My name is Elena and I will be your Experience Sharing reporter in the Netherlands this year. I am currently living in Amsterdam and I study at the Universiteit van Amsterdam (named UvA further on ) ,Faculty of Economics and Business Administration .Like many others, I am an exchange student, who managed to get here through an Erasmus scholarship. I am in my third year of Bachelor, with a major in Economics, so this is the field I know the most about concerning the courses and the teachers at the uni.
First of all, I will start with a brief description of the UvA. It offers a broadly oriented international academic environment, with an unique atmosphere (imagine that at one of the courses in which I’m enrolled , students from other 24 countries are also attending).
The academic year is divided into 2 semesters, which in turn are divided into 2 blocks, so you have 4 blocks in a year. Before each block there is a 2-week period when you have to enroll in the courses that you want, provided that you have to accomplish at least 60 Bologna credits at the end of a year. This semester I chose Information management, History of economic theory and Money,credit and banking. Although maybe I would have preferred to attend some other courses , at the UvA you make your own schedule (which is available for the whole year before the beginning of the classes in September),so if two or more courses overlap, you have to make a choice. A block lasts 7 weeks, then you have one week to prepare for the exams and in the ninth week you take the exams.Of course, this implies a heavy workload which increases throughout the course, as the period for a subject to be taught is shorter than I was used to back in my country.
Regarding its people and culture, Amsterdam is truly diverse. Imagine that it has a 45% ethnic minority and that more than 170 nationalities live together daily. Strolling through the narrow streets or along the tree-lined canals you will discover a blend of nationalities and of course the friendly Amsterdammers ,who are multi-lingual (haven’t discovered yet a single person in Amsterdam unable to give you some directions in English, no matter his/her age) and always glad to lend you a helping hand. All this with no discrimination on the ground of colour, nationality, religion or whatever.
I live in the West district,near the Westerpark on a shipping container ( I’ll soon provide some pics of the room and the neighbourhood)and it takes about 15-20 minutes by bus to go to school . As I’m not very skilled in riding bikes, I haven’t bought one yet,but it is a must have,so I’ll acquire one in the very near future.
The Amsterdammers, like all Dutch people, have a high standard of living (at least compared to the low one in many developing countries such as Romania), so be prepared to spend more than usual on food, accommodation and other consumables, let alone clothes (though sales in H&M could become real bargains).The stipend that I receive as an Erasmus student is EUR 340 a month (actually you get 80% of the whole amount at the beginning of your study period and 20% when you finish your stay at the partner university), which is about 30 to 40 percent of my monthly necessary amount of money. I’m not saying that you can’t succeed in living with less than that, but if you want to get advantage of the opportunities in Amsterdam, I think Eur 1,000 is more than OK. Of course this is a highly subjective issue, as it depends on where you live. I pay 450 EUR a month for accommodation –a private room with private facilities, but I have 2 friends who share a room and the facilities with other students and they pay roughly 280 EUR monthly,so that’s quite a difference.
The public transportation system,altough very useful ,it is a little expensive too. I pay 3 Eur daily on a journey to school and back, and in an ordinary day I don’t go just to school…OK,I have to buy that bike pretty soon J
The cultural agenda in Amsterdam is very varied and busy (and also needs deep pockets). I’d just like to sum up by enumerating some things that cross my mind in this very moment: visit some places (the famous cafes and the seedy Red Light District are a must as they are something you can’t see in most other cities) ,loooots of museums and art galleries, exhibitions ,festivals, events such as concerts(I’ll attend two gigs in November,can’t wait!!), canal cruising and of course travelling. Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Luxembourg and London, all reachable within a few hours by train…Ah, forgot to mention that the ISN (The International Student Network – Amsterdam) organises various activities for international students, such as movie nights, trips (we are going to the Hoge Veluwe National Park next weekend ), parties and weekly drinks, called “borrels” .
While I’m writing this, I am in Germany ,fighting a streaming cold , caught due to the bad weather in Amsterdam(not very cold,but rather rainy and windy) which can change very quickly.Now it’s sunny and warm, but who knows…in the next 5 minutes a light rain or even a torrential downpour can start. Weather is something I definitely hate in this city!!
Enough for today, I’m really looking forward to your comments and further questions .In my next post, I’ll keep on providing insights into my tremendous life in Amsterdam, both with the advantages and disadvantages a prospective student in this city should be aware of.