I´m Larissa, I´m a new international student at VU University Amsterdam, starting September this year. The very helpful Miss Laura Smit asked me to write here about this experience as it happens and to share some information with you, her idea was that I could help you somehow, so let´s see.
I´m Brazilian, I graduated in law school November last year. When I graduated I was in great doubt about what to do next and from where to start. I was ready to learn more and I was ready for a challenge. Then, I decided that a master degree abroad would be a good option for me, this would help my career plans, and my family have been very supportive of my decisions so far so I started to put my applications. Actually, initially my intentions were to go either to London ( where I had done an Exchange before) or to Paris ( where I had a dream of studying political science), but I ended up choosing Amsterdam. In fact, I chose VU University Amsterdam.
My decision to go to Amsterdam was based on the master program I was accepted for at the Faculty of Law: International Law and Politics of International Security. The master program is really interesting and it perfectly matches my final thesis. When I had a look at the curriculum I thought “this is exactly my area of interest”. The perspective of studying this subject deeper and getting to know the points of view of professors and students all over the world, seemed very attractive to me. I have great expectations about the classes, seminars and debates I am to attend next semester. There is nothing more demanding and exciting in terms of research than law students critically analysing international politics with students with international backgrounds.
Well, offer accepted, it is time to deal with all practical responsibilities : university documents, bank transcripts, bank transfers, forms, sworn translations, certified copies, visa application, accommodation reservation, flights, calendar, insurance… The list goes on and it is tooootally stressful. Just to get one simple document can take weeks, I had to talk to different people and wait for bureaucratic decisions to be made almost as if the differences were personal. It is a test for the nerves. To make it more dramatic, just before the Worldcup started, everything was a prelude of chaos, strikes everywhere delayed the issuing of my documents. Now finally, I have sent my diploma to VU and I already have my unconditional offer. Also, I managed to send all documents relating to my visa to the University. At the moment I´m waiting for news regarding my visa, hopefully everything is going to be alright!
Another important subject: accommodation. I had decided to stay in a room with a private bathroom in Uilenstede. I´m a very nice girl, sympathetic and easy going, but sharing a bathroom for one year is not nice, privacy is very important for me. The problem was that, within a few days, there were no more such rooms available at Uilenstede. I was all stressed out again. I didn´t know what to do because the options available in DUWO were very limited. In the end I opted for Pierre Lallementstraat flat ( private bathroom and kitchen according to VU website), which is more expensive and apparently hidden in a parallel universe where not even Google’s satellites can find it (if there is anyone else staying in Pierre Lallementstraat, hi 5! =). Anyway, I´ve made my choice and I´m looking forward to seeing what my home for the next year looks like and to meeting my new neighbours.
I currently live in Rio de Janeiro and I absolutely love it here. I´ve never been to Amsterdam before and I must say I haven´t stopped yet to have a look into all aspects of living there, my life now is such a mess and I rather be surprised when I arrive. However, I went to this bookshop close to my house yesterday (the place is a perfect combination of bookshop/cinema/coffee), and I had a look in an Amsterdam guide book. Amongst many nice things I discovered that there is a beach 45km from Amsterdam! The beach is called Scheveningen and apparently it is a touristic point for holidays and I thought great! When I miss the beach I can travel only 45km and maybe have a sunbath during the summer break.
For now my preparation consists of practicing riding a bike. If you are South American you know how much nonsense it is to ride a bike as a means of transport in the city. Actually, as strange as it can sound, not everyone knows how to ride a bike, I know some friends who don´t. I started riding a bike not so long ago and I´ve been practicing more since I knew I would be going to Amsterdam. There is a big park close to my place called Aterro do Flamengo and I´ve been practicing there. I do not represent a danger to anyone while riding, the secret is to keep a safe distance from the others. If you are also not a bike person, don´t worry, you are not alone!
In addition to this, public transport in Europe works (!!!), I´ve read also that Amsterdam’s public transport is a fine example of this, so it is also possible to be going by metro or bus. I will however, keep the bike project, save some money and get fit.
Finally, I hope that after this testimony other international students feel that you are not alone in this long anxious process of moving to another part of the world and starting a new course.
I will probably be writing again before I go to Amsterdam, until there let´s all enjoy the best Worldcup ever and hope for the best on Friday, Brazil against Colombia (and perhaps a final match with Netherlands on the 13th=))!