Small classes, personal approach, interaction and debate

Hi there – my name is Mieka Smith and I completed my Economics Masters at the VU in 2009/2010. I would like to share some thoughts about studying at the VU and living in Amsterdam.

Where to start? Amsterdam is a wonderful city, of that there can be no doubt. I come from South Africa and I worked in Amsterdam for 9 months before starting my MSc Economics. It is no exaggeration to say that I fell in love with the city and thus seized the opportunity to study here for a year. The VU’s program looked balanced and interesting, and I liked the option (but not requirement) to choose a specialisation field. The Economics faculty lent me a helping hand with my (late) application – if you have any queries, just ask!The first few months of the program are challenging, but it gets more manageable once you have settled in. I enjoyed my courses, particularly Regional and Urban Economics. The lecturers are approachable and the classes quite small, which encourages interaction and debate. The integration between the Dutch and international students was slow to take off, with the international students naturally sticking together. We arranged a successful off-campus class dinner to help with integration.

The Dutch weather is not as bad as I expected, and the snow in winter was a lovely novelty (coming from sunny South Africa!). In rain or sunshine or snow, the best way to get around Amsterdam is on a bicycle. So the first thing to do when you get here is buy a bike! Ask around and watch out for campus information in the first week when there will be advertisements for bikes at discounted prices. There are great bike routes in and around Amsterdam for exploring.

Make sure you stick around for 30 April, Queen’s Day. Overnight, Amsterdam transforms into a fantastic street party… the place to be is on a boat on the canals with friends, but walking around is also fun. Not all of the Dutch “borrel hapjes” (snacks) are to my liking, but it would be a crime not to taste the local cuisine such as bitterballen and poffertjes!

If you are a student from the EU and have a job in Amsterdam for at least 8 hours a week, the Dutch government gives you the same basic student grant as Dutch students (about EUR 270 a month). Pop in to the DUO (it used to be called the IB-Groep) to make enquiries about it if you are working to fund your studies (or I can help with the basic information).

Good luck!

6 thoughts on “Small classes, personal approach, interaction and debate

  1. Hi Mieka,

    My name is João, I’m a portuguese student from Lisbon. I’ve finished a bachelor degree in economics and now I applied to the Msc.Economics and the Msc. STREEM program (Msc. Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics) in Vu University of Amsterdam. I’m thinking if can give me any information about the STREEM program (number of students, quality of the staff, percentage of international students etc). What about the masters in Economics? Obviously you recommend right :)?
    Best Regards, João Cunha

    • Hi João,

      The Master in Economics is a small scale Master of Science with a lot of interaction with fellow students, professors and PhDers. Approximately 26% is international. According to the Keuzegids Masters 2012 the Economics Master of the VU is number 1 in the Netherlands! The programme gets many pluses, as well as the vocational preparation. Anything else you would like to know? I have just checked your application and have seen that you have been admitted to our MSc in Economics already. Congratulations!

      We are looking forward to meet you in person this summer.

  2. Pingback: Studying MSc Marketing at the VU – The road to success | Study at GSEB and experience Amsterdam!

  3. Pingback: Studying at the VU – Finding a job in the Netherlands – Working in the Netherlands | Study at GSEB and experience Amsterdam!

  4. Thank you for the feedback – I am happily settled in Amsterdam, improving my Dutch and currently enjoying the snowy conditions! It’s always good to connect to a fellow South African as well as VU alumnus. Groetjes, Mieka

  5. Hi Mieka

    Good to read your experience at the VU. I did my Msc in Finance there in ’08/09 and I am also from South Africa. I am currently back in South Africa, but I can really identify with your testimonial. Let me know if you are looking for a position in South Africa. My company is actually hiring at this stage.

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