Students and staff share their experiences of Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam.
From Moscow to Toronto
“My parents are Russian-Ukrainian. I was born in Moscow, where I lived for nine years before we moved to Canada. There was an opportunity, so we took it. My family and I moved to Toronto, for many reasons, one of which was the better education in Canada. We weren’t sure if we would go back to Russia or not, so I actually did two high schools. I studied at school in Canada and online in Moscow. So besides my high school in Toronto, I did this kind of home school education and I would fly to Moscow a few times a year to pass exams.
We didn’t end up going back to Russia, but I carried on with my two schools. It was a lot of work, but it was cool, because to have two different kinds of education is interesting. In Moscow, they were stricter and more focused on the facts, so I learned factual thinking there. In Canada, I learned how to apply the theories. I think that was very useful. Plus I didn’t forget the Russian language.”
From Toronto to Amsterdam
“Before I finished school, I started to look at universities in Europe. I wanted to move again, because I could see the benefit of it. Moving away from your country is very, very hard, but it is a rewarding experience to see new things and meet new people. The Netherlands is pretty much the only place in the EU where they offer a wide range of Bachelor’s subjects in English. Except for the UK, of course, but it’s too expensive to go to college there.
I was deciding between Media and Information and Communication Sciences at the UvA. I always wanted to be in media. At school in Canada we had a very nice film course which was hands-on. My first job was in photography. I like photo and video, and in the future I want to work in the media field. At school, we also had a course called SAP, which was Sociology, Anthropology and Psychology. I found that background in human interaction and communication really interesting, so I eventually chose to do Communication Sciences at the UvA.”
“Of course it’s nice to say that my university is number one in communications. It’s something I looked, but it was not the main reason I chose the UvA. The city of Amsterdam and the programme itself appealed to me the most. One of the other reasons was that I really liked the way the application process works at the UvA. It is not as highly competitive if you want to start your Bachelor’s here. The approach is more: if you qualify for the entry requirements, you are welcome and we want you. So I moved here to do the full Bachelor’s.
Luckily, I got a scholarship to come: the Amsterdam Merit Scholarship from the UvA Faculty of Social Sciences. The scholarship fully covers the tuition costs. To get it, you have to be a very good student - in the top ten percent of your graduation class - and you had to have a lot of extracurriculars. I did all that in Canada. I was so lucky, I still can’t believe it. I got into other schools as well, one of which was National University of Australia. That school is on Princeton level, so I just wanted to see if I could get in. However, it was too expensive and competitive, so I wasn’t really interested in going there.”
“I came to orientate during the Bachelors Day, which was a very sudden decision. I bought the ticket three hours before the departure of the flight. I ran to the airport and booked a hostel while waiting for my flight to depart. Now, it’s kind of funny, I live across the street from that hostel. I met one of the student ambassadors, Laura, at the Bachelors Day. I talked to her a lot and I’m so glad I met her. She was a great help and in the end she’s probably the reason I’m here.
I stayed in Amsterdam for a few days to discover the city a bit more. I found the buildings to be quite low. It’s like a village, but with opportunities of a city. I don’t think Amsterdam should be bigger, it will lose its character then. I also really like the whole biking culture. I was always a fan of that. It’s very unsafe to bike in Canada, but I did it anyways. Here it’s not dangerous, the infrastructure makes it safe. I like that you can get around everywhere by bike.”
Discovering the Netherlands
“I didn’t know much about the Netherlands before. Just that the government system is pretty much the same as in Canada. But other than that, nothing, really. Only the most stereotypical things, like the tulips. I found that the atmosphere and the mind-set of people here is different. It’s easy to do things outside of the box and to find people who also think outside the box.
Most Dutch people are not very open for connection, at first glance. Maybe that’s because I’m from Canada where you easily get in touch with others, but I feel like you need more time with Dutch people. They are very nice, but you need time to get to know them. They’re like Russian people. Once you know them, they’re the best, but if you don’t, they’re kind of scary. I like the Dutch mentality of ‘let’s get down to business’. I like how people are straightforward and active and care about themselves. My spontaneous self can grow here, with all the potential trips and meeting new people.
I love to travel around, I do it almost every weekend. It’s easy just to grab a train or rent a car and go anywhere. I’ve been to Belgium, to France and Iceland. I walked around, tried some Belgian waffles. Just now, I bought a ticket to Moscow, to visit my family for the weekend. Everything is so close here, compared to Canada.”
“Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, so I’m used to a multicultural place which is similar to Amsterdam. This is also reflected in my class, so many students are from all over the world. I love that. The students are quite interesting - you can build a diverse network by going to college together.
It’s hard to explain what Communication Sciences is. My parents still think I study emoji. Also, some people think we study social media and how to get followers on Instagram. That’s not the case, of course. We study the science behind every form of human communication, we’re research focused. So we do a bit of sociology, psychology, and anthropology. I love the fact that all those social science disciplines come together in this programme.
It surprised me that the professors are very young, in their thirties and forties. It makes it easier for us to connect on a personal level, because they understand our struggles. They were just in our shoes a few years ago, which makes them very approachable. One professor said: ‘Don’t email me, tweet me’. They are very down to earth, they’re in this with us. Of course, there should also be respect, and I think most lecturers have that.”
“For aspiring students my advice would be: research. Research very thoroughly, look at the university websites, all the information you need is there. For example, I didn’t know that University of Amsterdam was a research university, so I was surprised by the amount of research that is done here. For those kinds of things, it’s good to prepare yourself. Google is your best friend. I would also advise to visit the Open Day if possible, or watch the live stream of it.
At university, you need to be ready to have your opinions challenged. What university gives is soft skills, the abilities to critically think about problems, to analyse, to look for different ways of approaching things. It’s not something tangible. The ideal UvA student is a person that wishes to learn those skills, through hard work, cause that’s the only way. Through reading, thinking, and asking questions to start a discussion, and to be open-minded in these things. The hard part is to stay here once you’ve gotten in. Be realistic, understand the reality of living in Amsterdam. Although it’s an amazing city, there are some challenging aspects, such as finding housing.”
“I don’t know where I’ll go in the future. Maybe I’ll do an exchange programme or an internship abroad. I’ll probably do a Masters programme and after that maybe I’ll go into teaching, maybe more into the arts. My dream job would be to be a professional photographer. We’ll see, maybe I’ll get a PhD. ‘
Right now, I’m satisfied with my choice. I feel challenged here. Because I had a double high school education, I’m used to a big workload. The workload is pretty hard here, I think that’s why I like it. Coming in, I thought: I’m going to try this, it sounds like a very interesting experience. If it works, that’s great, if it doesn’t: fine, that’s also an experience. I was just interested in trying it out. I don’t like regretting things, I’ve done things for a reason. Looking back now, I don’t think I would change anything. I’ve worked very hard to make this happen. I had three jobs to make money to come here and luckily I got the scholarship. It has been a dream for so long, now it has become a reality.”
My new home, Amsterdam
Coming from Korea to study in Amsterdam has given me the opportunity to meet people from different nationalities and to learn more about their opinions and lifestyles. Amsterdam is one of the most multicultural cities in the world; the city is very alive, people are friendly and helpful.
After starting the programme I have learnt more about myself; how to be independent, responsible and confident. I had to get used to the biking culture which is different to where I come from. However, it is a unique experience that enriched my social knowledge and
First-year highs and lows
The programme has deepened my understanding of theory, which is easy to handle. The statistical part was challenging at the beginning. However, the combination of theory and statistics is a great advantage to learn how to apply communication theories into real-life settings. I strongly recommend new students to prepare for statistics and study hard but always have time for some fun.
I am planning to do an exchange abroad and afterwards following a Master’s in Communication Science at the UvA, giving me more opportunities. This will enhance the chance to get a job in Amsterdam being one of the most diverse hubs of the international companies in the world.
Combining your passion with your studies
I chose communication science because of my interest in daily life phenomena; the logic behind our regular use of social media, media consumption and how all of this could influence our lives. My passion is entertainment communication: the subject is connected to daily life, it enables me to study all the technologies, applications and media that we use every day. Through entertainment communication, I am able to combine my personal interest in music and video games with an academic study that appeals to me. This connection makes student life very interesting and meaningful.
Student in your own city
Student life in Amsterdam is a wonderful experience, an international and diverse city where you can meet new people and dive into the culture and nightlife as a student. The UvA is a cosy place, making it easy to make connections, widen your social circle and, of course, find a job next to your study.
Flexible but challenging
The programme has a flexible set-up: it grants me the freedom to personalize my study and to choose what topics appeal to my interests. Interested in music, I have the option to follow a minor in music science. In the beginning, the programme might seem a bit overwhelming, especially statistics; being new for everyone, however, after a while, you will get used to it.
Communication science gives me the opportunity to meet people from all around the world, working with students from different backgrounds and learning more about different cultures. The classes are small and international which creates interesting discussions with many different perspectives.
To personalise my study I am currently writing my thesis within Persuasive Communication and next year I am planning to go abroad for one semester. I will do my electives at the University of Melbourne, Australia. The global exchange programme that the UvA offers is a great opportunity to experience new student life in a different environment and to learn about more interesting subjects outside Communication Science. In addition, I chose to put my academic knowledge into practice by doing an internship in an international organisation.
Passion for Persuasive Communication
The topic of Persuasive Communication enables me to learn more about people’s behaviours and ways to influence them to live healthier. In a couple of years, I would see myself working in a communication marketing department; using communication means to develop strategies that help people, for example, to improve their well-being.
Flashback to a great experience
After 3 years of studying Communication Science, I learnt to critically examine scientific papers and how to conduct research appropriately. The programme taught me how news works, how companies organise their communication activities and the relationship between communication professionals and journalists. Besides giving me tools to examine my media environment, it sparked my interest in Corporate Communication.
Next Steps: Research Master in Communication Science at the UvA
After finishing my Bachelor’s degree in the summer, I will start the Research Master at the Graduate School of Communication. During my internship at a big tech company I was able to utilise my skills and add value to the organisation. I want to further deepen these skills and gain in-depth knowledge of different research methods, run big data analyses and come up with research results that contribute to the academic and professional community.
Variety of choices for the Research Master
My personal interest lies in corporate communication. This track offers insights into communication within and between organisations, stakeholders’ relations, and crisis management. Examining Corporate Communication is a great opportunity to get an understanding of how organisations operate within the ever-changing field of media.
Developing my personal skills
Studying Communication Science was challengining in the beginning. However, it enhanced my personal skills such as public speaking, level of English, academic writing, and time management. As a broad programme teaching different functions of communication, it helped me to discover my personal interest and directed me towards a more specific topic shaping my academic and career future plans.
Interest in Political Communication
The topic of Political Communication offers knowledge about how politics work as well as insights into the global political media debate. Within this track, I have learnt how to develop political campaigns about issues that have a strong presence in the media. Such knowledge made me realise how we can solve issues in real life and make a change for the better.
Different options, one goal
In the second year, I had the chance to start personalising my study and therefore, I did a minor in political science. I have gained much insight into the interplay between public, media and politics. It was interesting to be able to reflect on my background and to learn about European laws and the political sphere.
After my Bachelor’s I am applying for a Master’s in Political Communication. This will introduce me to a wide range of job possibilities in Amsterdam, being an international environment where global debate is taking place.
What Communication Science has to offer
Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam is a social and behavioural programme that regards its mission to study the production, content, reception and effects of public communication. We aspire to train students to be well-qualified communication science professionals who find their way in a globalised professional field. The programme has a broad orientation and is international in its substantive focus, with four domains of primary interest: Corporate Communication, Entertainment Communication, Persuasive Communication and Political Communication and Journalism.
We aim to train students to analyse and understand how communication processes take place, also how media fulfil their function within various domains in society. There is explicit attention to investigating these processes through empirical-analytical research methods. Therefore, a considerable part of the programme includes quantitative and qualitative research methods.
A structure that deepens knowledge and meets interests
The first year and half of the programme are fixed. In this phase, we introduce the study to students by offering courses that contain theories and methods in all four domains of communication. In the second year and a half, students are allowed to customise their study to meet their interests and career goals best. Offered a diverse range of options students can choose electives, a minor within Communication Science, a minor in another discipline, or doing an internship or courses abroad.
Why choose Communication Science?
An academic diploma in Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam opens up a wide range of future opportunities. The programme provides students with skills and competencies required for the job market, such as: approaching problems and situations analytically and systematically, dealing with insecure challenges creatively, and being able to work independently. Also, the study qualifies students for the Master’s programmes. Accordingly, the primary qualifications we aim for are understanding the field of communication, gaining knowledge in research methods, and problem-solving abilities. Communication Science at the UvA has an excellent reputation; maintaining its position in the top10 best programmes worldwide. The programme was ranked as number 1 worldwide according to the 2019 QS World University Rankings by Subject.
Entertainment Communication: what to expect
Entertainment Communication explores the process of selection and use of entertainment. As well as the effects of this process on individuals and society. The course focuses on mediated forms of entertainment; films, TV series, video games, online videos, and music. Besides, it examines the elements we can apply to trigger a desired response by the audience.
Given both theoretical and practical tools, students will acquire scientific knowledge about the content that appeals to a specific audience and makes successful shows. For example, using violence in some TV series such as Game of Thrones is a common phenomenon, but how could the appealing to this content affect the viewer?
Future in Entertainment Communication
Entertainment is at the forefront of many technological developments such as virtual reality, which started as a form of entertainment (games). Then eventually became a simulating world applied outside the game to cure fears of spiders or heights. Entertainment is integrated into everyday culture, all other domains have used the success of its factors; news media, corporations, advertisers and governmental institutions. The overall goal of using entertainment is to enhance the appeal of their message and to improve its effectiveness.
By focusing on the psychological aspects of media, the course helps students to work in big media organisations, especially with the rapidly growing demand on the part of organisations to know more about the preferences of individuals.
Motivations and challenges
Some students underestimate the topic of entertainment; sometimes, it is perceived as a mindless field that you learn for fun. However, there is a thriving industry, compelling purpose and a scientific knowledge behind it. These powerful elements of entertainment can be used to create effective and stronger messages to motivate different types of users.
Interaction with students is one of the most motivating aspects of my work; enthusiasm to learn more about the topic creates interesting debates in the lecture room. This involvement and eagerness make the experience enjoyable for both lecturers and students, mainly when the exchange of ideas and various perspectives occur during lectures.
Tutoraat is the academic skills course of the Dutch track. In the first semester, the focus is to upskill first-year students with study aspects, such as exam preparation, academic writing and course registration. We also focus on the challenges that students might have and help them to overcome them through reflection. The emphasis in the second semester is on professional development, career orientation skills and study possibilities; how to customise study in the second and third year of the bachelor’s programme. Some students might feel overwhelmed by the various choices they have to make throughout their bachelor’s. Therefore, we help students to tackle these issues and tutor them in this learning process. My advice to students is to focus on time management and reflection skills. However, do not forget to enjoy the student life in Amsterdam.
Enjoyable work environment
I have always enjoyed working in Communication Science since I started at the end of 2011. As the office manager of College of Communication, I get to work with a great team of supporting staff (and sometimes lecturers). Being a tutor gives me the chance to work and interact with different groups of students which requires using different dynamics and techniques. This allows me to challenge and improve my professional skills, such as educational and study guidance skills.
Corporate Communication: Studying an ever-changing environment
Corporate Communications studies forms of communication that organisations use towards a variety of stakeholders, including employees, consumers, government institutions, and media. Having a background in Political Communication and Journalism developed a personal interest in the relationship between organisations and media, particularly the news media.
The course helps students to understand how and under what circumstances organisations are portrayed in the news. Also, it explores the influence of corporates on this process and the effects of media coverage on both reputation and legitimacy of an organisation. The fact that these processes are so dynamic and continuously evolving makes this field so exciting – think of the impact of social media or the changing norms about an organisation’s social responsibility. It’s great to discuss these issues with students.
Critical thinking and humour as teaching tools
It all starts with engagement to bond with students; making sure they are comfortable and safe to ask questions. It is vital to stimulate a critical debate during lectures and motivate students to think critically about issues. I believe that using humour during lectures works well both to engage with students and to create a pleasant atmosphere. These methods correspond with the young, dynamic and motivating team at the Communication Science department. All of this makes it enjoyable to work here; everyone is eager to learn, spread knowledge and exchange expertise in an international workplace.
International environment brings a new dimension to lecturing experience
International students brought a new dimension into lecturing; as lecturers, we create ways to spark students’ interest and needs. Coming from different backgrounds, students reckon different logic and reasoning mindsets which stimulates lecturers to think out of the box; for instance, by clarifying abstract concepts through examples that apply to various cultural settings.
The cultural diversity of the programme creates an exciting platform for debate in the class where everyone is motivated to learn about new perspectives and to think outside their cultural boundaries.
Variety of choices to personalise your study
Students have the opportunity to customise their study; in the second one and a half year, you can tailor your programme. Various options are offered such as Electives, Internship, Minors and Study Abroad. Students are free to choose electives that best meet their interests and career goals. The courses could be separate electives within or outside the field of communication; the same applies minors that deepen students’ knowledge in a specific topic and make them ready for the Master’s. Through the global exchange programme, students can choose to take some courses abroad in other universities in Europe and around the World. To put their knowledge into practice, students are offered an opportunity to enter the job market by doing an internship in or outside of Amsterdam.
Student life in Amsterdam
In the beginning, adapting to a new culture, education system and different ways of teaching could be challenging. After getting used to living in Amsterdam, you will have a great experience. Amsterdam has a lot to offer; museums, study associations, sports activities and an exciting nightlife.
Working as a student in Amsterdam is a good experience, but perhaps not more than two days a week to keep the balance between study and work. The international track has a variety of different nationalities, which creates a fascinating debate in classrooms and allows students to get to know people with different cultures and perspectives.
What study advisors do
We help students with questions, suggestions and planning their study. Such as, admissions, housing, and personalising the study programme. We also work together with students to solve problems and get over personal circumstances that might affect their study.
Interaction with students is the most exciting part of working at Communication Science, especially in big and important events like the Introduction day and the Bachelor’s day. We get to meet new students from different backgrounds, speak to them and introduce our programme the best way. Therefore, being flexible and approachable is the key to making it an excellent experience for both students and colleagues.