Daniel - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

B. Laws / Economics
Semester 1, 2015

Academic experience

While at VU I studied courses on Transport and Network Economics, Strategy and Economics, E-Commerce Law, and Environmental Economics and Management. The Dutch tertiary system works on a grading scale out of 10, with a 6 being a pass (so at least 5.5 is rounded up to a pass). I particularly enjoyed the culture of 'resits' meaning that students who fail the exam the first time around are automatically entitled to re-take the exam in the next academic period. The academic period itself is probably the biggest difference. One semester consists of 3 periods. The first and second last for two months each, and the third is one month. A typical course load is 2 courses in the first two periods and one in the third (all at 6 ECTS each).

Personal experience

I made friends from all over the world and had a chance to explore Europe gradually. I did not learn much Dutch as English is widely understood in Amsterdam, and especially so in exchange circles. I certainly developed my ability to communicate with people from other cultures with all varying degrees of English comprehension.


I lived off-campus in a building of small studios for students (called De Feniks in Dutch, or The Phoenix in English). On the plus side, the building was only completed in Sept 2014 and is very well kept. Additionally, you have your own bathroom and cooking facilities in every room. The downsides are that socialising is made harder by the absence of any common spaces in De Feniks. I would encourage future students at VU to look at rooms at Uilenstede which have a private bathroom but shared kitchen facilities as being the best of both worlds. That said, Uilenstede is further from the Amsterdam centre, whereas Feniks is close to Amstel Station placing it about halfway between the Centrum area and the university campus.


Rent was about 550 euro a month. Transport is largely by bicycle. Locals suggest to not spend too much on a bike because it risks it being stolen (the trade in stolen bicycles in Amsterdam is enormous). They suggest about 50 EUR and then spend more on the lock. Food and drink is roughly the same price as in Brisbane after currency conversion.

Professional development and employability

It was fascinating to see how the Dutch education system works. It was also great to study Transport and Network Economics at VU because its department is well-regarded in this area. This was the most challenging and informative course I took and I would highly recommend it to future students. As to my employability, I think it shows an ability to embrace a different culture and have a lot of fun while still maintaining good grades and an academic interest.


Embarrassingly, I have to say my introduction to Amsterdam's famous (infamous?) student bar--Coco's Outback Australian Bar--was a highlight. It goes by the charming tagline 'Lousy Food, Warm Beer', but I met so many wonderful people from other universities there at the weekly "Borrels" that I must say it was the highlight.

Top tips

The most important thing is that you choose a city you are excited about because exchange students are friendly and welcoming the world over. Do not be afraid to go to the less competitive universities (I was the only UQ student at the VU this semester) and I don't regret it for a second--it forced me to forge international friendships!

Daniel - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam