Change in Study Habits

This is me
Hello, my name is Alexarae Walfenzao. I am currently a first year  VU master student in the Neuroscience Research program. I am from Miami, Florida and I completed my BA in Psychology at Florida International University. I have been obsessed with the human brain since I was a teenager and I have been looking for a University program that I felt connected the complex the term “Neuroscience” to reality. At the university I graduated from with my BA there was not a neuroscience BA program, the closest I could get was psychology. I did find a masters program that was in the beginning stages of developing into a department but I felt it was best to go to a university with an established department. I wanted to study somewhere that I could be surrounded by neuroscientists that have been working on theories for several years. When I googled best neuroscience master programs the VU appeared at the top of all lists, so I sent in my application. I have been dreaming of going to school abroad for many years, so I thought I had prepared myself for the changes I would experience. Unfortunately what I did not take into account was how much my learning process depended on my American (my home) professors teaching. Let me explain what I mean.

Alex

Getting overwhelmed
Let me begin with quizzes, something I never thought I would miss. In America, I would have up to 10 quizzes in a class before the final exam. Plus a few exams too, all before the final exam. What I did not realise was how much I used the quizzes to study. I did not notice until I lost them, but I used quizzes to figure out what to study. I would remember how the teacher asked technical questions, or didn’t ask, and when I studied I would focus on what I felt they would ask in the exam. My first class at the VU, and all my classes since, have only had one exam at the end of the course. As you might imagine I have been struggling.

Another problem I have had to face is finding the strength to continue. I did not want to quit this exciting experience, but that does not mean I have not become a bit emotional unstable over the past few months. One thing I kept asking myself was, “am I dumb?”. I felt dumb, especially since I apparently could not study without quizzes in my life. What I soon realised though is that I was just overwhelmed. I was unprepared for the change in teaching style and then to top it off I had no time off to organise. My 2nd and 3rd classes all fell in right behind the first class, with only a weekend between each to offer a break. I felt exhausted, and my grades suffered. It wasn’t until the holiday break, from December to January, that I was actually able to get myself on track. My 4th class was different for me. Yes it was actually the hardest class so far, by way of topics and work load, but I had found my new study method.

Breaking out of student mode
What I figured out was what quizzes ‘did’ for me. For instance, in America I used the quizzes to learn if the professor wanted me to repeat what they had taught or if they wanted me to be creative with my responses. What I realised after 3 classes at the VU was my teachers here want me to be logical, and that is easy once you know what is expected. My path to this moment has been tough but worth every step since it is helping me break out of the student mode and into the professional I want to be.

Asking for advice
My advice to any new students coming to the VU from aboard is speak with the local kids about what they do for study. They will help you see where you might have to make some changes in your study methods. For instances, I asked my fellow classmates about why the practice test questions were not on the exam (in America all exams would have at least one question from the practice exam, or at least cover the same topics on the practice exam). My fellow classmate simply told me, “Why would they ask you those questions again?”. That thought broke me, so to speak, and it made me seriously reflect on what I needed to make changes in.

Never underestimate the change in educational systems between countries, but remember it’s all connected. You are just looking at different sides of the same coin, but t
ake my advise and talk to the locals.

Good Luck to all new international students of 2016!

and life goes on: my master experience in the Netherlands

Hello everyone!

I am Larissa and this is my last post of a series of 4! With things less busy now, I want to tell you about the last months of this master experience and give you an overview of my year. I have completed the master programme Law and Politics of International Security at the VU, year 2014/2015. I came from Brazil to the Netherlands on August 2014 and a lot have happened since then. The last months of my master at the VU were extremely intense. I cannot describe in words how intense the second half of my academic year was. I committed myself 110% to my final thesis and it was everything but easy. Fortunately, I had the support of my family, of my close friends and of my supervisor. They all, especially my supervisor, were crucial for my success in the end. The whole year was as stressful as it could be but I could learn a lot from it:) I also have met the most incredible people along my way and I have been to places and experienced things I am sure I would never had if I had not chosen to come to The Netherlands.

At Amsterdam beer brewery 't IJ best my best pal

At Amsterdam beer brewery ‘t IJ best my best pal

When you are doing a master’s programme you probably will not be able to attend many social events, staying focus is very important. However, it is also important to build a relationship with people that are going through a similar moment in life and with whom you can share your difficulties and achievements. I met incredible people living on my building and studying/working at the VU. Trust me, having social relations and moments to escape the heaviness of life is also very important to keep your sanity going:) The people I met in Amsterdam were definitely the best and the most unexpected aspect of my year.

Me and my Dutch man

Me and my Dutch man

I did not visit many other places in Europe but I could definitely visit a lot of the Netherlands and especially a lot of Amsterdam. Amsterdam has many great spots that vary from cute to alternative to fancy. Close to where I lived I enjoyed going to the Biertuin, to the Roest and to the Kriterion cinema. With respect to the country, I found the Netherlands great: it is super organized and pretty, everything is perfectly designed and it is small, which means that you can visit a lot! The weather is the only disturbing thing about this country. I had to use my winter coat 99,99% of the year, many the times with an additional raincoat over it. Whenever it is sunny and hot, people celebrate it as ifit was national holidays. My family came to visit me this summer and when they arrived it was pretty hot! During the year some of my best Brazilian and international friends came to visit me too and having them around was awesome!

Family boat trip on canals of Amsterdam

Family boat trip on canals of Amsterdam

My house in Pierre Lallementstraat was also one of the highlights of this year. I thought that the place would be nice but I did not expect that I would like it so much. It was definitely hard to say goodbye to my house after one year living there. The building is new and it is located in a very nice area of Amsterdam. The studios are super big for one person and, despite of the lack of common areas, there is a facebook page where people organize meetings and keep in touch. In addition, if you are doing a master programme you will probably need a lot of privacy to study and the least amount of stress possible, so living alone in the studio definitely was an asset for me. If you prefer studying at the University instead of home, the VU offer many nice spots and it is open till very late. The 7th floor, where I liked to study, became my second home in Amsterdam:) During the weekends, in order to vary from the university environment, I used to go to Amsterdam’s public library (OBA). OBA is in the centre of Amsterdam and many students go there and stay till late on Saturdays and Sundays. The public library is the best library I have ever studied in. It is huge and extremely beautiful. It is not particularly quiet because many tourists and teenagers visit the library during the weekends. Still, many people of all ages go there to study and you should arrive early in order to get a spot.

OBA (library) Amsterdam

OBA (library) Amsterdam

After submitting my thesis I went for a summer vacation in Brazil and it was absolutely great! Being back home after so long was super weird and super normal at the same time. Going out with my friends was just amazing and I felt like I had never left the country:). After this visit I came back to The Netherlands and I started an internship at the ICTY Tribunal in The Hague. Job hunting is the next step and only time will tell what the future holds and what the next adventure will be!

Finally, for all of you who have started or are going to start your studies at the VU, I wish you the best of luck! Work hard, keep your nerves and enjoy the experience!

Read about Larissa’s experiences in Amsterdam in previous posts:
International student on her way to Amsterdam
International student arrives in Amsterdam

Never stop in the middle of a bike path!

City with a view

City with a view

Hey everyone!

I am Pablo from Rio de Janeiro and I am about to get my Master degree in International Business Law. Basically, I can define my time at the VU and in Amsterdam as a life changing experience, both personally and professionally.

Selfie

Selfie

Back in Brazil I was working as a lawyer and my career was proceeding at a rapid rate. I graduated magna cum laude (GPA 9.3) in one the five best Universities in Latin America. I was also one of very few students to pass the Brazilian Bar Exam before finishing my degree. I was part of the infrastructure department of one of the biggest law firms in Brazil and I had the opportunity to participate in relevant infrastructure projects developed in the country. However, I was (and continue to be) strongly convinced that learning is a lifelong process, especially in a continuously evolving subject such as the Law. I was born and raised into a poor, but hardworking family, where every penny earned was invested in a better education. From a very young age I learned that education is the key to success. Having that in mind, I started a long and burdensome process of searching for the best universities, gathering the necessary documentation, translating everything, doing a TOEFL exam and applying for a master abroad.

#vuamsterdam

#vuamsterdam

*If I could go back in time, I would do everything again because it is worth it. Step out of your comfort zone! It won’t be easy, but it will change your life forever!*

Back to the point. I was admitted in all the universities I applied for and got excellent scholarships. After balancing out all the possible pros and cons, I decided to take VU’s offer. Goddammit, it was definitely the best decision I could have made. VU and Amsterdam combine the necessary elements of high academic level and life quality (ps. the weather is not as bad as people pretend when complaining here).

  1. The day of arrival was overwhelming but don’t be scared of it. You will likely be tired at the end of the day. There will be several formalities to perform and you won’t finish them all at the end of the first day. Be patient, those things have to be done everywhere and it is quite nice that they try to organize as much paperwork as possible at one place and one day for our convenience.
  2. If you are thinking about housing, I would definitely go for one of the apartments arranged by the university. It is hard to find something here, even if you are a local and I have heard several bad experiences from friends. Think it through and decide if you want to live close to the Uni (with most of the other students) or if you prefer to live closer to the city centre. This is a difficult decision to make and both have pros and cons. It is a personal decision at the end of the day. Save some money to buy something (secondhand or at Ikea) to make your place more like home. It is very easy to buy and sell things online here. Secondhand markets have many platforms in the Netherlands and it is very common to use them! Soon you will see my stuff going on the market as well hahahah.
  3. If you are thinking about costs, the city is a bit expensive, but it is totally possible to live under the budget that is estimated by the University. There are also several activities you can do for free. There are also many cheap restaurants and supermarkets. You can reach most every place by bike. You will find your way around.
  4. If you are thinking about the program, I can talk only about my own course. However, I think other courses at the university have similar quality standards. My program was great! Really good teachers, high quality education. The facilities are also amazing when I compare them to my university back in Rio. One very important thing, teachers are very strict in grading here and you will have to study a lot! It is extremely difficult to get high grades, but it is not impossible. I even managed to get a 9.5, but it took me much time and work. Be prepared for this! You will learn a lot and definitely overcome your own limitations.
  5. If you are thinking about having fun and enjoy your time as well, Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands are very good places to be. Rio de Janeiro is a hard city to beat in this aspect, but I had as much fun here as I would have had back at home and it is always great to open our horizons and do something new. I made many good friends, I did a lot of parties, cultural activities, I even jumped into the cold sea to celebrate the New Year (Nieuwjaarsduik), celebrated carnival in Maastricht and went to Brussels with friends from the student association and everyone was wearing onesies (crazy trip!), among many other things. Above all, I met a partner for life!
Almeida onesy party

Everybody needs a onesie

Almeida nieuwjaarsduik

New Year’s Dive – Nieuwjaarsduik

Almeida partner

For life

One nice thing about the Netherlands: it is much more than just an incredible country to have fun in and to lead a great life; it is also a great place to do business and/or to study. There are several opportunities for those who are qualified and willing to work hard. Since the beginning of April I am doing an internship in one of the most highly regarded law firms in the country. I have been working (besides my study) for two days per week in the offices of Amsterdam and Rotterdam with the Latin America Desk. I have also participated in the weekly social activities from both offices (borrels). It has been an incredible opportunity to grow professionally and personally. It has enabled me to exchange knowledge, broaden my legal perspective and establish relevant network for the future.

Zuidas - The Amsterdam Business Centre

Zuidas – The Amsterdam Business Centre

I also got my A2 Level in Dutch (IT IS SOO HARD) and, finally, on June 17th I presented my thesis and got a nine for it! I couldn’t be happier and I am so glad I was able to overcome so many challenges! Despite the difficulties, it is a great feeling to have it done and I grew so much with this experience. If you have a chance, do it!

NT2 Dutch Exam

NT2 Dutch Exam

My final remarks for those who are considering moving here for studies.

The university is great, the Dutch are cute, it is a very open society and there is space for all types of cultures, sexual orientations, skin colors, religions and humors. Enjoy yourself, love, be loved, have fun, study a lot, respect the others and be happy, but NEVER****, never stop in the middle of a bike path!

Good luck!

The International Student Barometer – A student’s opinion does count!

Your views count!

Your views count!

VU University Amsterdam always works on improving services for students to make sure you are having an amazing international learning experience. Student views about VU are therefore very important to us. The International Student Barometer (ISB) is a worldwide online survey that assists us in finding out what we’re doing things right and where we can make improvements. And of course it gives students the chance to tell us what they really think.

What improvements have we made already?
One of the elements we have improved at VU, based on student views, are our Career Services. VU University has already invested in Career Services for a few of years now. However, due to the current economic climate we noticed that students need and expect more support from us and would like to gain more in depth information to make solid career plans. By renewing our Career Strategy and developing more activities in this field, we hope to meet your wishes. So, what’s new:

Upcoming Career Events:

ITEA - The Amsterdam Career Event

ITEA – The Amsterdam Career Event

November: Zuidas Business Tour
The unique opportunity to have a look into our own backyard where academics and business meet; The Zuidas.

January: Business Exposure Event
One or two successful international companies will present themselves at VU and you get the chance to meet your future employer.

January – March: Workshops on CV writing and Interview training
Learn how to write a CV for a Dutch company and how to prepare for upcoming job interviews.

April: International Talent Event Amsterdam
A full day of workshops, presentations and a job fair.

Soon more information to be found on our Facebook Page.

How can students help us improve our services (and at the same time create a chance to win some great goodies / 1000 euro’s in cash?)
As stated earlier, our student’s views really do count! So, if you are a VU student, please take the time to fill out the ISB questionnaire you received per email last week, and will receive again next week. To thank you for helping us, a €1000,- cash prize will be given away amongst respondents worldwide. VU University also gives away an IPhone and two VU Bikes amongst VU respondents. The prize winners of the Iphone and the VU bikes will be announced during the ‘borrel’ on the 18th of December. The official invitation for this gathering will be sent soon.

Please, keep in mind you have until Friday the 5th of December to fill out the survey (and win those prizes!).

We are very much looking forward to meeting you – at the ‘borrel’ and during one of our Career Activities in 2015!

Finally: international student arrives in Amsterdam

Hello everyone,
It´s been a long time now since I wrote here for the last time, almost 2 months. On my previous post I was about to leave Brazil and I was very anxious, nervous and uncertain about many things. To be honest, I still am but I feel more prepared at the moment. At this post I´ll share with you my first impressions about the VU, Amsterdam and also what my challenges have been so far.

First Days
Well, I´m alive and I´m ok. Arriving here in time for the introduction week was indeed very important; on my first day I could manage to do almost all bureaucratic obligations in one day and at one place. In the same week I also did a tuberculosis test and picked up my residence permit, so everything was very practical.

Meeting classmates & professors
During the following weeks I had many social meetings, which was kind of strange for me. The first contact with my group and professors was followed by a lunch and refreshments. Having milk and sandwiches for lunch was not the strangest part for me, but I have never been in a situation where students and professors have food together just after knowing each other for the first time. My classroom is very selective, we are only 24 people, so by the end of the day we already knew a lot about each other.
The second social meeting was a boat trip. All students from the faculty of law, together with professors and staff, went together in a boat to see Amsterdam´s canals. The trip was very unusual for me, but I enjoyed it very much ( good initiative VU!). At this same day we also had “refreshments” together. I am not used to have social meetings with professors, really, it is embarrassing for me. In Brazil we keep a formal distance from professors until both parties feel comfortable to have a more informal relationships. Also, in my previous university we could have activities together with certain professors ( those with whom students became real friends) but only outside the university environment. In conclusion, I would say that here at VU, as strange as it may sound, students and professors have a formal informal relationship ( very confusing indeed).

Classes
Another big difference from my previous education is how classes here are strictly planned. We have a calendar with the subjects of every class and also the readings we should do prior to them. This is also very unusual for me, but in a good way. In Brazil we are supposed to find out for ourselves the best reading material for each subject and also we don’t do so many discussions in classes. Here students make interventions and debate during classes all the time, which was unusual in my previous law school.

High work load
About my life specifically I feel that everything is too intense at the moment. I have an incredibly amount of readings to do every day, I must write assignments and book reviews which I’ve have never done before, I´m having Dutch classes ( which is totally cool=)) and, apart from normal life practical obligations, I´m super involved in an extra-curricular projects.

Together with some colleagues, I am organising a seminar and essay contest on UN Security Council reforms. The idea came to us by The Clingendael Institute that, together with Instituto Igarapé from Brazil, is hosting a conference between Brazilian and Dutch governments on the subject. We have a lot of work to do and I am investing a lot of energy on this activity, I feel that I must do the best I can to include my Brazilians colleagues on this project. Everyone is invited to participate and be the most creative and revolutionary as possible ( especialmente para meus colegas brasileiros: uni-vos! Com a nossa participação esse projeto vai bombar, certeza!;)

Out and About

Dutch Beach

Dutch Beach

About Amsterdam/Netherlands I really can not say much, I haven´t done many things yet so I don’t have a clear idea of what the city/country “vibe” is. I have been to the beach 3 weeks ago, I went there with a friend from Brazil who was visiting me. Actually we were planning on cycling to the country side, taking some pictures of the tulip fields, but then after cycling from Haarlem station for what seemed a long time ( yes, I´m still not fit for too much cycling), we arrived at the beach. The beach was very nice, different from Brazil of course but an interesting option for summer season.

The Bike
After a few weeks in Amsterdam I´m very positive about a few things: 1- Bike is totally important; 2- Avoid, above all, cycling in rush hours in the morning ( between 7:30 – 9:30am) and cycling in the centre at any time. Rush hours can be very scary, I strongly recommend you to avoid it as much as you can. There are so many bikes at the streets that it seems like a bike crash is about to happen at any time. Also, people can be very, very rude during rush hours, it´s unbelievable how they can spread so much negative energy this early in the morning. Apart from this, dutch people are normally very polite and helpful, specially when you are lost and ask for directions.
In 1,5 month I have come from a non bike person to a bike lover, in fact all my concerns about cycling seem strange to me when I think about it now. Cycling is now my best means of transport, I feel more independent than ever and physically stronger as well. Also, I am already affectionate to my bike, I can recognise her from far away and we connect very well together, I know that when the time comes to say goodbye to her I’ll feel a lot.

The Bike with the Bell

The Bike with the Bell

The Parks
What I like to do the most here in Amsterdam is relaxing at the parks. I love the parks of Amsterdam and the weather the last weeks was perfect for lying on the grass and just enjoying the sun. Whenever the weather is like this I take all my readings and spend some hours studying at the park, it is very inspiring.

Study at the Park

Study at the Park

Missing the Old, enjoying the New
Of course I miss Brazil very much, I miss my friends and my family. It´s been 1,5 month I don’t receive a honest hug, that big hug capable of making you feel better just because you feel the person cares about you. Apart from this, I think I´m adapting well here, I go to Uni by bike every day, I know where to buy my favourite groceries and my accommodation is really good.

Yes, for future records, Pierre Lallementstraat does exist and is very much habited by many students. The building is brand new, I was the first one to step in to my room, it is well furnished and very comfortable. The room is actually a big studio with kitchen, bathroom and studying table. We still don’t have a common area but people manage to meet in one another´s room for socializing and people are constantly talking to each other on our facebook page. The location is also perfect, we are approximately 25 min cycling away from VU and 15 min from the city centre. Oosterpark and Frankendael Park are in our backyard and we have many options for restaurants and cafés close from here (you just need to walk or cycle around a little bit and you will find them). If for some reason you can not cycle, Amstelstation is a 5 min walk away as well.
I´ve moved to Amsterdam from Brazil but the big challenges begins now, I must be able to overcome the problems and difficulties I´m already facing at the moment, if I can do this, I´m sure that after this year I´ll have learned and matured a lot.
Ik zie je later, tot ziens!!

Estudiar un máster en la Vrije Universiteit (Amsterdam)/Study a master at VU University (Amsterdam)

Estudiar un máster en la Vrije Universiteit (Amsterdam)/Study a master at the Vrije Universiteit (Amsterdam).

In this post I will give information about studying a master’s degree at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Since I posted my experience about studying a master in Amsterdam experience I have received many emails asking for more information so I hope this can help you a bit :) Continue reading

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