Claudia - University of Amsterdam

Bachelor of Arts/Laws
Semester 1, 2018

Academic experience

At the University of Amsterdam (UvA) I decided to undertake law courses.  UvA has an excellent reputation for international law and with The Hague being a relatively short distance away there was a lot of encouragement to visit the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court to assist learning. The teaching and facilities at UvA are of a really high quality and the lecturers had a lot of experience in and enthusiasm for the subjects they taught. International law courses were extremely popular with other students who were studying abroad in Amsterdam, so it was a great way to meet people from everywhere. 
 
I would say that the workload and intensity of the courses were similar to UQ. There were a lot of final papers and exams worth 100% of our grade which was unusual but since the 20 week semester was broken up into 8 weeks, 8 weeks and then 4 weeks, there was not as much content to learn before a final exam.

Personal experience

Studying abroad is obviously a daunting experience, fortunately Amsterdam has one of the largest International Student Networks (ISN) and immediately after arriving there were 3 days packed with activities and socialising. Most of us formed strong friendships within those first 3 days and immediately felt less daunted. Over the course of the semester the ISN ran weekly events including various parties, trips abroad and within the Netherlands as well as Dutch culture nights and movie nights. This was a particularly impressive aspect of the Amsterdam international student life and it made it virtually impossible for people not to feel welcome and included. 
 
Personally my favourite aspect of living in Amsterdam was the biking! It sounds cliché but it truly is the quickest and most enjoyable way to get around the city. I'd recommend hiring a bike through a company called 'Swapfiets' - it is only 15 euro a month to hire and you get free repairs which comes in handy! I recommend hitting up one of Amsterdam's famous parks like Vondelpark and spending some decent amount of time getting the hang of the busy crowds before heading into the canal region as it can be very chaotic and the Dutch are not so forgiving of inexperienced cyclists.

Accommodation

I applied for accommodation through the University of Amsterdam. It's quite a long process but if you keep on top of the deadlines and payments during the application process then they will guarantee you a place. I lived in Amsterdam Nieuw-West which was a 25 minute bike ride from UvA and 15 minutes from the canal ring. If you apply correctly and on time, then you should be given a range of options from which you can select your accommodation. They range in room type (i.e., shared bathroom and kitchen to fully self contained), price and location.

Costs

I spent 550 euro a month on rent and my monthly budget varied a lot due to travelling elsewhere. I'd say that Amsterdam was relatively similar to Brisbane, except the supermarkets tended to be a little cheaper. Public transport is a massive expense in Amsterdam so biking is definitely a far cheaper option.

Professional Development

Having lived and studied in the Netherlands I definitely feel more independent and confident to venture further out of my comfort zone. Living abroad for a minimum of 6 months is not something that everyone has the opportunity to do or is confident to try, so I'd say it would be a positive factor when applying for future jobs.

Highlight

The highlights of my experience were meeting people from all over the world, biking through the canals and taking advantage of the Netherlands being in close proximity to so many other beautiful countries! 
 
Another highlight was taking Dutch lessons. Although the Dutch speak excellent English, at least attempting to learn some basic Dutch felt like the right thing to do, particularly considering you are there for a decent period of time. I took a 12 week Dutch course and highly recommend doing something similar.

Top tips

•    Get a bike.
•    Learn some Dutch.
•    Join the ISN - it's a great way to meet people and is a really welcoming, well run organisation. 
•    Take advantage of the close proximity to other cities (Paris is only a 4 hour train ride away!)