Alice - University of Amsterdam

B Arts/Laws
Semester 2, 2018
the experience has not only improved my self confidence but also improved my ability to work with people from a vast range of backgrounds and levels of experience.

Academic experience

I study a dual degree of Law and Arts however during my time at UvA I chose to undertake courses from the Law side of my degree. At the Amsterdam Law School exchange students are only permitted to take courses at masters level. 

To equate to a full study load at UQ I had to take 5 courses at UvA, I chose European Union law, International Investment law, Comparative law, International Organizations and International Criminal law. International Criminal law was particularly fascinating given the proximity of the University to the International Criminal Court in the Hague and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in this area. 

It can be quite confusing when enrolling in law courses as an exchange student. All other masters students will slot into a particular 'stream', whereas an exchange student is permitted to take courses from across a number of different streams (For example, Private International Law, or European Union Law). 

I found the content of the courses to be quite challenging. Most of my courses had at least 80-100% of the course resting upon the final exam, however I found the structure and questions in each of my final exams to be relatively easy and straightforward in comparison to UQ.

Personal experience

Exchange is quite a confronting experience to begin with once you arrive by yourself in a foreign country. UvA have a great system where they actually meet you at the airport on the day you arrive and take you on a shuttle bus to the University where you are able to collect your student id and complete other important tasks such as registering with City Hall. This is a huge help and really eases the stress of the first few days.

UvA also have a large international student association called ISN, it is worth signing up to this before you head over as they arrange a large number of social events for the first week and throughout the semester.

Accommodation

I lived in student housing on campus. I applied through the providers supplied by UvA. The building I stayed in was on Plantage Muidergracht and was directly opposite the building in which I took my classes. My accommodation was brilliant - it had been newly renovated and was situated on a canal - I would highly recommend it to anyone. 

Applying for accommodation can be stressful and it is important to have a firm grasp of when the deadlines are so that you don't miss out. Try to do your research beforehand so that you know where to select as soon as it becomes available to you. I had some friends who weren't as lucky as me - including one who ended up living in an ex-prison!

Costs

My rent cost 570 euros per month. I found Amsterdam to be relatively cheap in comparison to some other European countries I visited. Expect to spend the same as you would in Australian on things such as groceries and drinks on nights out.

Challenge

Biking in Amsterdam can be SCARY. The day that I first had to cycle my bike home from central station to my accommodation was challenging to say the least.

Professional Development

Studying at masters level was slightly confronting at first as I was in classrooms with students from all across the world - some much older than myself or who had been working in the law for many years before returning to study. As the semester went on I realised that being with such a diverse group not only kept me on my toes, but also opened my eyes to a number of international career options that I had not previously considered. 

Professionally, I feel that the experience has not only improved my self confidence but also improved my ability to work with people from a vast range of backgrounds and levels of experience.

Highlight

The highlight of the exchange for me was the period after all the orientation processes had died down where I had my own routine and group of friends and I truly felt like I was living in Amsterdam.

Top tips

1. Sign up for a Swapfiets bike early. Swapfiets is a bike rental service which costs 15 euro per month. They are really comfortable bikes to ride and rarely get stolen but the waiting list for them can be huge - particularly at the beginning of each semester. I recommend signing up around 1 month before you leave so that you can pick one up the day you get there. https://swapfiets.nl/en/. 

2. Buy a museum card (Museumkaart) if you're into art. The pass costs around 60 euros for one year and lets you into almost all museums in the Netherlands as many times as you like. Perfect for a rainy day (of which Amsterdam has many!). 

3. Travel as much as you can. Amsterdam is a prime central location within Europe and you can easily get buses/trains to France, Belgium or Germany or fly to Scandinavia for low price. Towards the end you might find that your favourite part is coming home to Amsterdam though!