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Amsterdam Summer Study

Lily James who is studying Law attended a summer course at the University of Amsterdam which was funded by Santander Universities.

After seeing various Go Abroad advertisements around campus, I decided to look online and explore potential opportunities with partner universities. I discovered one pre-existing pathway within the Law department, but it didn’t quite suit what I was looking for. Despite this, they were immediately enthusiastic to support me in seeking placements elsewhere if I could secure one independently. After some research, I found the perfect course at the University of Amsterdam and submitted my application. During the whole process, the Go Abroad department was incredibly supportive, giving information on available funding options and holding informative pre-departure meetings.  

First and foremost, my accommodation at the University of Amsterdam was incredible. I was located in a studio flat in the central Prinsengracht area, overlooking a beautiful canal. My entire class was placed in the same accommodation which made it much easier to make friends and settle in.

row of houses in front of a canal

Meeting the people on my course was truly the highlight of my entire experience abroad, as everyone was so diverse and came from all corners of the world. Since my course was centred around global protest, it was so interesting to hear stories from America, Lebanon, Syria, Singapore and so on. We bonded together outside of class, exploring new parts of the cities, visiting museums, and going to concerts and jazz clubs. I have stayed in contact with many of them since leaving and I feel as though I have made genuine, life-long friends.  

On days where I had class, I had to commute to University which I am not used to at Goldsmiths, where I live right around the corner. This consisted of getting a tram to Centraal Station, and then the metro to the UvA Campus. I surprisingly really enjoyed this part of my day, as it gave me time to properly wake up and listen to some music before my day got started (I also loved getting a cheap coffee and croissant for the journey from Albert Heijn!).

young woman on a bike looking up smiling at the cameraAfter arriving on campus, we normally had a session in the classroom where we provided a background for what we were going to discuss that day, sharing any contributions or ideas we had. After this, we all met at the canteen for lunch. The University gave us lunch vouchers of around 10 Euros a day which was definitely another highlight- there were so many food stalls available and I managed to save so much money by using these. After lunch, we normally had an excursion related to the academic topic we had discussed earlier. These included trips to Het Schip and the International Institute of Social History. After travelling home from class, I usually stayed in the flat to make dinner and finish readings, or met my classmates outside on the canal for a few drinks. I tried to make the most of my days off by enjoying my own company and exploring the city alone, getting dinner, visiting galleries, going to the cinema- one weekend I caught the train to Utrecht to meet up with some friends already living in the Netherlands. My routine differed from being at home as I usually stick within my comfort zone and will only do things within a group, but it was great to have fun on my own without worrying what anyone thought as I didn’t really know anyone outside of my class! 

When I initially arrived in Amsterdam, I had a few days before my class induction where Ia group of people sat in a small boat on a body of water had not met or spoken to anyone. This was really hard as I began to worry that everyone else had already bonded and I was missing out. As soon as I arrived at class, however, I realised that everyone was in the same boat and was eager to make friends. It was also somewhat difficult to budget, as for the first week or so it almost felt as though I was on holiday! But after classes started I fell into a much better routine and did not need to fill my time with eating out, shopping etc.  

Personally, I feel as though my experience abroad has boosted my confidence massively. I really went out of my way to talk to people and establish relationships early on as I knew that this would be integral to my time in Amsterdam. I was honestly surprised at how easy it was to get along with the people on my course and I feel proud of myself for putting myself out there. In academic terms, it was great to be able to expand my knowledge beyond the law. I have always had an interest in social unrest and subsequent movements, but felt as though I was not equipped with any theoretical understanding. We established this over our first two days in the classroom with the course convenor, as he provided us with the foundational topics we would need to progress. Following this there were so many interesting speakers in class, each covering unique topics- from environmental justice, to the Arab Spring, to the sex worker movement. It was great being able to pull from such a diverse range of subjects. 

view of a canal on a sunny dayMy first tip for students about to go abroad would firstly be to ensure they have access to WiFi or mobile data through their phone contract. This seems mundane, but it turned out to be crucial when trying to navigate a foreign country alone- I was often left without internet as I didn’t want to rack up a huge bill! I would also be sure to get a bank card that doesn’t impose fees for international transactions. If you are going abroad for a month or more, I would recommend packing light or leaving some space in your luggage as there will likely be so many things/souvenirs you will want to bring home. Other than that, I would just try and drop and preconceptions you may have about the city/the people there as it will likely surprise you.