, and a lot from the US, Asia and Australasia. There is such a big international community here on campus that you forget you’re studying in the Netherlands sometimes. I’m so excited to be able to visit friends all over the world in the future. The city itself is officially one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, and I love it.
Amsterdam is also well known for its liberal attitudes – the red light district and the legal selling of marijuana immediately springs to mind when people think of Amsterdam. But it is a city full of liberalness and freedom in so many other ways – seeing a dad carry two children on a bicycle, (one of whom was standing on the back of it) and our local supermarket giving out flowers to women on international women’s day are just two of the things that come to mind that make Amsterdam, Amsterdam. I will never forget the man who carried a very large plasma screen TV on his lap on his bike… Yep, on his bike!
People might think that Amsterdam is lacking in things to do and things to see, other than what it is famous for – general debauchery! But there is SO much to do in this relatively compact city, and I can’t stress it enough! There are shed loads of beautiful parks, museums and art galleries with some of the world’s best art, as well as daily markets, a bustling nightlife and cute cafes right next to the canal. Some personal highlights for me have been going to one of the big daily markets to get a fresh stroopwafel, going to the Van Gogh Museum on Friday night for music and cocktails, studying in the Rijksmuseum’s beautiful library, and getting lost in the tiny, quaint streets of the Jordaan. And that’s only some of it. This place just reeks of culture and fun. There are always things going on and sometimes it’s overwhelming deciding what to do and when.
It is even harder when there is a vast amount of picturesque places just outside of Amsterdam, such as the beach, Haarlem, The Hague, and the world famous Keukenhof gardens, just to name a few places that I have managed to visit.
And finally, the word that sums up this city and my experience is fun – I live in an extremely strong international student community, with weekly events and trips abroad made just for us by the exchange student network. It was through the ESN that I visited Prague with a group of amazing people. The overall experience of cycling past the canals, having unlimited access to world famous museums for a year for a one-off price, great nightlife, and walking through the city dressed in orange for the annual King’s Day celebrations, are just some of the things that make this place probably one of the best cities to be a student. No matter how far my friends have travelled during their time here, they say that Amsterdam is still by far their favourite city. Another plus point is that they also speak great English over here, so what’s not to like?!
Choose Amsterdam for Study Abroad!
Freya Turner studies at UEA