Michael - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

B. Science
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

The academic system at the VU has many parallels to that of the Australian system that I was so familiar with. I studied among medicine students as part of a minor in Sports Medicine, Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Medicine at the Vrije University Medical Centre (VUmc). This was the first semester this course had been implemented at the VUmc, attracting a handful of international students. This gave me, as a prospective medical student, the opportunity to study content relevant to my career path in a completely different environment.

As opposed to UQ, where students undergo 4 subjects simultaneously, the Dutch system has students undertake 4 or 5 subjects during the semester, however they only take 1 subject at a time, lasting 4 weeks. I found adapting to this system very easy and in fact studied more efficiently using this method. For 4 weeks, I was able to focus on one subject area so I felt as though I truly got a grasp of the course material.

Furthermore, the classroom sizes were smaller, making for a more intimate and interactive earning experience in the classroom. In addition to this, each lecture was given by a different lecturer making class attendance feel more like attending a seminar than a compulsory lecture which I found to be more engaging.

Personal experience

To say that the experience of an exchange program is amazing is definitely an understatement. Thanks to Amsterdam, I learnt what it means to live as a foreigner and adapt to a culture completely unlike my own. My perspective has been broadened and I've learnt to look at the world differently. Academically, the exchange also helped to define my career goal and I learnt how to study more effectively via a method that suits me. Being abroad, I also met an array of people and formed friendships that will last a lifetime with people all around the globe.

By interacting daily with people from different cultures, I learnt so much about not only people cultures, but strengthened my communications skills. To travel across Europe is no doubt a goal for many students and I would recommend no better time than to do it than when studying abroad. In 6 months I was able to visit over 30 locations across Europe, in combination with my studies. This enhanced my experience and was also where I was fortunate enough to meet many people.


International students at the VU predominantly live in the students' village just off campus, "Uilenstede', which is the most affordable and convenient student accommodation in Amsterdam. Uilenstede was buzzing with an exciting student vibe from the first day of arrivals with international students arriving from all around the world. I lived in a 12 bedroom accommodation where I shared a kitchen and a males bathroom (females was separate). I would recommend any international student to consider living in a share house with a large group of people. In doing so, you are forced out of your comfort zone to interact with various people from completely different cultures. It's also an easy way to make friends and meet a lot of people during your time in Amsterdam. Uilenstede is approximately a 20 minute cycle from the city centre. Although this may not seem attractive to some people, the rent is considerably more expensive as you approach the city and you are not guaranteed the same student environment that you will find in Uilenstede.


Similar to most European countries, you'll find some expenses considerably less expensive than in Australia. A week's worth of groceries cost me around 40 EUR per week. Unfortunately being a tourist in Amsterdam isn't quite as cheap with the majority of attractions costing you at least 10 EUR.

Amsterdam is described as a city on two wheels, so finding a good bicycle will be a necessity upon arrival. There are various Facebook groups where you can purchase second-hand bicycles, I would not recommend purchasing them from a shop. The average price for these is around 70 EUR however you must always check that your bicycle is in good condition before purchasing.

Travelling around Europe is also considerably cheaper and was a highlight of my exchange. You can find affordable travel options via GoEuro.com and cheap accommodation through Booking.com or Hostelworld.

For the exchange in Amsterdam alone, I would recommend only needing 6000-7000 AUD (food, rent, entertainment, expenses) to be comfortable.

Professional development and employability

What initially attracted me to study abroad was the thought of personal development in a busy European capital city thus Amsterdam was a perfect match. By saving money and moving to Europe by myself, I became more independent and learnt that I can achieve a goal if I work hard enough for it. Furthermore, my communication skills improved by interacting and living with people from a multitude of cultures. Moreover, I learned to define not only my career goals but goals for the future.


The highlight of my experience was not the travel, or Amsterdam although these were both spectacular. It was the people that I met during my time. Being abroad introduces you to so many people around the world from different cultures and helped me to make friendships that will last a lifetime.

Top tips

If you're considering going on exchange, then you should definitely go on exchange. There is no better time to travel and experience an opportunity like this than now. You will return a changed person, but with experiences and friendships that you will carry with you forever.