Studying in Amsterdam with IES wasn't just a life changing experience, it was preparation for life after graduation and acceptance of a new life style and culture. Looking back on it, I wouldn’t have chosen another program or location. I met tons of other study abroad students from various countries who said they loved their program, but Amsterdam was their favorite city they had visited. When I asked them questions, some of those students also mentioned how they wouldn’t live in their host country, and some also said they were happy, but would be ready for a change of pace once home. One of my best friends from study abroad is actually a returned study abroad student who came back to live in Amsterdam! Everyone who I studied with in Amsterdam out of my friend group, Erasmus, etc. all wants to come back and live. None of us found a city better than Amsterdam while traveling either. Most people say Amsterdam is the best city in Europe, but study abroad really showed me how incredible The Netherlands really is. So don’t be discouraged because I chose a program as the only student from my home school, so I didn't know anyone on the program when I arrived. And I ended up finding a home away from home.
The orientation week, along with International Student Network's UvA orientation made me feel right at home while just starting out in The Netherlands. The staff were incredible over the whole semester, so I highly recommend IES. When my wallet was stolen, I was able to replace everything within a week with their help! I will say that this program has staff that are more highly involved, so if you are looking for complete independence you may want to be aware that there will be check-in’s, meetings, etc. over the course of your program with IES.
In terms of course work, studying in Amsterdam at UvA isn’t easy, but it isn’t difficult. It’s just like attending school at your home university, which I really appreciated. I felt challenged in the courses I took, and I felt like I was experiencing new ways of learning. I took a course with IES called Studio Art that allowed me to learn about art in Amsterdam, which helped me to understand the artist scene in the city while integrating into Dutch culture. I made connections with programs and professors that I will use in my professional and graduate school career!
UvA has a great social scene as well. It was easy to make Dutch friends through ISN (their Erasmus). Some people say it’s hard to become part of the Dutch culture, but I didn’t find this was the case. If you spend time learning about the culture, language and people, then you will find integration easier since you will be able to think and act like a local (just a tip). ISN gave me a group of friends, events and weekend trips to attend while on study abroad. It was one of the main reasons I had such an incredible experience. The group of around 400+ students who lived all over the city made me feel at home and made the big city seem small. Every week there was a borrel to attend, or some sort of big weekend event. Then on our own, my group would meet up for potluck dinners, and other events on our own! IES also schedules trips around The Netherlands and to various places in Amsterdam, which I highly suggest.
Beyond school, IES and ISN, Study in Amsterdam had the option to live at The Student Hotel. This was THE BEST decision I made. I paid extra each month to live here: https://www.thestudenthotel.com/amsterdam-city/ It was a whole international student dorm in a central location to the city complete with a free bike, gym, study rooms, restaurants, events, etc. It was like a whole new family of international student. I even had my own studio apartment. It’s right by a Check out the website to see why I loved it so much!
The city of Amsterdam itself has everything you could think of … How I explored the city was by visiting 50 different cafés in Amsterdam over the course of 4 months. I even was able to volunteer and work on two different sustainable/entrepreneurial projects in the city because Amsterdam is a hub for innovation. The city is in prime location to visit most other European countries as well. Name something to do, see or experience and you have it. You can look at this blog and their weekly events newsletters to see a bit of the excitement (http://www.yourlittleblackbook.me/).
Amsterdam is the city of dreams, and I am not doing it justice through just a small review! I fell in love with a culture, people and place I will go back to live in one day. Study abroad didn’t just become a life changing experience for me, it helped me find my home.