Francesca - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Bachelor of Laws/Commerce
Semester 1, 2018

Academic experience

Although at the University of Queensland I study a bachelors in both law and commerce, on exchange at Vrije I only studied the commerce aspect of my degree. The semester's longer over there, so I studied five courses: Investments, Derivatives, Corporate Finance, Financial Institutions and Integrative Research Project. While the semester was longer, it was split into three trimesters so the largest workload at any one time was only two classes. Generally I found this much easier to manage with only a few hours a week of University work required. 

The enrolment process was initially quite confusing as you need to ensure there are no clashes first before enrolling. The International Desk at the VU, however, are extremely helpful in overcoming any issue and are happy to help you out. Be warned though, you must do this ahead of schedule as if you miss the deadline it's quite difficult to change and the University can be a little unforgiving.

Personal experience

Like most people say, the most rewarding aspect of the exchange was the friendships made. It really is one of the last opportunities in your life that you will have no job and very little responsibility and commitments elsewhere. So enjoy the friendships as they become the best aspect. It's crazy how close you can get with people after just a mere six months.

Another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed about my exchange was immersing myself in Dutch culture. Whilst initially the Dutch bluntness can be quite insulting and intimidating by the end of the semester I enjoyed their honesty and way of living. It truly is a credit to them that they are one of the happiest countries in Europe and in the world.

Accommodation

I lived in student housing, in a sort of student suburb known as Uilenstede. Although living with 12 or 14 people as they offer is quite daunting, it is a lot of fun and the easiest way to meet people. Again, at no other opportunity in your life will you be able to live with 14 foreigners in one house. The only negative about this accomodation is that it is a bit out of the city centre but the transport in is super easy and, at the end of the day, you all have a bike so travel is no issue.

Honestly, take Uilenstede or other VU accomodation. Amsterdam has an overpopulation of students so it is near impossible to find student housing at a reasonable price. If you end up looking elsewhere, as some of my friends did, you may be looking for close to four months.

Costs

Amsterdam, in my opinion, is slightly more expensive than Australia. My rent was about $600 a month, which is the cheapest you'd find in The Netherlands. Having a bike, however, makes travel and transport super affordable and such. I'd recommend budgeting all up $10000-$12000 if you simply want to live there. I'd budget a little more if you want to travel a fair bit.

Professional Development

Of course my cross cultural communication skills improved immensely. This really is a skill that is underrated and I am extremely grateful to have gained it. Independence is another major aspect of exchange that I found fulfilling, living overseas without any family support at a young age is a daunting thought but the skills gained from it is amazing.

Highlight

Again, the friendships made and the extremely wholesome memories that come with them.

Top tips

If you're thinking abut going, just do it. The government OS Help Loan is extremely helpful as well, so we really are privileged to be given such a glorious opportunity.