Amsterdam: A Grain of Sand for seeing the world

This is the third month for me in Amsterdam. With the city I get familiar gradually. With you I want to share the following:

My first sight of Amsterdam
I am Li Miao, a research master student in Cognitive Neuropsychology, VU University Amsterdam. Being a Chinese with full enthusiasm, coming from Changchun, the capital city of Jilin province, I am used to see huge crowds of people around the cities even in the wee hours and I am used to take long journeys rushing among cities. Usually, I found myself still in the same province after five hours by train. I have seen steep mountains and ranges that never make people tired of them, roaring waves in the ocean that makes visitors in awe and skyscrapers that seem to touch the cloud.  Well, the Netherlands seems different.

portrait-on-beach

Me

 

Now, I am experiencing a lot of contrasts. Yes, Amsterdam city – the quiet, small and lovely city. The Netherlands, with almost the same population of Beijing, the capital city of China, seems like a village to me. From my perspective, I saw a different world. Amsterdam is a lively, peaceful city. A city with simple and unsophisticated building styles as well as lively neighbourhoods and a city full of warm-hearted people with diversification and internationalization. I dropped my fear of entering an unfamiliarly city when seeing this welcoming approach to newcomers.  Yes, these are the first impression I had of Amsterdam.

great-wall-vs-ducks

Great wall vs Ducks

 

Amsterdam as a choice: expected result
I have been trying to find more opportunities to expand my horizon in the past years. I was trying to spend most of my spare time travelling around China. Finally, in the junior year of my bachelor, I made a decision to go abroad to find a better study environment. With a major in psychology, I studied individual behaviour and mental phenomenons. Because of a minor in history, I also gained knowledge about the worlds’ historical changes and the rising of strong countries.  The Netherlands, naturally, became one of my most favourite countries with both strong historical roots as well as a modern development. Amsterdam, the historical capital city, undoubtedly, is a pretty nice choice.

central-station

Amsterdam Central Station

 

This will never be a choice to regret, as my love towards this city increases day by day. I still remember the first day’s picking up service that VU offered to all the international students. This was an amazing welcome for me. I also tasted the Dutch sweet biscuits and the “awful” DROP (it can only be a medicine in my country) after the journey. I settled in my first home at the Spinoza campus, and even though it was not an ideal student accommodation, I was still attracted by the serene environment and lovely neighbours.  I think am the luckiest one as I got a second chance to find a much lovelier home – the Revel Residence. I really have a nice time being a “Resident” here.  A group of warm-hearted people who are always ready to help, teachers from VU and students from all over the world surround me. Even passers-by and people sitting next to me in metro say “Hi” to me. What shall I expect more from them? “Amazing” would be the most proper word here to describe my feelings.

spinoza-and-revel

Student Rooms

 

Studying Cognitive Neuropsychology: brings me closer to my dream
I started my new identity; an international student in VU. It is a fantastic experience in my study life. I am very proud to say that I contributed to diversity while the programme also takes me a huge step closer to my dream. I met experts in neuropsychology and cognitive psychology. I found the advanced facilities for students and last but not least, I met a group of nice classmates. I found myself in a brand new study life: critical lectures with practical courses and freely shared opinions make me excited for all the knowledge and skills I’ll gain. This research master provides a better way to prepare for my research career.

I am glad I can study at VU Amsterdam and I am happy to share my feelings with you. I also appreciate that I am here today in order to become a better me in the future.

Uilenstede: the magical land of “huisfissa”, the Eternal Bass and Vladimir de Uilenkat

 

- this is me -

– this is me –

 

Hi There

My name is Nina, and I have now lived and studied in Amsterdam since August 2015. I’m part of the two-year Master’s programme in Earth Sciences, with the specialisation in Earth Surface Processes, Climate and Records (with the handy abbreviation ESPCaR). I’m one out of only three foreigners in my Master’s degree (out of app. 25 students in total), so getting down with the Dutch has been a priority from day one. And luckily, the Dutch are very good people, except for a tendency to use too much hair-gel (this is mostly directed towards the male part of the population). I like the VU a lot, but I am writing this blog-entry to introduce you to something else: The Uilenstede student campus.

Uilenstede: the magical land of “huisfissa”, the Eternal Bass and Vladimir de Uilenkat

Uilenstede (the “ui” is phonetically transcribed as [œy] and its pronunciation is a point of eternal debate amongst us foreigners) is a major student campus run by the housing company Duwo. Uilenstede is located three tram/metro stops away from the VU, and is technically not located in the municipality of Amsterdam but in that of Amstelveen. Amstelveen is kind of the less cool municipality-cousin of Amsterdam, but as the slight change of zip-code literally happens right at the entrance to the Uilenstede campus, we have decided not to be bothered by it.

The setting of Uilenstede campus is largely divided between Dutch and non-Dutch residents, with the internationals claiming the large green tower, the smaller red tower, and the even smaller twin buildings in number 102. The towers of Uilenstede are always throwing parties, which explains the almost eternal sound of bass, almost acting as a heartbeat, depicting the social health of the campus (often associated with the proximity of the next exam period). However, should you be in search of a party and you don’t bother physically hunting for one, facebook is your friend. In the group “Uilenstede” or “Uilenstede Huilenstede!” you will easily find other like-minded people, often writing statements like “Is er ergens nog een huisfissa vanavond?” or “Huis fissa vanavond?!”, in which people comment the location of a party being thrown.

Uilenball

Uilenball

Such parties are often very crowded, with a flow of people trying to enter the kitchen of the unit (the towers are divided in units, one unit being approximately 13 people sharing a kitchen) and usually a smaller amount of people fleeing the cramped area. The ones who make it out are usually covered in sweat and a bit of glitter (which no-one remembers bringing), sometimes with a glow-stick stuck in their hair/pants/drink.

As an international crashing a Dutch house party, you might find yourself being the only foreigner in the crowd. This becomes apparent when the dancing horde is suddenly sitting on the floor/jumping synchronously/clapping their hands while spinning – all part of some Dutch song they all know by heart. Being the only one standing at this point is a dead giveaway, so if you want to remain incognito be alert.

Another important part of Uilenstede campus is the un-crowned king of the campus: Vladimir. Vladimir is an orange sort-of-ugly looking cat, who rules the streets (sometimes bushes and trees) of Uilenstede. He is the focus of the facebook page “Vladimir de Uilenkat”, which regularly posts images and videos of his shenanigans. Because he recently got lost in the city, he is now equipped with a GPS tracker. His daily whereabouts are afterwards often posted on his page.

Vladimir the Uilencat

Vladimir the Uilencat

Vladimir is not the only input from the animal kingdom which has its daily routine on the campus. In the smaller houses of Uilenstede 102, a rooster became part of the household during the spring, both to the enjoyment and annoyance of its neighbours. This rooster does not limit its crowing to a specific time-slot, instead it has chosen to be more of an omnipresence. There’s also the occasional appearance of lobsters in the areas near the small artificial canals on the campus. These often terrorise the inhabitants, who post about their encounters with the beasts, or its remains, as a warning to the rest of us.

Kattler - RoosterKattler - Lobster_encounter

With the renovations of Uilenstede being almost done, the campus area has gotten a nice make-over (although I am still puzzled by the giant red pole which has been erected in the square of the campus next to the Griffeon cultural centre). All in all, Uilenstede campus has a great vibe and is filled with happy silly students who enjoy life. This is clear when the sun occasionally peeks out, and people rush out to the green areas bringing BBQ’s, frisbees and portable speakers. Enjoy!

International student on her way to Amsterdam

Honório

Hello,

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.

Your new home cannot be found...

Your new home cannot be found…

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.

Anything like Scheveningen beach?

Anything like Scheveningen beach?

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!

Bike practice in Rio

Bike practice in Rio

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=))!

Regards,

Larissa

There’s no place like my new home!

A'Dam Nov 019

“Oh! Amsterdam, eh?”. I have seen the look more times than I can count since moving to The Dam. The look that says there are only a handful of reasons why you would move to the European capital and they know exactly why you would. After only three months in my new home I am increasingly defensive when I talk about my new residence and “there is actually much more to the city than the Red Light District you know” has become my rather brusque standard reply. And I don’t think I have ever said anything truer in my life.

In my travels around Europe I had never made it to Amsterdam before I moved here in September to start my Masters at the VU. All I knew of Amsterdam was the airport, which I had transited through a few times.  Like many people I now realise I had made the same assumptions as those people I have just mentioned: that Amsterdam is only an attractive location for its liberal laws and unusual attractions. As I have never been particularly interested in any of these ativities, I chose other places for my adventures. In truth I had wanted to avoid the very reaction mentioned above; that immediate assumption that I am only after the quintessential tourist experience of red windows and “funny cigarettes”.

In the end my decision to move here was one based purely on education and the fabulously unique Masters’ programs the university offers. In all my investigations I found nothing like the LLM in Law and Politics of International Security anywhere in Europe or even North America. With a contemporary curriculum and mix of political science and international law it was an attractive alternative to another round of pure international relations studies. The fact that it was in a major European city was simply a bonus.

The very first day I arrived in the city I walked around the corner of my hotel to Museumplein and found myself in the middle of the last day of the annual Uitmarkt (http://www.uitmarkt.nl/). The square was covered with people, families, couples, groups of friends, all enjoying a cold Heineken or some hot food from one of the stands and the live music coming from one of the stages. The square was electric with life and people, open to all those who wanted to enjoy themselves in the fabulous city. “If this is night one in Amsterdam,” I thought to myself, “I am definitely going to enjoy myself”.

Living here these past months I have found a city bright with vitality, busy with activity and bursting with youthful energy. Although a smaller city geographically than I had been expecting Amsterdam offers every individual with every different type of interest something to do, to visit, to see or to appreciate and the size actually makes it that much easier to get around and enjoy it all.

My three months here have been full of research, exploration and discovery. Expatriate websites have been my best friends in helping me to find the things I need from a city and steering me clear away from the tourist traps of Leidseplein which remind you of the common misrepresentations of what Amsterdam is really like and reasons you should come here. This is predominantly how I have stumbled upon the more palatable trends and draws of the city and find itself a tender place in my heart.

All it takes is a little effort, combined with determined persistence, and the city will start to feel like home. Force yourself out of the house and into the fabulously international mix of the city. It’s easy to find things to do. There is always a new exhibit, festival, market, parade, celebration or a trending new bar or eatery. While moving to a new city can always be overwhelming the welcoming nature of Amsterdam and Amsterdammers makes it an easier transition than most. So strap on your walking boots, pack your umbrella and hit the streets. Here are some of my top recommendations to make you feel like a local in no time.

G’s – a really nice place
Amsterdam has a growing café culture, much similar to that of my hometown Melbourne in Australia. Brunch is also successfully making waves from over the Pond. It is getting increasingly easier to find somewhere fantastic to enjoy your challah French toast or eggs Benedict.
Head to G’s, a small space dedicated to drinks on Thursdays and Fridays and transformed into one of the best weekend brunch places. With a fabulous menu and the requisite selection of Mimosas and Pimm’s Cups on offer this is one of the best brunch places I have ever stumbled upon. Booking essential as this place is a popular hotspot in the north of Jordaan.

G’s
Goudsbloemstraat 91
1015 JK Amsterdam
http://reallyniceplace.com/

Bar Spek
One of my favourite finds, indeed my culinary saviour is Bar Spek in the West. I have found Amsterdam restaurants can be quite expensive with food quality that does not match the prices. Not so this little gem. With an extensive menu for those of all tastes and an impressive wine list this is the perfect place to share some starters for a full flavour experience.

Bar Spek
Admiraal de Ruyterweg 1
1057 JT Amsterdam
https://www.facebook.com/barspek

Café de Tuin
Doing a little research on the areas you are heading to also helps find the more local haunts and avoid the swathes of tourists that flood the city. Local places have better atmospheres, better menus, and better prices. They are also great places to head with friends and mix with the friendly Dutch locals.

Café de Tuin is one such place. Packed at weekends with people of all ages and professions this place is certainly popular! With a great selection of tap and bottle beers, friendly clientele and the tight space will make you feel like part of the Amsterdam life in no time.

Café de Tuin
Tweede Tuindwarsstraat 13
1015 RX Amsterdam
http://www.cafedetuin.nl/

Café Louter
Still a local bar with a slightly more upmarket feel and a food menu is Café Louter. In a relaxed atmosphere you can enjoy a good selection of local and Belgium beers with great service from the bar staff. Louter also offers a good menu of food for when you get a little hungry!

Café Louter
De Clercqstraat 82
1052 NK Amsterdam
http://www.cafelouter.nl/

Travel around the world in one day at VU International Day 29/10

LOGO International Study Fair

Travel around the world in just ONE day! Join the VU International Day at 29th of October and take off  to your favorite destination. Continue reading

Masterclass Successful Career Management for our International Students was a success!

300px-WTCAmsterdam2On Friday May 24th, the Office of Career Services hosted a Masterclass for international students in collaboration with the International Office. The Masterclass was part of the event ‘Get Ready For A Dutch Career’, which took place at the WTC Building at the ZuidAs. Continue reading

My experience: VU & Amsterdam

Eduardo Elizondo at Kimberly-Clark May 2013Going to Amsterdam
My name is Eduardo Rogelio Elizondo; I was born in Mexico and studied my bachelor’s degree in the US. I studied an MSc in Business Administration, with a specialization in Management Consulting, at VU University Amsterdam during the 2009-2010 academic year. Continue reading