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by the UvA's Global Exchange Ambassadors (Autumn 2015)

In the following reports, you will read about the experiences of several UvA students who went abroad or international students who came to Amsterdam from all over the world.

Stephanie - Canada (Montreal)

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Stephanie (2nd to left) is studying Accounting.

Tell us about your experience at the UvA.

The University of Amsterdam is a great school! Since I don’t speak Dutch, I took my classes in English and I was happily surprised with the level of English from my professors. The school is well organized and there is always someone ready to help us in case we don’t understand something or we don’t know where to go. Also, I love the campus!!

What would you say to a student who is thinking of doing a global exchange in Amsterdam?

Do it! Don’t hesitate! I think whichever city you go to is going to be amazing, but Amsterdam has something special. It’s a vibrant city and there’s something for everyone! The city will make you feel so welcome, with its canals and beautiful houses, that I still can’t get enough of!!

Samantha - USA (California)

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Samantha is studying Child Development.

What motivated you to go on an exchange?

It was the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, while immersing myself in an entirely new culture and city, along with a completely different way of learning at the UvA. To not only take this opportunity to receive credits towards my degree, but to study and learn from others, new cities, and myself, being so far away from home, and outside my comfort zones, for the first time. 

What would you say to a student who is thinking of doing a global exchange in Amsterdam?

I would tell a student thinking of going on global exchange in Amsterdam to be prepared to be in awe the moment you arrive to everyday after waking up each day. From the kindness of the locals to the sparking canals, Amsterdam is truly a city like no other. Amsterdam is so much more than the Red Light District and coffeeshops, and that is something you will discover and appreciate as soon as you arrive, so grab a map and get lost because their are so many hidden gems!

Justine - Canada (Montreal)

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Justine is studying Law.

Why did you choose Amsterdam?

The opportunity to live in one of the most picturesque and cosmopolitan cities of the world is certainly a motivation to study at the University of Amsterdam. I was very enthusiastic at the idea of integrating the Amsterdam community as a student and discovering the arts, entertainment and social activities of this city. The location of Amsterdam is also an undeniable advantage, being well connected for travelling within Europe. This semester is my first time in Europe and I am convinced that living in the Netherlands will make it an unforgettable journey. Even more, I believe that the Global Exchange program is an unique occasion to improve my English skills, pursue my academic and personal horizons while building a strong network with the local and international student body.

Chloe - South Africa (Cape Town)

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Chloe is studying Psychology and History.

What did I get out of exchange so far?

I have gained so much from my exchange experience, but the highlight definitely has to be all the incredible people I have met. I have loved meeting people from all over the world and listening to their experiences and sharing my own. It has allowed me to think about the world from so many new perspectives - something I would not have been able to experience if I was not on exchange. So many of the people I have met have turned into great friends and have helped to shape some of my favourite exchange memories so far. I find it incredible that I did not know most of these people two months ago! More practically, these friends are around whenever I need anything - if I am homesick or worried about university work - and they have helped to make the transition into life in Amsterdam that much easier! 

Ayan Omar - USA (Minneapolis) 

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Ayan is studying Psychology.

What’s one thing you wish you knew before going abroad?

There are many things I wish I knew before coming abroad, but I think the thing that I'm constantly reminded of is how much I overpacked! You really just need the essentials plus maybe a few signature items, the rest is unnecessary. Plus, you'll most likely do some shopping while abroad!

Do you have tips to meet people here, based on your experience so far?

My biggest tip would be to get out of your comfort zone and be open to everything! While abroad of course you can expect some differences from your home country, but the way you react to those differences will be a big determinant of how much you enjoy your time abroad. Make the most of your time because it will be over before you know it!

Katherine Budeski - USA (Bozeman)

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Katherine is studying Biochemistry.

How do you balance your life here with your life back home ?

All exchange students face the challenge of living a double life. Trying to remain connected to their primary home and their new home abroad. Balancing both of these lives can be tricky but what I find important is remembering that I live in Amsterdam and my mind and body need to be present here. If my mind is trying to live somewhere else I will never fully be able to enjoy my year abroad. Most of the time this means cutting back on skype calls, texting, and most forms of social media and maybe substituting some of these with a postcard reminding myself that I am living abroad.

How do you deal with homesickness ?

The easiest way to deal with homesickness for me is by cooking my favorite meals from home and sharing them with my new friends abroad. There is nothing better than gathering friends around a table of homemade food.

Maartje - the Netherlands (Amsterdam)

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Maartje is on exchange in the USA (Atlanta) and is studying Film studies.

What's one thing you wish you knew while being abroad?

I wish I knew that I didn’t have to be afraid for things going wrong. Of course things will go wrong! Just deal with it, and it will get better! For example, the first few weeks were tough and I felt lost. Of course at the end it was the most amazing experience ever. You’ll appreciate the good things even better after some problems! If I could back, I would do everything exactly the same. Well, maybe I would have stressed a little less beforehand. I would’ve stopped thinking about the things that could go wrong and started enjoying the moment.

According to your experience, do you have tips to meet people while being abroad?

Be out there! Nobody knows you, try to be a more outgoing person if you're not one already. If people don't like it: you'll be gone within 4 or 10 months! Try to bond with your roommates, talk to your classmates, go to the gym. I also decide to join two discussion groups on LGBTQ-community, to meet people with similar interests.

Ilse - the Netherlands (Amsterdam) 

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Ilse is on exchange in Japan (Tokyo) and is studying Arts & Culture.

How did you balance school with your social life there and your travels?

To be honest, it is easy. Since everyone is on an exchange and not just traveling without any further obligations, everyone needs to study as well. The students you meet there also like having fun of course, but we studied together and afterwards or in the weekends we went sightseeing and my schedule was always full but I enjoyed every minute of it. Even when I needed to study it was ‘fun’ because we were all together. 

How did you balance your life there with your life back home?

This I found difficult in the beginning because there was such a big time difference (8 hours!) After a while I started changing my habit of wanting to share everything with my friends from Holland. When I realized that it wasn’t necessary to share everything and that I should just have a good time where I was at that very moment, I started feeling more relaxed. This did not mean that I forgot my old friends because we would still have contact. My opinion is to be in the moment!

Lisanne - the Netherlands (Amsterdam) 

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Lisanne is on exchange in the USA (New York) and is studying Communication.

What did you get out of your exchange?

What I got out of my exchange semester was difficult to say at first, since you do not really know the answer to this question when you are experiencing it and enjoying the life abroad. However, now a couple of months later I can definitely say that the exchange has broadened my worldview and my perspective on so many things in life. It has given me the confidence and confirmation that I can handle myself in any situation and that I can make new contacts fairly easy in an environment in which I am alone and do not know anybody. Also the entire experience has given me so much fun, new knowledge about other cultures and a different, but interesting approach in my study.

How did you meet new people?

Well, I can honestly say that joining the introduction days is a really important way to meet new people right from the start that you are there. It turned out, these were also the people I hang out with for the rest of the semester. Furthermore, I recommend to definitely try to go to organized events or join a sports club or any club for that matter. That is where you will meet even more new people and they might even turn out to become really good friends.

Exchange Express

The Exchange Express is a newsletter which contains a selection of student testimonials and experiences. You can download the most recent issues here.

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