Amazing Amsterdam

Maddi G. Bachelor of Design (Honours)
Amsterdam Fashion Institute (Semester 2, 2018)

Hi, my name is Maddi and I went on exchange to Amsterdam at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) in the Netherlands from August 2018 – February 2019.

Exchange was everything I hoped it would be and more. From the city of Amsterdam, to the content I learned at my host university, to the solo travel, it exceeded expectations in every capacity and I highly encourage anyone who is on the fence about applying for exchange to just do it; you will not regret it.

AMFI is a part of the HvA (Hoogeschool Van Amsterdam) located in central Amsterdam close to the Waterloopleinmarkt and ARTIS Zoo.

Living in Amsterdam

I lived on the Zuiderzeeweg on one of the little islands in east Amsterdam in student accommodation blocks made out of old shipping containers. The area around it was in the development stage so there weren’t any shops, yet however my residency had students from all over the world so I had a great community around me. The friends I made during the International Student Week at AMFI stayed with me throughout my entire exchange. This is the week where you meet all the other exchange students that have also just arrived in Amsterdam. I was put in a group of 30 people from all over the world and your leaders are students as well that have lived in Amsterdam for a while.

Bike Culture

Living and learning a new city has been one of the most exciting things I have ever done. The sense of accomplishment and independence you feel when you don’t need Google Maps to bike around the city anymore is so empowering, because YOU figured it out. What took me the longest to adjust to was the bike culture, and learning the bike etiquette around the streets of Amsterdam.

Accommodation

I lived in my own apartment provided by the university, with my own bedroom, living space, bathroom, kitchen and a little balcony out the back. It was a twenty minute bike ride from the university campus. For future exchange students, I would recommend looking up the campus you are going to be primarily located, and choosing somewhere a little closer to save you time.

So in summary, living in Amsterdam was the best experience of my life. I have endless stories, experiences, and lessons learnt, so if you’d like to hear more, I’d love to have a chat. I learnt so much about myself that I never would have figured out, had I not gone on exchange. I do not regret a single second of my exchange experience, and I highly recommend applying!

Everything you need to know about studying in Maastricht!

Kellie Amos
Maastricht University, Netherlands (Semester 1, 2017)

Applying to Maastricht University (UM)

Getting accepted into an exchange program is, naturally, quite a process. There’s a lot of different applications that need to be completed, and you spend equal amounts of time waiting for the approval of these as you do submitting them. Although, for the most part, both QUT and UM were quite prompt in getting back to me, I did have some issues with receiving official acceptance from UM.

Initially, I received confirmation of my registration not long after submitting my application, but this didn’t count as official acceptance. QUT requires a letter from the overseas university stating your acceptance before they can confirm your enrolment and start organising other elements of your exchange. Consequently, a few weeks went by and I started to receive information about visas and classes from UM, but still no official letter of acceptance. It was only after I asked for it directly that I was sent an appropriate form of acceptance to forward to QUT.

So if, like me, a few weeks go by and you’re getting emails about visas and enrolment – but still no acceptance – it’s worth contacting the uni’s International Relations Office (or likewise relative department) for official confirmation. Of course, I don’t know if this is a usual problem with UM, but you’ll want to receive your official acceptance as soon as possible so you can get your visa sorted.

Maastricht Housing & Guesthouse UM

All student housing for UM is organised by a third-party organisation called Maastricht Housing. As the official agency, it’s recommended you find accommodation through them, and after reading some horror stories online, I decided it was worth the €35 registration fee.

Under Maastricht Housing, the UM Guesthouse is the main provider of housing for UM students and has a lot of different buildings/properties to choose from. The main building where you pick up your keys, sign your contract, etc. is actually a hospital where the majority of the complex has been converted to dorms. A lot of the friends I ended up making stayed here, as it’s one of the cheapest options the Guesthouse offers. I decided on pricier accommodation at one of the Guesthouse’s buildings in the centre called Heilige Geest 7B instead.

For me, this was a perfect place to be as I came to know the city extremely well, and my studio apartment felt more like a home, as opposed to a temporary stay. I was also lucky enough to become close friends with the Finnish girl who lived above me and the other people on my floor. In general though, Heilige Geest has no shared or communal areas, so in the early weeks I felt like I’d made the wrong choice given everyone was making friends and hanging out at the Guesthouse. After a while, that all changed as I grew closer to the people in my building and heard about all the issues my other friends were having at the Guesthouse (mostly gross communal areas and unpleasant staff). I paid more for my apartment, but for me and the experience I wanted, I felt it was worth every extra penny!

Maastricht birthplace of the European Union

A beautiful medieval city, Maastricht is home to a large international student population – particularly from the neighbouring countries Belgium and Germany. People from all over the world come to study at the university and improve their English. Given the large student population there’s rarely a time where something isn’t going on in one of the city squares, the Vrijthof and the Markt, especially in the summer. The student organisation ISN regularly puts on events and trips for exchange students, and you can’t miss their infamous CANTUS nights (think karaoke meets Oktoberfest) or their ‘Discover’ weekend trips.

Aside from being full of places to eat, drink, and dance, Maastricht is popular among locals within the region for its shopping. You could easily spend hours checking out all the cute boutiques tucked away in all the winding streets of Dutch houses. There’s also a lot of beautiful parks, and my friends and I would often sit on part of the old city walls overlooking them as we ate our lunch.

In addition to being such a beautiful place to live, Maastricht is also extremely close to other European countries. I walked and biked to Belgium with my friends on many occasions, and catching trains across the border was just as easy. You can catch trains and buses to Germany, France, and Luxembourg with just as much ease but if you’re travelling via the NS (Netherlands railway company) use Facebook groups to find others so you can buy cheaper tickets for €7 (see links at the end of this blog). The closest airport is Eindhoven, which offers really cheap flights, and you can also get some incredibly good value flights from Brussels’ airports.

  Dutch Culture and Carnaval!

In terms of culture, you get a very authentic taste of Dutch life living in Maastricht. The locals in this region love to drink, sing, and dance – as evidenced by the incredible festival Carnaval (not to be confused with the South American Carnival). Although I could never get any one person to tell me exactly what the festival was for, it essentially started as a tradition in the southern parts of Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany where people would fill the streets in elaborate costumes (often gender bended) and drink and eat for 3 days. If you’re planning on going to Maastricht for exchange, you have to go during first semester. Carnaval takes place in March and is truly a sight to behold!

This is the event where I really bonded with my friends and came to know the city, in all its colour. It also introduced me to a fundamental characteristic of the Dutch culture – you can be and do whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. The neutrality of this mindset is something I truly came to admire about the Netherlands.

O-Week & Making Friends

As part of your exchange, UM requires you to participate in a compulsory 3-day introduction to the campus and system of teaching called Problem-based Learning (PBL). In addition to that, ISN runs a series of events throughout the week for you to meet people and introduce yourself to the Dutch culture, including city tours, bike classes, food tastings, and pub crawls. I attended a few of these events, and at the pub crawl met some people who eventually formed my group of closest friends on exchange. It was awkward putting myself out there but all the other students are in the same boat and everyone is extremely friendly. After the first week, most people had found a solid collection of friends and groups began to form. This is why it’s so important to be there for first week and go to as many of the ISN events as you can. By the end of exchange, my friends were like my family, as we had made so many wonderful memories together. Exchange would mean half of what it does if I hadn’t of met them, so take the time to talk to people and I guarantee you’ll form friendships unlike any other.

Cost of Living

For my exchange, I used a Velocity Global Wallet Card, which allows you to load AUD on to it and exchange it into several other currencies, including the Euro and Pound. It works like a normal visa debit card and has no fees for electronic transactions, just a small dollar fee for cash withdrawals. Being a small city, many of the establishments in Maastricht don’t accept traditional credit card providers like visa, so I did have to use cash quite often.

Overall, Maastricht isn’t an overly expensive city if you know where to go! With such a large student population, there are a number of cheap places to eat and groceries were largely cheaper than what you pay in Australia. I went overseas with around $12,000AUD spending money, which was more than enough for 6 months of living and travelling in Europe, leaving me with over a grand leftover. With rent for accommodation, I needed an extra $5,000AUD, so depending on how much travel you do and where you choose to stay in Maastricht, I’d say you should budget between $15,000-20,000AUD for 6 months.

Some Final Advice…

In the span of your lifetime, 6 months might not equate to much, but an exchange feels like you’ve just lived an entire years worth of experiences in half the amount of time. It’s pretty amazing how quickly you can put down roots in another part of the world. I don’t have any regrets about my exchange and I could spend hours telling you more about the things I was able to see, do, and live thanks to this opportunity. Instead, the last piece of advice I give you is to find some way to remember it – whether that’s photos, a journal, a blog, collecting souvenirs, or a combination of all those – I can guarantee you’ll want some kind of physical evidence it wasn’t just a dream.

Exchange isn’t easy, you will have lows along with the highs, but it is so worth your time and effort! Here are some extra links to help—

Facebook group for NS Group Tickets: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1472379199695327/

Facebook group for Second-hand Bikes: https://www.facebook.com/groups/216524551852144/

Facebook group for Bikes and Furniture: https://www.facebook.com/groups/zarurahusam/

 

Two Weeks in Amsterdam

Christopher Atkins, Bachelor of Design

Short-term program: Amsterdam Uni of Applies Sciences “Amsterdam Summer School”

Netherlands (July 2018)

I completed a 2 week summer course in Amsterdam, Netherlands at Amsterdam University of Applied Science. The course was called “Urban Scan” and was aimed at looking into what makes Amsterdam, Amsterdam. How the city was built and how it has changed over time. I found this a helpful course as I am studying Landscape Architecture and some aspects were quite informative.

The other students in my class were from all different disciplines and the course could be taken by anyone from any discipline. The other students were great and I met people from all over the world. We shared many afternoons socialising after class in Amsterdam. The University is close to the city so it was easy to access. The accommodation however, I wouldn’t recommend. I got the accommodation through the Uni and it was a 4 bedroom shared unit with other Dutch students. The place was a mess and some of the house mates had left for home for their Summer. The bathroom clogged and water was everywhere through the unit. The internet was never working and the area was far from the city and didn’t feel too safe at night. I would recommend finding alternate accommodation in or closer to the city/University instead.

Amsterdam city, canals.

 The country itself was amazing, I had been to the Netherlands before so I knew what I was getting into. The locals in Amsterdam all speak perfect English so it is easy to get around. The city itself is a maze! All the streets blend into one and are very similar, with canals everywhere, it’s all part of the fun of Amsterdam I guess. It’s a lot easier if you can get a bike to ride around with, the city is fairly small so if you have a bike you can’t anywhere within 15/20min. The sun is also up till 11PM at night so there is plenty of time to explore the city after class finishes at 5PM.

Amsterdam city, canals.

 The highlight of my trip was probably the bike ride we did with our class. It was a 2 hour trip North of Amsterdam but it went through the countryside, past windmills and old farm houses. We arrived at a lighthouse and had lunch then made our way back to Amsterdam. The whole course was really fun and the teacher was amazing. Most days we’d stop in the afternoon for a drink and some Dutch cheese somewhere in the city, with our teacher explaining Dutch culture and everyone else trading stories from their home country. I really learnt a lot not just about Amsterdam but other parts of the world through my class mates.

View from the bike ride hours North of Amsterdam.

I would highly advise taking this summer course. It was fun, informative, exciting, eye opening and I made new friends. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough…. Just book your own accommodation.

Studying in the Heart of Amsterdam

Natasha Phillips, Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology)/Laws

Short-term program: Amsterdam Uni of Applies Sciences ‘Amsterdam Summer School’

Netherlands (July 2018)

My name is Natasha and when I participated in my short term exchange I was half way through my third year of a dual degree of Law and Psychology at QUT. My exchange program was in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and after reflection I can happily say it was one of the best experiences of my life.

I got to explore the history and culture of Amsterdam by studying there.

I studied an architecture course, this is something which is completely different to my degree at QUT but I am so glad I decided to study this course. Studying architecture in an old city like Amsterdam was incredible because by studying the architecture, I got to study the history and culture of the city and explore the city itself. The program and teaching style was very relaxed compared to my classes at QUT but I thought this was brilliant for a course which was so interactive. Each day we would have class in the morning and then in the afternoon we would go out and explore a different area of the city which was related to our morning class. The campus was based in the heart of the city and this was amazing because before and after class we got the opportunity to explore the city and take in the sights and sounds of Amsterdam. The campus was very modern and the support staff were kind, welcoming and helpful.

This program gave us the opportunity to explore the city after classes.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city and by being an exchange student for two weeks, we got the chance to explore the tourist spots like Anne Frank’s House, the canals and the Amsterdam sign but we also go to experience other aspects of the city which some tourists might not. For example, one day my class rented bikes and we cycled to a beach outside the city and got to see the countryside which surrounded the city. Everyone spoke both Dutch and English and were very friendly so I never had any issues with getting lost or any bad experiences in the city.

The highlight of exchange was the people.

My highlight of my short term exchange was the people I met and the friendships I made. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity because as part of my exchange I now have friends in America, Russia, Norway, Germany and of course The Netherlands. I would highly recommend to any QUT student to participate in a short term exchange and gain credits for their course as an elective because it was the best experience.

Fall Semester in Amsterdam City!

Darcy, C.
Hodgeschool Van Amsterdam (Semester 2, 2016)

The reality of living in Amsterdam city is a true as the picturesque photos. It is all bikes in busy lanes, tourists flooding Dam square, tree lined canals, beautiful cobbled streets and beautiful townhouses to match. What’s more, you’ll see coffee houses beside museums, reflecting the truly unique culture of Amsterdam and it’s people. Unlike the relaxed culture though, the Dutch are very direct – kind but direct.

Living in Amsterdam offers so many options. Not only is it centrally located in Europe, making travelling easy and affordable, but Amsterdam itself is a very small city and very easy to navigate, especially on your bike. It’s perfect for one semester abroad but perhaps too small for two.

I studied at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (also known as the University of Applied Sciences) studying a Minor in Business of Sports and Entertainment. As part of this minor, my class visited London meeting with Ticketmaster UK. While we were based in the classroom as well, half of our assessment was based on our work with a real world client, developing real initiatives and campaigns for implementation. I would highly recommend enrolling in a Minor course, rather than selecting your own individual classes; as you work with the same people every day, four days a week, you develop very strong friendships within the classroom – making it very easy to meet people. My class was a mix of half Dutch and half international students. The assessment was relatively easy in comparison to QUT though (which was a welcomed surprise).

What about living arrangements?

I lived in a private room at the Fraijlemaborg (Fry-lem-a-borg) student dorms. These dorms were home to 170 other international students across 6 floors and literally right next door to the university. All in all, the standard of living was great and much better than I expected. The rooms were quite large and the facilities were ample – the only downside is that our accommodation was quite far from the city centre which made nights out a tactical mission to ensure you are on the last (or first) train home – the centre was too far to cycle most nights.

My favourite Saturday’s were spent at breakfast at CT Coffee & Coconuts and my favourite evenings began at Leed and Webber in Leidesplein and then to the Chicago Social Club in Rembrantplein.

Amsterdam is such a wonderful city that will show you art, culture & all four seasons in four short months. I was surprised to discover that weather in Holland in very similar to England. Typically in cooler months, its windy, drizzles with rain, and is very overcast. I can say that my stay was mostly sunshine… lucky me.

A few Do’s and Don’t’s to living in Amsterdam:

  1. Do buy a bike
    It will save you so much money on public transport and is quintessential to the dutch life. 9makes for a great photo too). You can buy your bike at the second hand flea markets (although the Dutch aren’t fond of these markets whichs ell stolen bikes) or the Amsterdam Bike Marketplace facebook page for cheaper, better and more reliable bikes. Consider investing in two locks, bike theft is notorious (hence the second hand markets) and you’ll want to ensure your bike has gears… one speed is just too slow for the Dutch.
  2. Do arrive on time for Orientation week
  3. It is a week long of socialising – you’ll meet your semester long friends immediately and kick off your new social life. Miss it and you’re off to a wobbly start as events are significantly less after wards.
  4. Do learn please and thank you
    Thank you: Dank je wel (dunk-ya-vell)
    Please: Alstubleift (Alst-oo-bleeft)
  5. Don’t bother asking ‘Do you speak English?’
    Everyone speaks English – probably better than you. You will more often than not be greeted in English and hear it all around – it is considered the business language.
  6. Don’t photograph the ladies of the Red Light District. ‘Do’ and find out what happens…

Go to Amsterdam.