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Pia Christiansson from Sweden

Pia Christiansson, Stockholm University, Sweden, exchange student Pedagogical and Educational Sciences:

While finishing my work during my exchange semester here at the UvA, with the last exam to be done at the end of the month, I look back and think about this experience. I have definitely had a great time and I will try to explain what made it such a great experience.

The city is a good combination of a small town feeling, with its small-scaled streets and dense city centre while at the same time it has all the facilities which a big city can offer such as festivals, museums, cinemas (including several film-festivals), shops, bars, theatres and markets.

Bike riding

The small size also explains the Dutch people’s preference for bike riding and I must say that I am hooked as well. It is so easy to jump on a bike instead of spending “hours” of waiting for buses or trams, and it also takes you to the exact location you want to go. I have to admit that it was quite scary though in the beginning. It takes some time to get used to the biking “rules” of Amsterdam; nobody really stops for red lights, and everybody rides on bikes that seems to fall apart any second, but in a strange way the traffic seems to run smoothly anyway.

I now have a proper Amsterdam bike, a black grandma’ model with a package holder in the front, which I proudly ride along the canals, still quite carefully though (compared to the natives).

The courses

The studies have sometimes been really hard. Two of the courses I took during the semester where taught in Dutch and it was quite hard to follow in the beginning. But thanks to understanding and patient teachers and students it worked out quite well. The literature was in English though which is almost a necessity if you are not really good in Dutch. I was also allowed to answer my written exams in English, but the questions were in Dutch (in some courses you can also get a special exam in English), and with a permission note from the administration I was also allowed to bring a dictionary along to the exam.

Learning Dutch

The positive thing about taking courses in Dutch is that I was able to take classes with mostly Dutch people, which I thought was much nicer than spending time with other exchange students only. I had been taking language courses before, in Barcelona, where I only took classes with non-Spanish students, and we foreigners became a bit isolated from Spanish life. Of course there are other reasons for this as well: one is that Dutch students all have a good command of English which makes it easier to communicate.

Tips for new students

When I arrived in Amsterdam the university staff gave me an excellent booklet containing information about both the university and its facilities and handy facts about Amsterdam. It has definitely been something I have frequently used, but I would like to finish by giving some tips of my own:
Market in Amsterdam
  • Saturday market at Lindengracht and Noordenmarkt in Jordaan offers everything from cheap socks to meat, cheese and organic vegetables.
  • The Chinese supermarket at the corner of Nieuwmarkt is excellent for finding fun and cheap food.
  • My favourite museum is FOAM (Photographic museum of Amsterdam) which always shows good exhibitions.