Maria - Vrije University Amsterdam

B Psychology
Semester 2, 2019
DO IT!!! Hands down it has been the best thing I have done with my life so far and everyone I know from exchange agrees with me.

Academic experience

I studied four courses while on exchange; Evolutionary Psychology, Political Violence and the Human Condition, Conflict and Peace Building and Philosophy. I enjoyed the more relaxed nature of study at Vrije. Given that I wanted to travel and not be tied down to my study schedule while on exchange I found that Vrije allowed me to balance that rather well. I didn’t love the short nature of the periods in the semester. Vrije has 3 periods per semester, 2 lasting 6 weeks and one lasting 4 weeks. This meant that assessment did feel somewhat rushed and that the express nature of a course lasting 4-6 weeks meant that not as much depth was covered. However, given that this was only temporary it didn't bother me too much. 

The enrolment/registration process was relatively easy however, it was time consuming. UQ abroad were a fantastic help and really facilitated the majority of the process. There were some times I had to get in contact with my host University and they don’t have a swift reply policy like UQ so there was some following up I had to do to make sure everything was secure on time but overall it was a pretty smooth process. Vrije have an online platform similar to blackboard where everything operates and I was able to preference even my accommodation through there along with my courses and enrolment.

Personal experience

I gained so many personal experiences from exchange. I feel as though I have so many friends all over the world. Many of which I still keep in contact with which is incredible and we have many plans to catch up in the future and visit each other in our home countries. Having a world-wide social network is awesome and I feel fortunate to be able to know so many people with such interesting and diverse backgrounds. 

All in all I went to 25 cities and 15 countries around Europe. I visited  Tromsø and Finland to see the northern lights. My boyfriend came to visit and he, my best friend and I spent Christmas in Paris. I went to Prague, Budapest, Gent and Berlin with people I met on exchange among many other places, all of which were incredible and had their own amazing highlights. I also went travelling alone and with my best friend who consequently was studying in London on exchange at the same time as me which made the experience even more surreal. We would meet up in Barcelona or Copenhagen to name a few and would spend a couple days enjoying seeing a friendly face and exploring. 

As for personal skills I can definitely say I learnt a lot. My confidence in who I am, how to solve a problem and how to manage and care for myself has skyrocketed. I highly recommend anyone to travel alone as that was when I felt I learnt the most about myself. I discovered how good (or bad) I am at solving certain problems, how to prepare for the worst and how to let go and just enjoy the moment.


I lived off campus in a place called Hotel Jansen. Hotel Jansen was an 8 minute bike ride from Vrije, a 15 minute bike ride from the city centre and a 15 minute drive from the airport. It was the perfect, central location that really maximised my experience. Living at Hotel Jansen was amazing. The best part about Hotel Jansen was that I had my own room and bathroom however I shared a kitchen with the other people living on my floor – which was the perfect set up for meeting new people and socialising while still having my own privacy. Not to mention there was a café underneath Hotel Jansen so if you wanted another place other than the kitchen to spend time with your friends, study or have lunch it was right downstairs. 

I would definitely say that the best advice when it comes to accommodation is to find somewhere that works for you but aids you in meeting new people. Hotel Jansen was perfect for that and because it was a residence not only for university students of Vrije, but for people doing internships, working or attending another university, you were able to meet people who were there for different reasons.


I would say I spent in total around $20,000. My rent was about $8,000 which was one of the more expensive accommodation options. I travelled a lot so if you were planning on less travel you could do it far cheaper than I did. I spent around 45 euros a week on groceries and as for transport I used my bike mostly which was 18 euros a month subscription. Keeping in mind that I didn’t really keep a close eye on my spending and I was much more lenient than I am in my normal day to day life. Your budget is very much decided by the accommodation you would like and how much you are wanting to travel. In saying that, I believe the cheapest you could go on exchange for, without much travel and cheaper accommodation would be around $12,000.


The biggest challenge for me was probably planning the logistics for travelling. I went on a trip to Prague and Budapest with 5 other people. It needed to fit into this small window of time we all had available and it needed to be done on a budget. Through happenstance I ended up planning the trip on everyone’s behalf and in order for us to successfully visit these places we had to take a plane to Prague, spend 2 days there then take a bus to Budapest, spend another 2 days there and then take a bus back to Prague to then fly home to Amsterdam. The trip including accommodation was only 220 euros. It was a crazy whirlwind of an experience and probably one of my favourites.

Professional Development

There are many skills I have gained from exchange. Teamwork and understanding people of different cultures was something I practiced and got better at every day. I felt I've had a huge growth in resilience and confidence in my own abilities. I know I am very good at logistical planning after all of my travel and all in all I am much more self-assured in the decisions that I make.


I have far too many highlights to just pick one. However, the encompassed experience of moving and living in another country on the opposite side of the world by myself is something that I will forever cherish. To be lucky enough to spend a significant time in a different place at a young age will forever have impacted who I am now.

Top tips

DO IT!!! Hands down it has been the best thing I have done with my life so far and everyone I know from exchange agrees with me. Trust me when I say you don’t know what you’re missing until you go on exchange. And, make sure if you are considering exchange in any way to not use up your electives, but keep them for your classes abroad. They come in really handy when you are trying to select courses at your host university as it can be rather difficult to find courses that match your degree.