Annabelle - University of Amsterdam

B Advanced Finance & Economics (Hons)
Semester 1, 2019
The mix of brilliant people, fascinating courses and vivid Amsterdam, with the rest of Europe as the backdrop, made exchange one of the best experiences of my life so far.

Academic experience

Currently I am studying a Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics at UQ, so while away at the University of Amsterdam, I undertook both economics and finance based subjects. Due to the way a full study load translates from The Netherlands to UQ, I studied 5 courses: Investment and Portfolio Theory 1 and 2, Game Theory, Behavioural Economics and Financial Statement Analysis. The UvA academic calendar is very different to UQ’s. Each semester there are three academic blocks, each acting as a self-contained semester. A course that you take in the first block will run from beginning to end (and any final exams) in eight weeks – same as the second block, while the third block is only four weeks long. This really suited me as an exchange student as I was able to spread any travel throughout the semester.

I found each course covered a smaller range of topics than those at UQ but in more depth which was sometimes challenging however something that I enjoyed. Additionally the final exams (that were generally heavily weighted) were more straightforward than those at UQ.

Enrolling in the courses was easy enough, the only challenge was ensuring that I stuck to subjects falling under the Economics Faculty banner. Being patient as you navigate the foreign websites was essential and if I was unable to figure something out, I contacted the helpful exchange department at UvA.

Personal experience

What you gain from exchange goes far beyond the sights you see and destinations you visit. Making a foreign city my home was daunting at the start but one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Making phenomenal friends from around the world was so valuable since they become your family while you’re away. You simultaneously learn to be more independent and make great relationships with people. I was lucky enough to travel to Denmark, France, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Sain and Portugal during and after my exchange and Amsterdam was the perfect home base for that.


I lived in on-campus student accommodation. I applied through the providers supplied by UvA. The building I stayed in was on Plantage Muidergracht and was a 3 minute walk across the canals to the buildings in which I took my classes. The accommodation was perfect as it had been recently renovated and had a beautiful view over two canals. The whole building was filled with both exchange and local students. I would highly recommend this accommodation to anyone heading to UvA.


My rent was 590 euros a month which was my main expense while on exchange. Expect to pay slightly less than Australia for groceries and drinks out at night but slightly more for eating out. Transport was also very cheap since I hired a bike through Swapfiets (15 euros per month). Another way to save was by purchasing the Museumkaart (60 euros) which allows free entry to pretty much every Dutch museum – definitely worth it for the rainy days.


The biggest challenge was navigating the Dutch tax office website and setting up a bank account. Neither of these are essential for everyone however I was eligible for the Dutch housing allowance (check if you are) and there was a lot of steps to attain this. Speak to Dutch students and be patient to overcome this challenge. Overall I expected the language barrier to be a bit of a problem but everyone there speaks perfect English!

Professional Development

Seeing the Dutch attitude to working both at University and in the workplace was really interesting as it is such a different lifestyle. Additionally, all the students from so many different backgrounds emphasised the value of diversity in every setting – both professional and social. Amsterdam is renowned for being a ‘tolerant’ community and this definitely showed in all aspects of life.


Just cycling past the canals and gingerbread houses everyday was special, but two particular highlights were Keukenhof and King’s Day in April. Keukenhof is the tulip festival during spring in the Dutch countryside with millions of tulips painting the fields – it was so beautiful. For King’s Day, everyone in the country decks out every surface in orange and the nation stops just to party and celebrate the Dutch monarch. I went on a boat with friends to experience the quintessential Amsterdam King’s Day canal celebration and it was fantastic – Heinekens, street parties, streamers, orange, music and even brave swimmers were everywhere.

Top tips

Go to a Dutch soccer game, hire a bike, visit the local pubs, catch trains to see the rest of The Netherlands, eat stroopwafels, chill at Vondelpark, smell the tulips and just enjoy the Amsterdam way of life!

With your spare time travel Europe as much as you can but as a warning, by the end you will most look forward to spending time in Amsterdam.