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  • Hannah

My first impressions of Amsterdam: Hannah

Although Hannah has visited Amsterdam many times before now it's the first time she lives here. She's discovering less touristy places and getting used to Dutch way of teaching. Read on to see what does she think about it!

Photo: VU after a late night study session

Discovering the city as a student

It has been almost two months since I moved to Amsterdam and a month since university started. I went to the city a couple of times in the past few weeks and it is crazy how different I see Amsterdam, now that I am not just visiting my sister but actually living here on my own. As a tourist, I feel like the Dam square and the nearby shopping streets are a must see but as a resident, I try to avoid that area as much as I can. For an extensive shopping spree it is great, but for a quick hema run the masses of people are a bit too overwhelming. Even though I was quite familiar with the city centre and the region up north, there are still so many new places to discover. I just recently found a couple of streets close to the main shopping street that have a bunch of really cute artsy shops. De Pijp is also a beautiful area and the cute cafes there are great for coffee dates with friends or study sessions. Something that also surprises me, again and again, is how green the city actually is. My student accommodation is only 10 minutes away by bike from a beautiful lake and park area and as a ‘countrysider' it is great to have pieces of nature here and there.

Photo: Pannenkoeken lunch with my sister

Finding my way in the maze of the VU campus

Similar to the city, I already knew the university a bit, so there were not too many shocks or surprises. The first time I had class, however, I realized how maze-like the university actually is. Eventually, you figure the system out, but whenever we have courses in another building than the hoofdgebouw (main building), students (and professors) are still often lost. I'm also mesmerized after all by how international the university really is (and how the Dutch student - German student ratio is about the same). In school, I never liked to go to the library after class, but the VU has a great variety of study areas which I am using fairly often. Especially the history library on the 9th floor is great for studying, because it is quite isolated from the rest and usually always has space available.

My study programme (Bachelor of History and International Studies) is exactly what I pictured it to be. The professors certainly expect a lot and since I have not really had school or anything since May, it took a few days to get used to the workload. The combination of lectures and tutorials is also something I am quite enjoying, even though it is a very foreign concept to me. For each course, you have a lecture and then a workgroup in which you go over the material more in depth and answer questions that might have come up during the lecture. It really helps me, because in lectures people usually do not necessarily want to interrupt the professor every time they have a question, but in tutorials nobody really minds.

Dutch are open and friendly

In my first blog post, I talked about how I was scared of getting homesick, struggling with language barriers, and not finding any friends. So when I came to the university for the first day of the introduction days I was super surprised to see how everyone was talking to each other and no one was excluded at all. Nobody really cares if you are from Germany or South Korea or if you are 18 or 24 years old. Even if you are on the shy side, the Dutch openness and friendliness make it very easy to find friends. Whether it is having a nice chat during lecture breaks, helping each other finding the right building, or spamming my bachelor degree’s WhatsApp group chat with history memes, the group cohesion is a lot stronger than what I expected it to be.

All in all, my experiences so far have been great and I am extremely happy to have chosen the VU. There are definitely times when it feels like I am thrown into the cold water and I see myself struggling, but the people here are always more than happy to lend a hand.

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