Hannah - University of Amsterdam

B. Arts / Laws
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I study law and psychology at UQ, but while I was on exchange in Amsterdam I decided to focus on my psychology degree. The University of Amsterdam offers some incredible subjects in this area! I studied animal psychology, evolutionary psychology, and mindfulness. Additionally, I took a course on Dutch social trends and policies, which gave me invaluable insight into the city where I was living. My professors were incredibly inspiring, very personable, and with small class sizes, we each received a lot of individual attention.

Personal experience

I gained so much from my exchange! Friendships, of course, from people all over the world, and also new friends from across Australia and neighbouring New Zealand. Studying in Amsterdam for the semester also allowed me a whole lot of time to travel. So while I was at university during the week, I often took weekend trips to Berlin, London and Manchester, Vienna, through Belgium. Before and after the semester I travelled extensively across western and eastern Europe, before finishing off my whirlwind trip in Morocco. I was also part of the University of Amsterdam ambassadors program, which focused on the development of leadership qualities and enabled me to meet a whole range of other international as well as Dutch students!


I lived in student dorms in Amsterdam. I'd heard excellent reviews from others living on campus whilst on exchange, so decided to take this option for myself. However, in Amsterdam there is not just one campus; rather, different classrooms and facilities are scattered throughout the city, so there are likewise different dorms both in and around Amsterdam. I found the student housing to be a little expensive, and also quite a far distance from the different classrooms, but this is probably unique to Amsterdam rather than a feature of student dorms generally.


Amsterdam is known as one of the more expensive European cities. That said, I found it quite comparable to Brisbane prices. Perhaps even a little cheaper. The best part is that, once you've bought a bike, transport everywhere is free! As a student, and with friends that were all on similar budgets, we all looked out for each other and would quite enjoy searching around for community dinners, go to markets together, search out events with free entry. It actually became quite fun to figure out how far our money could go. That said, I had worked hard to save for my exchange so that I would be able to take up opportunities when they presented themselves. In Amsterdam, for a semester-long exchange, I would recommend somewhere between $10,000 to $15,000, plus additional funds for travels before and after semester.

Professional development and employability

By participating in the University of Amsterdam's Ambassador Program I developed valuable leadership and teamwork skills. We were trained in intercultural communication, assertiveness and conflict management, and worked as groups on different projects throughout the semester. My group was assigned the task of compiling a newsletter to be sent to all incoming and outgoing exchange students and their universities. Outside of this, the experience of living independently, studying and socialising with students from different backgrounds and different countries around the world, and adapting to the Dutch education system which is much more focused on free thought and open discussion saw me undergo great personal development.


On the Amsterdam canals
On the Amsterdam canals

It's hard to pick just the one highlight of my exchange experience. One that stands out for me though is taking a boat with 10 new friends around the canals of Amsterdam for several hours one afternoon towards the end of summer. The city is an extraordinarily beautiful one, and to see it from the waterways with sunset approaching was magical. I loved riding my bike around the city as well. There is nothing more Dutch than drinking a takeaway coffee whilst riding to uni for morning classes. Or on my final day in Amsterdam, taking one final cycle around the city before sitting alone to watch one last sunrise over the canals in the middle of winter. Breathtaking, and the perfect moment for reflection on my extraordinary months there.

Top tips

  • I most strongly recommend taking up every opportunity you can.
  • If someone offers coffee, meet them and make a new friend.
  • If there is the chance to join a club at uni, or volunteer with a local organisation, or find an internship or work experience in your area of study, do all that you can.
  • A weekend trip to a neighbouring country, go for it!
  • While my exchange experience felt like a whole lifetime, it also goes by so quickly, so whenever something presents itself say "yes!" and make the absolute most of it.
Hannah - University of Amsterdam