The Punishment Wars

The Punishment Wars!

Check out this inspirational inaugural lecture from Toby Kiers who was appointed University Research Chair at our university this year.

toby kiers

Her research focuses on the evolution of deceit in nature. How organisms like bacteria and fungi developed clever strategies to punish their cheaters and most importantly – how we can learn from them.

Well, this is different: My first 30 days on student exchange

VU Campus

VU Campus

Ted Flett, one of our exchange students, wrote a column in Canadian Lawyer Magazine on his first 30 days in Amsterdam.

“Well, this is different,” I think to myself, straddling my bike waiting for the bicycle lane traffic signal to cross over one of Amsterdam’s many canals on my way to class.”
Get the whole article here:

http://canadianlawyermag.com/5768/Well-this-is-different-My-first-30-days-on-student-exchange.html

Higher Education in The Netherlands: Setting a new benchmark for International Students

Café Dissensus

By Laura Smit 

Why study in the Netherlands

In November last year, I was given the chance to visit 5 cities in India to represent the Dutch University I work for: VU University Amsterdam, at a number of QS World Grad School Tour education fairs. One of these cities was New Delhi and there I met this issue’s Guest Editor, Rajdeep Guha, who requested me to write an article on higher studies opportunities in the Netherlands.

After having looked at Cafe Dissensus publications, I realize that having been offered this opportunity is in fact an honor and so, let me not waste more words on this intro and start telling you first about my country the Netherlands, its educational system, the opportunities it offers to young scholars from all parts of the world and finally, give you some tips and tricks on how to be given one…

View original post 1,472 more words

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!

A new life in Amsterdam: Experiences shared by 4 Chinese students

This is us:  Xi, Mingxing, Binbin, Yili

This is us:
Xi, Mingxing, Binbin, Yili

This is an article written by us, Xi Lu, Minxing Han, Binbin Mu and Yili Liu. We are 4 Chinese students who want to share our experiences that came with moving to the Netherlands and studying at VU University. It was a hard start but we are left with amazing memories after one year of studying here. We hope that our experiences can somehow prepare others that will follow in our footsteps. We will each write about one particular part of these experiences:
1. Language difficulties
2. Cultural Difference
3. Differences in Education Styles
4. Life in Holland

Language difficultiesXi Lu
The language barrier I confronted when I got here at the very beginning was definitely beyond what I had imagined before I left China. I was aware that it was going to be a challenge, yet I did not realise it could be as serious and sometimes depressing as it turned out to be.

By saying this, I did not mean that I could not handle daily communication, that was actually rather simple because people around are so kind and they would listen to you with full patience even while speaking broken English. However, handling lectures and assignments was a totally different story. During the first few months, these were torture for me. I could only understand roughly half of what the professors taught during class
and as for assignments, due to the requirement of a lot of reading, it was all a very slow process. This was firstly due to my relatively slow reading speed and secondly due to my shallow understanding of the articles. And I have to be honest that even now, I still do not dare to say that I can fully understand everything that is being said during the classes.

However, things have changed for the better. My communicating skills, the reading speed, and the interpretation of articles is improving. I can clearly feel that I have been making progress due to the amount of studies. Of course, for new students there will surely be a point that you feel helpless or even worse, that you think you can not handle staying even a little bit more, but language is all about repetition and practice. It is merely a matter of time + effort = result. At least this formula works for me.

Culture differencesMingxing Han

The VU University campus

The VU University campus

There are so many cultural differences between China and western countries. There is in fact such a big gap that students will have to take this into consideration when they chose to study abroad.

When I first came here, I had problems understanding both the party culture and of course the language. This made things difficult. However, my flatmates continued to encourage me to come to the kitchen more often and talk to them. After half a year, they said my English was becoming much better than before. We started to participate in more parties which was a way to get to know different people and different ways of thinking.

Now, after one year of studying here I think partying in western counties is just like the dinners we have together with our friends in China. The only difference is that we eat at the restaurant and they drink in a bar or someplace else.

Western culture is more open compared to Chinese culture. It seems Chinese people are more shy and dare not to express their opinions directly. But, having lived here in Amsterdam, what we have learnt from the culture is that we should think and communicate more openly and actively.

But most the most important lesson learnt: Don’t be too shy to express yourself!

Differences in education stylesBinbin Mu
From the day we started our classes, we experienced many differences in education styles and here I want to mention three of the most significant ones:

1. Here we are expected to participate in class more actively than we are used to in our home country. We do presentations, have discussions in class and also are expected to communicate actively with the professors. At first, we were not accustomed to that and it felt uneasy, but after a period of practice, we got used to it and are now finding it interesting and useful.

2. We need to do a lot of study work before and after classes. This means that our self-study ability is very important. We have to read a lot, write many papers, and also do research. It could be however that this is not a difference between education styles of two countries, but in fact a difference between undergraduate studies and master studies. Whatever it is, we learn in a lot this way, especially about research methods.

3. The semester and exam system is quite different. Here we have five (or even 6) periods during the one-year program with exams at the end of each of those periods. While in China we divide one academic system into two semesters and all exams would come at the end of the semester. This difference means that here we have to study hard all year round and cannot leave all the work till the very last moment before exams. But, this kind of pressure does push us to work hard and be successful in our studies at VU University and in our case, the International Business Law program.

Life in Holland – Yili Liu
Life in Amsterdam is different and great. I was curious about almost everything when I first came to this international city, so I started to explore it straight away. There is an old saying in China, which is ‘to travel a thousand miles beats reading a thousand books’. It’s true; I’ve learned more about the Netherlands and the whole EU by experiencing local life, getting to know different people and exchanging ideas with them by keeping an open mind. Meanwhile my life skills have developed to a new stage because I have to deal with everything on my own in daily life.

For example; People regard food as their prime need, so my cooking skills, which were zero-based, got the most obvious improvement and I can already cook several kinds of food by myself within no time at all.

A busy street in the centre of Amsterdam

A busy street in the centre of Amsterdam

Generally, difficulties made me progress rapidly, and challenges make me know who I am and what I can do. So, I really appreciate life in Amsterdam and I hope you will too!

Spatial Economics MSc. (STREEM) at VU University Amsterdam

STREEM alumnus Ilias

STREEM alumnus Ilias

In my opinion, the MSc. programme of Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics (STREEM) of VU University is on the top of the MSc. programmes in Europe for any Economics student with an interest in spatial (and special) topics. After having followed another Spatial Economics MSc. programme before I arrived in the Netherlands, my expectations were already quite high. And I only decided to get enrolled in VU after visiting the university and another university in Amsterdam to see with my own eyes. But I have to admit that STREEM exceeded my expectations.

Having a very good mix of senior and junior professors and researchers, this huge concentration of spatial economists provides students with the valuable insight of the more experienced and widely-acknowledged economists, together with the spark and the motivation of younger bright professors and researchers. In addition, as a member of the educational committee of the programme, I realised that the whole STREEM team makes a serious effort in improving the quality of the learning process using the feedback of the students; in collaboration with the professors. To be honest, it stroke me as pretty impressive. Other than the high level of teaching by the teaching staff, the teaching material and the whole programme structure, VU offers quite good connections to the job market. Career days which are useful, internships and online posts on job openings and vacancies. This is how I found the call for the PhD scholarship I am currently involved. Another thing to mention is the valuable advice about my career decisions from my supervisor and the support (recommendation letters) from other professors too. One final comment is that the fees are very reasonable and there are also some good opportunities for working part-time (not recommended; but could be needed) and getting a study grant from the Dutch government (for EU citizens).

All in all, I am really happy having chosen this master at VU. I am currently in the middle of my PhD in the University of Barcelona and at the moment I am visiting Brown University. Even after having attended some graduate classes in many different settings, I still believe that STREEM is a top choice.
Please hesitate to contact me if there is no need. My time is as valuable as yours. ipasidis@ub.edu
By bike in Amsterdam

By bike in Amsterdam

Amsterdam – Once In A Lifetime

Aneliya in front of the Iamsterdam sign

Aneliya in front of the Iamsterdam sign

Hey there! My name is Aneliya Evtimova and I earned a Master of Science degree in Entrepreneurship from the VU in 2012. I can honestly tell you that coming to study and then work in Amsterdam was the best decision I have ever made.

I graduated with a Bachelor in Business Administration at the University of Sofia, in Sofia, Bulgaria, where I’m originally from. The program was partly in French and since I wanted to diversify my experience, I decided to look for a Master’s programme in English. I chose very impulsively to study at the VU – one evening at my student job I was browsing through master programmes and I was looking for an affordable option of one year in Business Administration in English in Europe. And then I saw it – Entrepreneurship – but of course! I instantly knew that this would be an amazing opportunity for me to expand my horizon and learn about business in a new way. I stopped browsing and the next day I applied for the programme. And I got accepted.

Summer rain during introduction days

Summer rain during introduction days

Of course, arriving in Amsterdam was a bit of a shock. It was August 23rd 2011 and in Bulgaria the daily temperature was around 27 degrees Celsius. Underestimating the Dutch climate, I remember arriving at Amsterdam Central Station in a rainy morning, at least 10 degrees colder than my home country. And there I was, walking around the city with my flip-flops and two huge suitcases. This was the only day ever that I’ve felt out of place in Amsterdam – and I blame it on the weather shock.

Housing in the Netherlands is difficult (for internationals but for the Dutch also – as I later discovered), unless you’ve arranged it with the university beforehand. Indeed, I applied for housing through the university and I can definitely recommend that you do the same – your room is guaranteed, you will save yourself from a lot of headache and you for sure get to live with other international students, with whom you will possibly be sharing unforgettable moments.

Summer in Holland

Summer in Holland

If you like having fun, you’re definitely in the right place. I was very impressed by the introduction week that Erasmus Student Network (ESN) organized for the international students – with all the fun activities, including a sports day, aiming for us to meet and connect. Also all the Wednesday nights at the Coco’s pub were great, as were all the trips in the surroundings of Amsterdam. I was extremely amazed by how pretty the city of Amsterdam is and by the wonderful architecture. Biking makes moving around the city extremely accessible which give you a peace of mind and freedom you’ve never experienced before. I fell in love with Dutch electronic music and it soon became a substantial part of my identity. Concerning the Dutch, I still am truly astonished by everyone’s fluency in English – this definitely makes it very easy to communicate.

All these factors resulted in me feeling very much at home here in Amsterdam in less than 2 months. And it only gets better and better 🙂

The experience at the University was also quite interesting. Unexpectedly, at the very first class we were given the assignment to do 10 out of 20 entrepreneurial tasks in a group for 2 days! In the end we had to compile a video which you can watch here. And this first project was crucial for our continuation of the master study – this is what I would call a true entrepreneurial kick-off! The programme was quite diverse and balanced in what it had to offer. For some of the classes really all we had to do was read articles and write papers, but for others – we created a movie, wrote a business plan for a meeting app and had a lot of fun! If you are an international student, I would advise you to go to all classes so that you don’t accidentally miss out on a detail important for you. Again, studying is extremely important. You can always make it fun, though. For example, I was very happy that my thesis topic – the relationship between beauty salon owner’s entrepreneurial competences and their employees’ motivation was approved, for example. I have work experience as a manicurist and I was curious to do such research in the Dutch beauty industry. My supervisor instantly liked the topic very much and was supporting me every step of the way.

Looking back, I have to admit that living in this country and studying here has made me a much more flexible person with a broader vision. If you are hesitating to come to Amsterdam – just come 🙂 The freedom and peace of mind you get when living here gives you a lot of space to focus on the things you like and makes you a happier person 🙂

If you have questions or you’d like to chat, don’t hesitate to contact me at: aneliya.evtimova@gmail.com. And by the way, when arriving, leave your flip-flops at home 🙂

The Festive Season in Amsterdam

Many international students go home to visit their family in friends during the festive season. However, some make sure they have a chance to enjoy at least a little of what Amsterdam has to offer at this time of year. From checking out the magnificent Christmas tree on Dam Square, visiting the Christmas markets and of course, ice skating on one of Amsterdam’s famous squares!

I Amsterdam has compiled a wonderful top 12 tip list from which to choose.

But, what’s is definitely worth staying in Amsterdam for will be New Year’s Eve! Why? Well, here’s our very own top 3 reason:

1. Fireworks – To scare away ‘bad demons’, we set off the fireworks. And honestly, we can promise, you’ve never seen as many fireworks in your life. If you have sensitive ears, wear your earplugs. It goes on for around 3 hours in a row.

Firework in Amsterdam

Firework in Amsterdam

2. Oliebollen and Appelflappen – Delicious hole-free doughnuts coated in icing sugar and wonderful apple fritters which do come with holes!

Oliebollen and Appelflappen

Oliebollen and Appelflappen

3. The Parties – All night long and too many to choose from.

Awakenings New Year Eve party 2014

Awakenings New Year Eve party 2014

But, whatever you choose to do – we wish you the best holiday season ever and a very happy 2015!

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!

Amsterdam Summer School – Reasons and Experiences

Amsterdam

For the first time this year, VU University Amsterdam started offering its own summer school programme with wide a choice of courses that range from ‘Anne Frank in Amsterdam and Beyond’ to ‘Crisis and Reform of the European Union’ and ‘International Criminal Justice’ to name but a few.

Needless to say, we are proud of this project but, what would the reasons for students be, to invest and partake in a summer school? QS has done some of the work for us and listed 6 very good reasons why summer schools are in fact a very valid option:

1. For those of you who are not sure about university, summer school will give you a useful taster of attending lectures and seminars. You don’t miss out on the social aspect either, with nights out and various extracurricular activities often organized as part of the course. Meeting and interacting with your fellow students is also a plus point, and will let you get a real feel for the university and what it has to offer.

2. Attending summer school paints your university application in a favorable light. It shows commitment and dedication to the degree you want to undertake. Institutions across the globe award credits for summer school, so do some research if you intend to use summer school as a stepping stone.

3. It gives you better idea of what you want to study at a university. Quite often we choose courses that our parents want us to take or subjects that we are good at, ignoring what we actually have a passion for. This can create quite a dilemma for a student looking to make a balanced decision. At summer school you will be given a choice of courses, without having to commit a full study programme.

4. Courses are often taught by several faculties, at the university campus and at the same level as full-time courses. In case of the VU University Amsterdam Summer School. The courses are taught be several professors with varying backgrounds. On top of that the programme is filled with field trips to organisations relating to the subjects concerning.

5. As an international student, it gives you a feel of what it would be like to study abroad in a particular location; a potentially invaluable piece of research.

6. Meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures is part of the experience. You can make friends from different parts of the world, or for the more business minded, it is great for networking. Summer school is not just for prospective undergraduates – postgraduates and professionals can also apply. The combination of all three provides for a great learning environment for all.

All in all, spending 1 or 2 weeks at a summer school abroad, is a very efficient way to work on your self development and to discover that the world outside your own doorstep, away from friends and family, is in fact not very daunting at all. It can be the first step that will lead you to discover the rest of the world and you place in it.

To find out more about your options at VU University Amsterdam, check these short films about our students’ experiences at Amsterdam Summer School and get some more in depth information on the programme itself.