50 things to do while studying in Amsterdam

By Hannah Wheeler, Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands

Here is a list of some of the best things, both touristy and Dutchie, to do in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. I hope it has something that will appeal to everyone: from club recommendations to must try cookies…

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Adjusting To The Dutch Academic System: The Way To An Easier Life 

By Hannah Wheeler, Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands

When preparing to go to the Netherlands, I didn’t think much about how the dutch academic system would be different. My mind was preoccupied with thoughts about housing, friends and Covid.

Now that I’ve been studying in the Netherlands for 8 months I wanted to share some tips to help deal with the different academic style.

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My top 5 Dutch things

By Hannah Wheeler, Vrije Universitiet, Netherlands

This blog compiles a synthesised list of the things I like the most about Amsterdam and also the Netherlands more generally. The unedited list is very extensive, including how they say ‘hoi’ instead of ‘hi’ and always give you a coaster for your beer, but for the sake of my reader’s attention span I am cutting it down. 

  1. Cookies with your coffee

One custom that has really stolen my heart, is getting a cookie or biscuit of some kind with your coffee or hot drink. Isn’t that just great? Pairing a strong dutch coffee with a sweet Speculas biscuit makes so much sense. And you know you’re in a good spot when you get a mini Stroopwaffle with your drink. I can honestly say I think I will have withdrawals from this custom when I go back to the UK. 

Mini stroopwafels with our drinks
  1. The Flea markets 

I’ve definitely explored the many flea markets of Amsterdam. As well as the Kringloops (charity shops for anything). The Ij Hallen flea market is the largest in Amsterdam and is crazy. I’ve been a couple of times and it’s perfect for cool finds, cheap pieces and a great day out. I’ve probably doubled my wardrobe since being here considering I only brought a suitcase of stuff when moving. But it’s all guilt-free as all of it is second-hand finds. One place, called Mavius had price tags on clothes saying €30 and then when I asked someone who worked there said it was actually €1… it was a lovely moment for me. 

A fuzzy video of the Mavius thrift warehouse
  1. Bicycle carparks 

The weather in both the UK and the Netherlands is equally terrible at points. My bike goes through hell in the winter months in Manchester. However, here there are actual bicycle carparks that protect your bike from the weather as well as theft! When I first discovered that Vrije university had its own bike car park for students I got so excited. No more squeaky breaks and rusty gears. 

  1. Tram, metro, bus… you name it

I’ve got to give it to them, the Netherlands transport system is lovely. With the OV-chipkaarts (basically an oyster card), you never have to buy a ticket for any transportation. It works on everything and is so much cheaper compared to the UK – it’s nuts. Getting around the country is so simple and flexible! 

Having a nap on the train to Dan Haag (The Hague)
  1. The food… 

I was sceptical and fairly oblivious of dutch food when first moving here. And I can’t say I am overly experienced with it now but the few dutch dishes I have tried I am definitely a fan of the Pannenkoechen – dutch pancakes – definitely beat a crepe in my eyes; the Olliebollen – winter doughnut – are yummy, warming snack for wondering the cold winter Amsterdam streets; the dutch fries with Pindasaus – peanut sauce – was surprisingly enjoyable. I even had a homecooked authentic dutch dinner the other day at a friends house and it was hearty and delicious with a surprising amount of flavours. It wasn’t the usual flavourings I would go for – apple mousse, sausage and gravy – but it worked. 

Our excited reactions to our first savoury Pannenkoeken

I’d never been to the Netherlands before this exchange and so wasn’t sure what to expect other than the stereotypical bikes, clogs and canals. I hope this blog can give people more of a baseline idea than I had.

The perks of living with Internationals

By Hannah Wheeler, Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands

This exchange has opened me up to so many new experiences. For the first time, I am living with a group of internationals. My apartment of four holds a combination of seven nationalities and seven languages between us. The mixture of cultures and perspectives is incredible.

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A Guide to Self Quarantine

By Hannah Wheeler, Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands

I feel that my first blog requires an honorary mention to Miss Corona. Since my acceptance to Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam back in February, Corona has always been trying to get in the way. Thankfully, she did not succeed.

I’m now three days into my self-quarantine and every second grateful to be out of the UK and at the start of my year abroad. Self-quarantine has given me the opportunity to write a blog and a great topic to start off with, considering it is relevant for many of us leaving to start our study abroad years. Here are some of the things that are helping me pass the time of quarantine… 

  1. Getting creative:

Do something that’s fun and interactive. Packing a paint-by-numbers was my best decision. Each day you make more and more progress. Plus, the final piece can contribute to decoration. Win win. If painting isn’t your thing they try youtube dance tutorials, baking or othe things more creative. I’ve also started a daily journal to keep going throughout the year. I dont write anything important but its a nice keepsake at the end. 

My Amsterdam journal
  1. Not wasting the time: 

Like most newly moved exchange student i also downloaded duolingo. Surprisingly, thirty minutes of it went in a flash. For once, i actually felt committed to do it. I have a great motivation as I actually live in Amsterdam now. Dutch should be a must. I’d hate to feel like an ignorant Brit abroad, not knowing how to say please and thank you even. Learning the basics is essential and what better time to do it. 

  1. Staying connected: 

Overall, I’m not much of a phone person. Luckily I have a roommate living with me so am not fully alone. However, when she’s out I find that a quick facetime with my folks or a little conversation on a group chat keeps my mood up. I may not be a social media person but I am a social person. I like company. Even if you facetime a friend and just stay on the line but carry on with your day, have little bits of chat but nothing that intense. Or plan to play an online board game with your family. Staying connected definitely helped me. 

  1. Making it more valuable: 

Of course, you are gonna watch a lot of TV. Days are long and you can only fill them with so much of other things. In an effort to make my time in front of the tv screen semi beneficial, i started a docu series called ‘Can’t get you out of my head’. Its an odd one. Its about why the world is like this and how we got there. To be honest though, i can’t quite tell what its arguing yet, i’m only 2/6 episodes in. It is a show that makes me give 110% attention. If you look away for a moment you’re lost. Try a show or podcast that may give a bit more back to your life than killing time maybe. 

  1. Not slacking on self care:
Morning coffee on balcony

Now this one is basic. For me, routine keeps me focused and going. I love a to-do list. Even when I can’t leave the house, a to do list makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. I even tick off that I’ve had breakfast! – a bit sad I know.

Plan in when you want to paint or chat, or to do a quick youtube workout or yoga. Plan in when you are gonna eat a snack or make a nice dinner for yourself. Plan when you are going ot write in your journal or do some duolingo. It means that you can break the day down into smaller sections. For me this makes days not seem so never ending then. 

No matter what you do, stay excited and proactive and look forward to the year ahead.