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.

Study at one of the top Business Schools in Europe

Maastricht University School of Business and Economics, The Netherlands

Location: Maastricht, South Limburg, The Netherlands.

Why study here?: 4th best young university in the world, triple accredited business school, melting pot of European culture, travel opportunities.

Maastricht University School of Business and Economics has been named the 4th best young university in the world, and is one of only 1% of business schools worldwide to be triple-crown accredited (EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA). SBE is home to over 4200 students, and is the most international university in the Netherlands – with half of their students and staff coming from abroad. Most courses are taught in English and SBE are well- known for their Problem-Based Learning system and international orientation. The university offers students guidance and support for international students in regards to visas, accommodation and more, and offers a buddy programme to help you settle in during your semester abroad.

The Maastricht is one of the most visited cities in the Netherlands, due to its vibrancy, culture and internationalisation. Maastricht is known as the birthplace of the European Union and the Schengen Treaty. It is a melting pot of different European cultures, and is filled with historic buildings and cutting-edge modern architecture. The city has quaint cobblestone streets, impressive churches, wonderful city squares, delicious food from neighbouring countries Germany and Belgian, museums, pubs, music venues and shopping. Almost everyone rides a bike in and around Maastricht, and many other famous European cities are close by.

If you want to explore some more of Europe during your exchange, Maastricht is the perfect base. Don’t let the southern location of Maastricht deceive you – Rotterdam and Amsterdam are only 2.5 hours away by car or train, Cologne and Brussels are only 1.5 hours away by car, and Paris is 3.5 hours away by train.

Dutch Directness

I have wanted to write something about “Dutch Directness” for a while, the phrase was introduced to us at orientation week and I hadn’t taken it too seriously until I witnessed it first hand. It has been one of the biggest adjustments for me.  Students are encouraged (and given grades) on expressing their opinions and judgements on other student’s work.  Maastricht University takes “constructive criticism” to a whole new level.  To give you a background on how the classes work, students are put into groups and every week you make a presentation in front of your class.

When a QUT student is presenting, questions and feedback are generally light hearted and supportive, after all they are being assessed there is enough pressure and nerves without fellow students adding to it. At Maastricht it is a dog eat dog world, questions are flung at the student presenters with no mercy, “Why didn’t you address this theory?”, “I don’t think your idea is feasible”, “Well, at least your English is improving”, “I didn’t like the colour of PowerPoint slides” (I make no exaggeration theses are all statements made in my class).  As the type of person who doesn’t enjoy confrontation, I found this really difficult to deal with and at times upsetting.  I was lucky enough to not be on the receiving end of these attacks, I had generally received good feedback and minimal criticism on my work, that was until Monday…  Now I can officially say it is not the nicest feeling in the world.

While I think the idea behind this “honesty” is to prepare students for the “real world” where clients will criticise, the problem with this in a classroom setting is it doesn’t allow a positive learning environment where students can feel free to make mistakes and ask questions, and trust me it does nothing for building comradery between students.

To those students coming to Maastricht, you had better grow some thick skin!  For any European students coming to QUT, you might want to ease up on the “feedback” if you intend on making any friends…. Just being direct;)

It begins…


1. made ready or fit or suitable beforehand
2. having made preparations
3. equipped or prepared with necessary intellectual resources

As I am sitting here on my day of departure, I am looking at this definition and realising this does not apply to me. Being a typical young male, I left my run a little late with organising flights, visa and my accommodation for my semester abroad in Maastricht. I packed this morning, organised my flights roughly 4 weeks ago and applied for my visa weeks ago – and I have known about my exchange for months. But despite having majority of it organised now, I still feel like I don’t meet the definition of prepared.

So as I stumble my way through the strategic marketing course in the Netherlands using the PBL learning system, I hope you guys can learn and laugh with me. The first joke is on me – I have roughly 29 hours of travel to get there thanks to my late run. Please feel free to comment and make suggestions for what I should do on my travels.

Lesson one: If you’re going international, be prepared as early as possible!


Am I going to miss home?

Living away from home for me, has got to be one of the best things about exchange. I’m not sure what the other bloggers have found, but as someone who’s never lived out of home before – having my independence has been the best.

Whilst some days I put off doing the washing forever, and I’ll get takeout because I can’t be bothered cooking I love the fact that what I do, is what I decide to do. I think it’s similar to when people first move out of home – either you’ll love it or want to go back. Right now I’m struggling to come to terms with fact that I’m going to have to go back to living at home!

One of my real concerns about being over here, was that I wasn’t going to cope. I wouldn’t be able to cook, or I’d ruin my clothing washing for the first time and other stupid concerns like that. The reality has been that I haven’t even got that homesick. I have spoken to some exchangers who really want to go back home, but for me, going home is the last thing I want to do! When you go on exchange, in the pre-departure briefing they show you a diagram that says that when you get to your exchange destination, there’s going to be a period where you’re upset, depressed, etc and want to go back home, after which things get better as you adjust living in a different country.

For me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I remember my first few days here as pure bliss – as my flight got into Amsterdam I could look out my window and see windmills, bike paths and the landscape was completely flat for as far as the eye could see! My first trip on the train, looking at the landscape, then being driven to my accommodation in Maastricht in a Mercedes S-Class (it was just a normal taxi!). After that came the first time I meet new people in the Guesthouse, then there was INKOM – the local’s orientation. Then the exchangers orientation run by ESN. And just when I thought things couldn’t get much better, then came my first trip to a new country on one of my many weekend trips. It just didn’t stop. And then there was the first time it snowed!

Ever since I’ve got here, things have just got more and more amazing and the only low points I can remember from the past 4 months are exams (which went as quickly as they came), and the point when I realized I wasn’t going to be seeing the sun for the next few months (Dutch weather, believe me when I say it’s horrid!). Sure studying at Maastricht is a challenge (and that is putting it at its mildest!) but I’m at the point now where I think there’s a reverse bell-curve going on, and now that I’ve only got about 3 weeks left (!! I have no idea where the time went !!) I’m getting more and more depressed.

Sure there are things that I miss about home. I’m very much looking forward to mum ‘helping out’ with the washing and cooking (:P), and I’ve really been missing people back home (and my dog!) but if I could extend my stay, I would. I remember thinking at the time I was planning – would I stay for a year if I could. Then I was a little afraid of the unknown. Now, if circumstances were different I’d be here for a year in a flash. Europe is the best. Everything is so close. Everyone is beautiful, and friendly to chat to. Exchangers are always up for fun. The food is amazing. The destinations are stunning, and so easy to get to… I could seriously go on for hours.

So whilst I do miss some parts of back home (i.e. sunlight, any resemblance of warmth, proper meat, and BBQ sauce which annoyingly you can’t get over here :/), the positives far far far far outweigh the negatives and all of this only adds to the fact that I seriously don’t want to go back!

If you’re thinking about staying for a year, do it! You won’t regret it, and I so wish I could.

How on earth do I know what I’m going to spend?

Exchange is expensive. Whoever tells you otherwise either went to the middle of Asia, or has an insane level of self-control that I certainly don’t possess. Everyone who I spoke to before-hand told me this, and to some extend I listened, but I don’t think I fully understood what living in Europe would be like. So to help you guys plan I’ve included the budget I used. A word of warning, it’s quite complicated, with cells feeding into each other, based off exchange rates and alike. If you’re looking about going on exchange, and want to use it to help you plan how much you’ll need give it a try, but if you need some help figuring out where to put things please email me – 🙂

There are a few links which you need:

  • Firstly a very important word document. This walks you through the process of adding information, and gives extra information. The link is here –
  • Next the template budget. This links directly in with the word document, and will automatically convert most figures into Euros or visa versa, as well as update for the exchange rate. I’ve also added comments next to each of the figures which need updating (indicated by a green background). The link is here –
  • Finally my exchange budget. It’s just a guide, and please read the word document first (as well as the next paragraph) as it gives the background to the document, but it might help give an idea of expenses. The link is here –

Before I start though, I do want to give a little word of caution about my story. What I have/am set to spend isn’t what most people spend. Looking at one of the other bloggers, Leonie, everything in Warsaw is a lot cheaper than what you’ll find in Western Europe! I remember, my trip to Budapest I spent more on the flights than I did the weekend so where you go has a big impact. Also what you do with your money is another thing. Friends of mine here use Libera for their mobile – it’s a low cost provider, but they don’t provide an internet service, and I ‘need’ (a relative word haha) internet for my iPhone. So I use Vodafone and spend about more. Similarly, in terms of food costs, there are a few supermarkets in the Netherlands. Of the ones close to me, there is Aldi (super-low cost), C1000 (mid-range) and the Albert Hein. Most people do a mixture of their shopping at Aldi and the C1000, where as I think I get better quality food at the Albert Hein. Another way I could be spending less, but I don’t.

Another big cost is travel. And by big I mean huge, and monstrous. I wouldn’t have it any other way, because seeing the world is simply incredible, but around half of what I’m spending on exchange is on travel, and that’s no small amount of money! If it wasn’t for the amount of travelling I’m doing, I’d probably have only spent about AUD$10,000-$15,000. Right now I have a friend on exchange at Leeds in the UK and he’s on track to spend about AUD$12,000. How I don’t know, but around that is what most exchange students I’ve spoken to tend to spend.

One of the big factors I think is where, and how much you travel. The tendency is for people who study in the UK to see the UK, and its also cheaper to do that through trains, and hostels. Part of my ‘problem’, is that I wanted to see Europe, and to do so from Maastricht usually requires flights, or expensive train trips. As I’ve included in the budget, generally a return flight (even with Ryanair) costs around the 100euros mark – quite good when you think about what you’re actually doing (flying to a completely different country!) but still expensive. I did manage to snag a flight to Porto, in Portugal for 35 euros return though, so the flights are there 🙂

Finally, and this is something I have and really want to stress – no amount of budgeting, or worrying about money can ever tell you one thing – what exchange will be worth for you. I’ve written about it heaps, and that’s because I strongly believe it. Exchange is without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever done, and will do for a long long time. I’m seeing the world, meeting amazing people and having a fantastic experience – all whilst getting credit to my degree. Without a doubt, I don’t regret anything about what I’ve done here, or will do, and wouldn’t have it any other way. That includes how much money I’m spending. Exchange is expensive, but what you get out of it is so immense, and really cant have a price tag on it. Please keep this in mind when going through the budget and figuring out what you can afford.

Anyway back to the budget – the documents I’ve provided should help with entering information, if you have any questions please send me an email ( and best of luck! I really mean it when I say everyone should do exchange, it really is incredible, and if costs are an issue there are a variety of methods to do it. You won’t regret it!

This week I’m off to Paris

Before I left Australia I had all sorts of questions and normally when you go on exchange, you’re given the details of the last student(s) who went to the uni you’re going to, to help with those questions. Sadly that wasn’t the case with me.

See I’m the first exchange student to visit Maastricht University (as its a new partner) and there was no-one to really ask – so when I was talking with the exchange staff, and I was told that at Maastricht I wouldn’t be getting much travel done (see my last post about studying here :$). When I heard that, a little part of me died inside. The reason I chose to study (cough cough) at Maastricht was so that I could see Europe as a (semi- but not really) European. My belief is that you go on exchange to have a life experience, and studying is just one part of that. It costs a heap of money to go too, so I wanted to make the most of it and travel was the key part of that for me! I wanted to see places like Paris, Rome and London, and in my head uni wasn’t going to get in the way of that… much. Thankfully now that I’m actually here , I’m very happy to say that they were wrong! Don’t get me wrong – Maastricht is tough. The courses are intense, and mandatory participation/attendance is incredibly annoying, but I think you make time for the things you want to do.

So far I’ve been to a heap of places. I’ve seen London (where I actually saw blue sky :O), Dublin (experienced first hand why the Irish drink so much, the weather!), Munich (for Oktoberfest!!), a fair bit of Holland (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Den Bosch, The Hague, Volendam & Scheveningen) as well as Budapest (simply amazing, without a doubt, amazing. Everyone should go!). That was in just 10 weeks! In the next ‘block’ (think school term, as I said Maastricht is weird!) I’m visiting Paris, Amsterdam again, Barcelona, possibly Stockholm and Porto in Portugal. Then I’ve got my Contiki Tour haha.

The point I’m making is that people will say what they want when you’re thinking of going somewhere. The advice is mostly really helpful (the best I was given was to 1) bring over an Australian powerboard, and attach it using a European adapter – it means instead of having 7 adapters, you can use one for the same purpose. And 2) also bring space bags, when packing backpacks to take on Ryanair, it makes putting your clothes in so! much easier!) but take some things with a grain of salt. I’ve had people tell me they didn’t like places that I ended up travelling to on the weekends, and instead of hating the place I loved loved it! Exchange is what you make it, I’m really enjoying myself (and majorly wishing I could be here for the whole year) but technically, based off what I was told I wouldn’t be going to any of the above places and instead I’d be stuck in my room studying. I know people here who are here doing that, but they’ve made the choice to place one thing as more important than another.

As I’m writing this I’m on the Thalys train to Paris, about 20minutes away from spending 5 days in a city I’ve always dreamed about. Exchange is the experience you make it – and I’m set on enjoying mine 🙂

Hmm – I don’t actually know anyone here…

Pretty much one of my biggest! concerns about going on exchange was just that – am I going to meet anyone, or am I going to be in my room crying for the next four months? Back in Brisbane things for me were nice and safe – I have an amazing partner, awesome friends and a whole city of people and places I know. Going on exchange meant changing that, going to a new place not knowing anyone… at least in the beginning.

I’ve been here nearly 2 months now, so I’m quite settled in but I still remember getting here and feeling so lost. I’d just traveled 12hrs from Bangkok to Amsterdam, then (somehow) managed to find my way to Maastricht (thanks to a lovely elderly couple who helped me find my train). Here though the real work began, because it is literally a case where I was on the complete and utter other side of the world, not knowing a soul.

The thing is though, and I’m sure every exchange student (including myself) will agree – it doesn’t stay like that! I arrived on Sunday night, was so tired (add a 5hr train journey onto the above travel time :/) and I asked the security guards to help me order take-away food** and then slept. The next day after exploring Maastricht for a little bit, others started moving in and there I met some of the people in my corridor. Many have all different kinds of things to say about Americans, but the ones I met that night were lovely! and not having any plans for dinner (the whole not knowing anyone didn’t help!), they invited me out with them all and sure as anything I’d just made my first friends on exchange. It was seriously that easy.

It’s not something people talk about a lot, because I think to admit being scared isn’t the bravest thing around, but the thing to remember is everyone is in the same boat. Some are lucky to come over with friends, but most know no-one. The rest of the week I had orientation with domestic students, and then the following week orientation with the exchangers. If your experience is half of what mine was over those two weeks, you’re going to know too many people to keep track of! And so 6 (or 7) weeks down the track I can safely say those fears were completely unfounded. I’ve made really really cool friends here, and it’s that which has made exchange for me 🙂

Until next time guys! Andrew

** when you leave Brisbane, make sure you take at least 100 euros with you. I’d probably suggest 200-300 euros, if not more, for the first few days. Train fares, lunch and taxis are just the beginning, and you don’t want to find your accommodation, unpack, nearly fall asleep and realise your extremely hungry, with no money for dinner!

So I’ve been asked to write this blog

Hi guys, well my name’s Andrew, I’m 19 and I study a Bachelor of Business at QUT. This year, in second semester I’m spending five months on exchange, and I’ve been asked to write about it.

The main reason I think is because going on exchange is a really big decision. It’s expensive, and means leaving everything back home – but that’s the beauty of it. My five months are going to be spent in the Netherlands, in a town called Maastricht. It’s quite small, just over 120,000 people (when university is in), and really different. The city looks nothing like Brisbane (see below), most locals speak about 4 or 5 languages (thankfully one of them is English) and it’s on other-side of the world. It’s so different to back home, and that’s why I chose it.

Hopefully what I write over the next few months will help inspire more people to go on exchange, because for some reason not many people from QUT do it. I’ve been here for a couple of weeks now and I can say without a doubt it will be the best thing I’ll do for a very long time. The people I’ve met so far (locals and other exchangers) are so friendly, I’ve visited some really awesome places (London, Dublin and Amsterdam to name a few) and there are heaps more planned (thanks to Ryanair). Before I left I had heaps of concerns, I mean getting on exchange was hard enough! – but now that I’m here I know I made the right decision.

I’ve got to play catch-up a little with my next few posts, writing about the first few weeks after the first few weeks haha, so please excuse the time-line but hopefully by the end it’ll give an accurate depiction of what exchange is like, and why you should do it!

Talk soon!