All good things must come to an end and so did my semester abroad in Amsterdam! I am really glad I took the chance to make the experience of living in a different culture and experience exchange life to the fullest. As all things in life, there’s ups and downs. Just to let you know what to expect when studying in the Netherlands here are my Top 5 of the things I loved and the things I hated.
5 Things I Loved
Positivity comes first, so here’s the things I will definitely miss once I’m back home:
1.The Great Public Transport System
The public transport system in the Netherlands have the big advantage of being one centralized system. You can get on the bus, tram, train or metro with the OV chipkaart. Traveling throughout the Netherlands is really simple as you just put money on the card and go. It might get a little expensive, as the do not offer a subscription where you just pay a set amount and then travel as much as you like. You continuously top up your card according to how much you need. The public transport systems are really popular throughout the whole country, and they are almost always on time and super safe.
2. The Variety of Things To Do
Amsterdam has so many museums, restaurants, cafés and activities going on, it is really hard to pick what you want to do during your exchange! I definitely did not manage to go everywhere I wanted, but that was more because university was quite a lot of work and I didn’t want to stress about my free time.
3. The Techno Scene
Ok, this is definitely a point of personal preference, but I loved the techno scene here in Amsterdam. The clubs and festival here are just insane and I’m so glad I got to go to loads of different sets during my time here. I know a lot of exchange students didn’t really like the clubbing scene here as they didn’t expect it to be so much on the techno/EDM scene, so be warned about this!
4. The International Student Scene
This is definitely the thing that anyone will mention in their ‘best of my semester abroad’ section! The people you meet during your exchange really are the base of the experience. There’s around 900 international students in Amsterdam each semester, so it takes a while to find the people you vibe with the most, but it does pay off in the end. In my case, most of my friends lived in different dorms, so it was kind of hard to keep up with all of them. I can proudly say that I made friends from all over the world and got to meet so many different cultures and backgrounds through this exchange.
5. The Convenience Section in Grocery Stores
Everything in Amsterdam is made to go – which is a big subject of discussion. To me though, it was a huge benefit, as I didn’t want to spend hours in my kitchen. Albert Heijn and all other grocery stores have a huge selection of convenience foods, that are perfectly fresh and of great quality. You really can’t call these junk food, because they are not like traditional ready-meals. I really enjoyed not having to spend hours buying and portioning the ingredients separately but just being able to buy single-sized portions. The only downside of this is how everything is wrapped and sealed in plastic…
5 Things I Hated
And here’s the things I did not really enjoy and just could not get used to:
1. The Lack of Good Bread
This is probably the most Austrian thing to say, but it is so so true! No other place in the world has bread as trasteless as the Netherlands, hence why they put all types of weird stuff on it (just google hagelslag!). Basically, the bread here in NL is what I would refer to as toast back home – the rectangular stuff you stick into the toaster because otherwise it tastes like a sponge.
2. So Many Tourists!
Maybe it’s just because I come from a small town, but Amsterdam really has a disease called mass-tourism. It is almost impossible to walk in a straight line on Kalversstraat or through the grachten. Don’t get me wrong, traveling is a beautiful thing and I love to do it too, but it’s become an environmental disaster here in Amsterdam. Large groups of tourists clog the small streets, which is a serious safety hazard, and the city is full of waste on the ground and bins boiling over. They just recently set up signs stating that littering and drinking in public places will get you a fine. I honestly think the fines should be much higher than 140€ and tourists should be charged a tax for all the damage they do. Amsterdam itself has a very cute and calm vibe, and it’s that mass-tourism that harms its nature.
3. The Separated Student Life
This one is kind of hard to explain, but the thing is Amsterdam is home to almost 900 exchange students each semester, so you can imagine that is a lot. All of us are seperated not only by which dorms we live in but also which faculty we study at and the courses we take. This gives you an idea of how hard it is, especially in the beginning, to find the people you vibe with and catch up with throughout the semester.
4. The University
Honestly, the university and grading system here in the Netherlands did not impress me in any way. The level of what we had to study was relatively low and few compared to back home in Austria. Aside from that, I think university here is much more like school. You get homework almost all the time, assignments and readings are a regular thing too and they hardly have a syllabus for each class. Professors often change certain assignments as they please and hardly give out any info on tests.
5. The Rudeness of People
I know Dutch people like to refer to this as ‘directness’ but in reality they sometimes just act rude. They will tell you everything right away and generally seem very stubborn about their opinion. Also, the hardly let you get out on public transport and act as if they are the only person on the vehicle. They often talk loudly and play music. To me. that is just plain rude behavior. Don’t get me wrong! I’ve met loads of fun and nice Dutch people, but they really have to acknowledge the fact that they are acting rude in comparison to other nationalities.
Anyway, this was my take on the ups and downs of exchange life!