Dymphna - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

B. Science
Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

I attended the VU in the last 6 months of my Bachelor of Science, and I had managed to save up electives for this time. I am a psychology student, however, I did courses in literature, politics, history and development studies, which were all very interesting and broadened my horizons. What I particularly liked about the Dutch academic system was the different structure of classes. Instead of having 4 courses running simultaneously for the semester the classes were split into 3 different periods. 2 courses were done at the same time for a total of 8 weeks. This was great because there was more frequent class time with the same people meaning friendships and bonds formed quicker. It was also easier to focus on fewer subjects at once. A big challenge was having only 100% exams to complete as I was not used to this, however, it did mean less of a workload with far fewer assignments throughout the semester.

Personal experience

My exchange was incredibly rewarding, enriching and eye-opening, an experience that cannot be replaced. My time in Amsterdam was worth every bit of hard work that went into making it happen and the challenges I face whilst abroad. I now have life-long friendships with amazing individuals from many parts of the world. I have learnt what it means to pack up and leave Brisbane to move to a completely foreign city on my own and how I have grown from that challenge to become more confident and self-sufficient. 

Amsterdam is an incredible city with a very big expat and international scene, making it a relatively easy city to feel comfortable in. Pretty much everyone speaks English, however, I would strongly recommend learning Dutch, or at least the basics, as it makes the experience more enriching and allows you to feel more immersed in the Dutch culture. The culture of cycling everywhere in the Netherlands was another thing I personally loved, no matter the weather I cycled through rain, wind, snow and sunshine.


I didn’t manage to get the on-campus housing, and instead, I lived off campus in a student hotel called Hotel Jansen. It was an amazing experience in a brand new building with a private room and bathroom and a kitchen shared with around 28 other students/interns. The common space made socialising very easy and friendships were formed almost immediately between everyone on our floor. I really enjoyed the social atmosphere, sharing cooking and meals, going on day trips and exploring the city with my flatmates who came from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds. The downside was that it was rather expensive, a lot more than I was expecting to pay at Uilenstede (organised through the VU). 
Future students at the VU should probably take the housing at Uilenstede or through DUWO as it is easiest to organise and cheapest. Although finding a room on your own is incredibly difficult, if you have time and a bigger budget it may be nice to look into other options.


All in all, I would budget about $10,000-$12,000 depending on how much you spend on food/entertainment, and at least a further $5000 if you wish to travel extensively. My rent was 645 euro per month, one of the more expensive options. Transport was mostly done by bike, so a one-off payment of around 50-100 euro is all you need, along with a good lock. Food/restaurant/entertainment prices are roughly similar to Brisbane, and I budgeted around 100 euro per week depending on how much I went out or whether I cooked meals at home.

Professional development and employability

One of the major skills I have developed from my time in Amsterdam is the ability to be alone and self-sufficient in a foreign country. I feel like nothing can replace that experience and it has taught me so much about what I want in life. As part of my professional development, it has taught me to be highly adaptable to new situations, to work hard and to embrace all potential opportunities for growth and friendships.


It’s very difficult to pinpoint one particular moment as the highlight of my experience, however certain moments do stand out. Cycling through Vondelpark or alongside the incredibly picturesque canals on a sunny day brought about quite an irreplaceable feeling and sense of contentment.

Top tips

As most others say, if you have any doubts about going on exchange – just do it. It is an amazing experience that teaches you a lot about starting life in a completely new country, making friends, new cultures and different educational systems. My decision to go on exchange happened on the spur of a moment, and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Dymphna - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam