Top Five Reasons Why Amsterdam is the Perfect Place to Study Abroad
For me, Amsterdam was the perfect size. It wasn’t too big that it was hard to navigate or felt overwhelming, but not too small so I never ran out of new things to discover! I learned parts of the city really, really well, and would take new routes to different places just for fun or to see a new part of town. Public transportation is relatively cheap and easy to figure out too. So once you’re in the heart of the city, you have options to metro to a farther location, take the tram on the inner-city tracks, bike of course, or just go on foot. I would take the metro a few stops into the city and then would walk to wherever I needed to get to. Usually the metro stops would put me about 10-35 minutes walking distance from my destination, and if needed or the weather was bad, I’d hop on a tram. Overall, it’s an extremely pedestrian friendly city, and one of my favorite activities was just walking around to enjoy the scenery: the gorgeous canals, little shops and quaint residential areas.
Safety & Emergencies
On the whole, I felt incredibly safe in the Netherlands. I’ve heard about an uptick in pick-pocketing in many European countries, but I never heard or saw anything about that during my time in Amsterdam. I had one metro scare, where a man followed me out of the metro and confronted me on the steps, but after talking to my friends and the IES Abroad staff about the encounter, those occasions are extremely rare. The IES Abroad center staff will also provide you with any support they can and if necessary, will help you coordinate filing a police report, or even accompany you to a police station. You don’t have to worry about gun violence, which coming from any place in the U.S. was a huge relief for me. I always felt safe walking alone at night or as the sun was setting, which I wouldn’t usually say about my college town. In any case, you’ll probably be traveling with your friends and classmates most places anyways, but it’s nice to be able to go out on your own and have lessened worries. IES will also provide you with the most important emergency numbers, and help you navigate emergency doctor’s appointments, billing, ambulance services, etc. It’s a lot to think about before you leave, but it’s also a good idea to read up about the healthcare system where you’ll be just in case something happens!
Public Everything: Public Parks/Public Libraries/Public Transportation
I already mentioned public transportation previously, but it really was one of my favorite things! Many European countries have super efficient public transport systems, but the system in The Netherlands really took the cake for me! It’s even, dare I say, better than the London tube; super clean, almost always runs on time, limited screeching from the railway. Sometimes entertainment from cute babies, dogs and the occasional house plant. What more could you ask for? In terms of green space, Amsterdam does it right. The parks are great, and there’s multiple scattered throughout the city. There’s usually a loop around an open field, where people run/walk/bike, and then in the grassy areas people picnic, play games like soccer, etc. Many have fountains or canals running through too. Most of the parks are gated, so you just have to find an entry point. It’s a nice little getaway from city life! I enjoyed Oosterpark, Vondelpark, Sarphatipark, and Park Frankendael. In addition, do not sleep on the public libraries! The OBAs (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam) are great. There’s various locations scattered around the city where you can go in and just study and utilize the space. The Roeterseiland UvA campus was sometimes overwhelming for me, as the study spaces and libraries were normally super crowded. Instead, I’d head to the OBA at Centraal Station with a café and five floors of study areas and books that overlooked the water. It was cozy, comfy, and I miss it so much.
The city is shockingly clean. You won’t even feel like you’re in a city sometimes because it feels so intimate and tidy. I think the cleanliness adds to the city’s charm.
Studying at the UvA or VU
Studying at the university was one of the main reasons I chose to go to Amsterdam! Getting university experience is truly invaluable and I’d recommend it to anyone studying abroad because you learn what it’s really like to be a student abroad, and not just at an exchange center with other Americans.
Activities for Everyone
You’ll never run out of things to do in Amsterdam, whether day or night! You’ll have your cafes you go back to time and time again, but also new places on the docket. Your favorite bar, but others around the block to try. There’s more weekend markets than you can count and always another Techno Tuesday if nightlife is calling your name. If you want to know city events, the IES center will send out periodic updates for what’s going on! You’ll also see advertisements around when a really big event is going on like Amsterdam Dance Event or Christmas markets. While Googling is sometimes helpful, don’t forget to ask your class friends what they do along the way. I met a few girls in my UvA classes who told me where they’d go for drinks with friends or theatres and clubs that attracted university students our age. While the Red Light District might be something you want to mark off your bucket list, it’s not really as big of a deal as it may seem when you actually arrive! Lots of college students don’t spend time there, and it’s more of a tourist attraction. And as I’ve found, appeals to older men in their thirties and forties. So definitely check it out if you want, but know there’s more in the city to do!
More Blogs From This Author
Hi! I'm Katie. I enjoy iced matcha lattes, sunset walks, and Bernedoodles! I'm a huge book lover, and will easily pick up the newest summer romance. I also have a knack for crafting playlists for friends and could listen to the same song all day!