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From Home to Holland – University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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I have been studying in Amsterdam for over 6 weeks now and I highly recommend and support anyone who wants a fun cultural exchange experience here in my second home. I remember the day I got accepted to the University of Amsterdam, sitting on my lounge staring at the email, too nervous to open. My pounding heart almost jumped out of my chest when I read “Congratulations, you have been accepted to the: University of Amsterdam”. From there it was a very quick, seamless and stress-free process in preparation for my departure.

Life in Amsterdam is very relaxed as my friends and I like to call it, it’s the chiller city. Everybody here is happy doing their own thing and happy to let you do yours! I swear you could walk around the city in an fluro green one piece (borat) suit an no one would even turn their head for a second glare. Amsterdam has so much to offer, from the free cultural events that happen almost daily, the huge and cheap flea markets, their obsession with jazz and classical music means that almost every corner side café has a live band serenading you every night. The legality of marijuana doesn’t mean that everybody is walking around a little buzzed 24/7 but it evidences the relaxed approach that the Dutch government have towards individual private activity. It gives you a little look into the Dutch mindset.

 

The actual university is the best part of the whole experience though. I was very fortunate in the fact I had an option of free electives, meaning I could choose basically any subject I wanted within the Facility of Humanities. Being one of the biggest University in The Netherlands they had a lot of different. After a long deliberation I picked 3 subjects that I was interested in, I settled with a subject on Documentaries. It follows the history of documentaries from around the world and focuses on the theory and rhetoric used and how it evolves over the course of modern history. My next subject I picked was Big History. This is basically a run down of the history of the universe from before the big bang until present day. It looks at it through a range of different disciplines and every week we have 2 lectures from experts in their field telling their own big history. My favorite subject though is Ancient Greece. I never got offered any history subject in my communications degree, so I took the opportunity to brush up on some of my Greek Mythology. The best part of this subject though was the 6 day ‘excursion’ to Athens that I recently got back from. This has to be one of the best weeks of my life, we spent every day touring mainland Greece visiting some of the oldest archeological sites in the world and then ate Greek food and drank Ouzo for the rest of the night.

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The University has also set up some really amazing systems for International students to meet each other, such as parties, festivals, and even International trips. They also have some great facilities such as campus bars, art classes, a creative center, a cinema and some really good theatres. I have found it super easy to meet people and recognize how spoilt by choice I am when it comes to student entertainment.

A major reason why I picked Amsterdam was its centrality within the rest of Europe. Flights, trains and buses are relatively cheap from and to Amsterdam and its quite close to some really cool cities throughout Europe. I have actually already had the opportunity to take a few weekend trips to Paris and London and plan on heading to Berlin within the next few weeks.

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Dutch culture, there are a few things you should know before coming here. Number 1 – you need to know how to ride a bike, confidently. It’s true, the best way to get around Amsterdam is via a bike, they do have a good metro, tram and bus system but if you want to be somewhere in under 10 minutes then a bike is the way to go. Number 2 – they love cheese, so don’t come here as a vegan, its served with everything. Number 3 – It is much colder then you expect. Amsterdam is a very windy city so everything feels much colder then it is, so pack warm. Number 4 – the Dutch don’t like tourists so don’t act like one, they are open to foreigners so use your foreignness to your advantage just make sure you try and assimilate into Dutch culture while doing so. Number 5 – everybody speaks English. Over 80% of Amsterdam natives are fluent in English the other 20% know enough to get by so you don’t need to worry about learning a language, however they always appreciate a “dank je”.

All in all I really do love the city I picked, everyday as I stroll along the canals I am always amazed. It is a city that will take you in and call you its own, it will nurture and love you unconditionally. Although the weather can be a bit of a challenge its an excuse to sit inside a café and drink a fresh mint tea (a Dutch delicacy) and watch the sun go down.

I’m sure you won’t need more convincing then this but if you do feel free to contact me by email at: tegan.klopper@gmail.com

Tegan Klopper
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Bachelor of Communications (Public Communication)
University of Amsterdam (UvA)
The Netherlands

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