Delaram - University of Amsterdam

B Science
Semester 2, 2022
It’s true, you will have an amazing time and yes, you will come home a different person.


When I was 14, I watched a YouTube video of a girl (HelloKaty) who had done international exchange in Italy and had created an art travel journal from it and since then, I really wanted to go on exchange. The main reasons were to be able to live in a new country, with a completely different culture, and to improve my employability. I also wanted to experience independence, as I had never lived outside of my parent's home, and in my studies as a psychology student I knew that my age range was the time when people generally started to figure things out and decide whether they would follow new beliefs or follow their parents' ideologies. I wanted distance so that I could form my own identity outside of my parent's identities and beliefs. I wanted to travel and meet new people and develop my critical thinking skills by being exposed to new cultures and ways of life. I wanted to try new things and be forced to say yes to new experiences to open my mind. I chose Europe because I wanted to travel as many countries as possible and Europe was an easy place to navigate with a lot of history and culture that is completely different to Australia. The reasons were to improve my employability, develop my identity as a young adult and to have fun along the way and make life-long memories and friends.

Personal Development

I grew as a person and fleshed out my identity and broke some barriers in my mind. I said yes to things I never would have said yes to previously like doing stand-up comedy. I learnt to cope with anxiety and stress by myself, instead of relying on close friends and family to help me. I learnt to rely on myself as I had to figure out how to get from place to place as I travelled Europe. I became more comfortable with myself, as I started to realise that anything that would happen, I could problem-solve. I became more laid back as a person, and now I feel more comfortable putting myself in uncomfortable situations. I also learned to not judge others as much, as when I tried new things and learnt more I learned that my old thinking patterns were wrong and lacked nuance. I became more involved and knowledgeable about politics, and meeting travellers along the way taught me that it is important to know about what is happening in the world, human history and the importance of becoming a global citizen. I got involved in more political activism because of the strong Iranian exchange friendships I had made. I made life-long friendships and I hope that in the near future my friends will be able to come and visit me in Australia. Making friends that were from completely different backgrounds and belief systems opened my mind. A personal achievement that I had was that I created 4 travel journals documenting the journey, that were filled with my artwork, my writings and my vintage postcards that I would pick up at flea markets all over Europe. I came back to Australia more creative than when I left and overcame the artistic rut that I was in before I left. The experiences that I had I never would have developed by just staying as a domestic student. When you leave your comfortable normal life, you learn more from life that you ever would from your studies. Being a student will never teach you close to anything about what the real world is like. Before my exchange semester started, I had been travelling for 2 months and when I sat down at my desk in class, I realised that what I had learned whilst travelling was more in-depth, important and salient than anything I had been taught in my 3 years at university.

Academic Development

The Dutch system's semester is split into thirds where you generally study 2 subjects at a time. This was easier in the respect that you could focus on two topics at a time, which was easier than juggling 4 different subjects. One aspect that was more difficult was that there was no "SWOTVAC" equivalent in UvA. So, there was no time between the last week of learning and the final exams for the course. That was difficult to manage but I had to improve my time management skills to cope. Additionally, the lecturers at UvA relied more on readings and textbooks than lectures so I learned to be a more independent learner. I had some really interesting courses that were not on offer at UQ. I did Evolutionary Psychobiology which was evolutionary basis of psychology where we compared human and animal psychology. This was an interesting course because some of the lectures were at Artis Zoo and my final group project was on the elephants at the zoo. I also took Cultural Psychology which was the most interesting course I have taken in my degree and I really enjoyed it. I actually wanted to read the textbook chapters. I also took Mindfulness Across the Lifespan which was interesting as well.

Professional Development

I became more self-confident in who I am, so in an interview setting I feel much more comfortable. I also learned to rely on myself and problem-solving skills during travelling which would make me an employee that is flexible and can handle challenges. I learned to be self-reliant as I had to figure out how to get from city to city, from country to country so I was more independent. Being able to make friends with people around the world improved my capacity to be a good team member and work with people from different backgrounds to mine.


I spent around $20K to $25K dollars but I think you could do it for 12K if you travelled less and got cheaper accommodation. I lived in more expensive accommodation to have more privacy but if I were to redo exchange, I would prefer to live with a roommate. I travelled to 18 countries whilst on exchange but that was a lot of travel. I travelled light with only a carry-on suitcase and I bought my clothes second hand in the Netherlands. But the winter coats ranged from 100-200 euro which was a necessity. My rent was 500 euro per month. 40 euro for groceries per week from Lidl. 20 euro per week for public transport and I think 40 euro per month for my Swapfiets subscription for my bike. I would not purchase a bike unless you are planning on staying for more than 6 months. My advice for students about budgeting: Get a bike asap! The bikes may take a week to arrive so plan in advance. I made the mistake of getting a bike a little bit later than others but the sooner you get a bike, the sooner you adapt to biking everywhere and you save a lot of money. Trust me that it takes some time to adapt, and the sooner you adapt the more you save. Public transport in the Netherlands is extremely expensive, I think it's the equivalent of having an adult card without a concession rate.


I used the UQ Travel grant to get my tickets. I got a 10% deal on Qatar airways because students get a discount and it is super easy to sign up. I think the best destination for Qatar airways would have been Athens airport.


I received the accommodation through UvA. They set me up with DeKey. There were a lot of choices to choose from in the offer. The cheapest accommodation was I believe 300 euro to stay in a room with one other person, the moderate priced one was around 400 euro to have your room to yourself and share a bathroom with one other person. The most expensive option was 500 euro to have a room and bathroom to yourself. I chose the latter because I valued privacy. I lived at Zuiderzeeweg. The pros of the accommodation were that I had absolute privacy. I had my own bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. Zuiderzeeweg was 10minutes bike to SciencePark and 20 minutes bike to Roeterseiland campus and so I was well connected. It was also easy to access central Amsterdam via biking or public transport. The cons of Zuiderzeeweg was that the complex did not have a real common room and the vibe there wasn't as social as other residences my friends were in. However, I talked to many students and I was really lucky to have such amazing accommodation compared to students that didn't even have a private kitchen or had to bike 40minutes to university. If I were to redo exchange, I would prefer to live in Prinsengracht. Some of my friends were living in canal houses in Prinsengracht which is near Anne Frank's house in central Amsterdam. They were either in a room with a roommate or had a private room with a shared bathroom. I believe that this was more worthwhile than mine because (1) the accommodation was 100-200 euros cheaper than mine, (2) social atmosphere in the common rooms meant that people made friends in the accommodation (3) the canal houses were an icon of Amsterdam and I would have loved to live in one and see the canals every day.


My friends that I made on exchange. I am so lucky to have met such amazing people on exchange and now I have friends from all over the world. The highlight of all my travels was Amsterdam. I found Amsterdam to be the most beautiful city I visited (and I went to Venice) :D. Amsterdam was green and beautiful, with amazing canals and history. I loved exploring the city so much. The Dutch were really friendly and kind people (but sometimes very direct and intimidating). But I found the Dutch to be empathic and warm. One memory that is close to my heart is this: I managed to ride to Amsterdam central without having to stop for the first time ever. I was rushed to buy my winter boots and second-hand books before the shops closed. When I finished my shopping, I decided to go to a restaurant on the canals. It was autumn and chilly so I bought hot chocolate and an amazing soup that warmed me up. As I sat in the middle of the canal, and painted the sunset in my travel journal, I felt like I was a real Amsterdamer. That I had achieved my goals of being an exchange student in the city of my dreams. I had ridden my bike, bought my European winter gear and I was enjoying Dutch soup. When I think of Amsterdam I get a little homesick. I never thought that it would only take 6 months but I feel like Amsterdam is my second home.

Advice/Top Tips

  1. Sign up for ESN Amsterdam Orientation (the orientation specifically). This is how I met my friends on exchange. Some students signed up for ESN but not the orientation because it was 60 euros but I think it was well worth the money. I believe it would have been very difficult for some exchange students to make friends if they didn't attend the program. I was really worried about making friends on exchange and having a support network because I am introverted but the ESN orientation was amazing. We spent a whole week doing amazing activities together (for 60 euro) and bonding as a group. And that was my group for the rest of exchange!
  2. Book tickets for museums etc 2/3 weeks in advance because things get booked out really quickly in Europe because of the strong tourism industry (especially in summer). Book travel 2 months in advance because that is when tickets are cheapest.
  3. Use trainline to book trains and buses. Always check the difference between trains and flights because its more common than you think to have airplane tickets be cheaper than trains.
  4. UvA has a social space called CREA that I highly recommend. CREA is a cafe, and a bar as well as a place to sign up for extra-curricular activities. They offer dance (pop, free-style, ballroom), singing, music, arts like drawing, painting, sculpture, sewing and anything you can think of. I always dreamt of the "art-student in Europe lifestyle" so I signed up for pottery courses and I posted some of them back home as keepsakes. But book it before you arrive because the classes can be booked out months in advance!
  5. Amsterdam is a rainy city, especially in the colder seasons. So, if I were to redo exchange, I would buy a museum pass. There are endless number of museums in Amsterdam and a great way to spend the weekends.
  6. Give hostels a try. They are not for everyone, but I really enjoyed them for one reason. I met amazing people in almost every hostel I went to. In Turkey, I met another Australian exchange student who was travelling before the exchange semester had started. Me and my friend then travelled to another Turkish city together and met up again when he came to visit Amsterdam and when I went to visit Copenhagen. I still keep in contact with some of the people I met on my travels.
  7. Say yes to new things that make you uncomfortable. You will grow as a person.
  8. Get a bike!!!
  9. Travel to cities in the Netherlands like Zwolle, Utretcht, Rotterdam, Den Hague and Haarlem.
  10. Live simply. Don't buy things that you don't need because you are only there for 6 months and you have to figure out how to get rid of your things when you leave. Living light was a blessing in the end. I was also trying my best to donate everything I had bought or I gave them to my friends to be as sustainable as possible.

I remember being in your position, looking through past student's testaments over and over again in excitement for my upcoming exchange semester. I remember someone writing; "this will be the best experience of your life." And everything they said came true. It’s true, you will have any amazing time and yes, you will come home a different person.