Tips you may have overlooked to help keep your mental health in check

There’s no doubt that, as an international student in a foreign country, you’ll emerge from the experience with new knowledge about a different part of the world but also about yourself! However, getting out of your comfort zone can be a struggle. Whether you’re completing a course overseas or taking part in a shorter exchange programme, international students are required to adapt to a completely new environment, culture, group of friends, education system, and sometimes even language; and all in a very short timeframe.

I have found the work-load at the University of Amsterdam pretty difficult to keep up with among everything else I’ve been trying to juggle. I had a lot of deadlines and an exam period which I found pretty overwhelming, and it was easy to fall into the habit of comparing yourself to friends who were doing well (grades wise) and in every other aspect you could possibly (over)think of. In this moment I asked myself, am I taking care of myself and my mental health? So instead of trying to tackle the rest of my reading list I’m here writing a blogpost, because looking after ourselves is more important than pretending I know what’s going on in tomorrows seminar.

Here are a few tips to look after yourself whilst on study abroad and a list of some resources that are available to you if you live or study in Amsterdam more specifically.

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Roeterseiland Campus – University of Amsterdam

The University of Amsterdam has four campuses located around the city. As I study social sciences I am located at Roeterseiland campus which is located just East of the city centre, in the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam.

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How to finesse your way through study abroad in Amsterdam (broke student edition)

Living and studying abroad is already expensive, and unless you’re able to get a part-time job/paid internship alongside your university contact hours (which are 5x that of Manchester’s), having fun while still maintaining a sustainable living situation can be tricky. I had heard that Amsterdam was an expensive city before I got here so I was ready to spend mindfully in an attempt to budget but I failed within the first two weeks of getting here. I found it too easy to get caught up in spending on little things and forget that a few euros here and there adds up really quickly.

Writing this post has made me beyond thankful for my Erasmus grant, but there is only so much that this will cover, especially when you’re broke but living in a city that has so much going on – like Amsterdam. So I’ve decided to put together a little list of tips that have definitely helped me save a substantial amount of euros here and there. Some of them might be a bit extra…but desperate times = desperate measures!

The end of a chapter

Returning to Manchester has been great, the whole transition has been surprisingly smooth – more so than I expected.

Having had an incredible year in Amsterdam, it also strangely feels as though I never left. It does feel a little odd that I could have had such a big year of growth and adventure in the Netherlands and then moved back to the UK with such ease.

I expected to have a hard time coming back and returning to Manchester as a lot of my friends have now graduated and i’m now going into the year group below. However, this isn’t the case; instead I got to move in with my best friend, and I have seen old friends and picked up where we left off. Manchester just feels like home again.

Without sounding cliché, I’d like to think that coming home has been so easy because of the life lessons and skills I learnt in the Netherlands. The year taught me how to be resilient, positive and more confident, enabling me to tackle challenges head on. And therefore, coming home was less of a challenge than I anticipated.

However, that doesn’t mean that i’m not sad that my exchange has come to an end. I miss the city, cycling around in the sunshine. I miss the beautiful buildings and sunsets. I miss the experience of living abroad. But most of all, I miss my friends.

Attempting to describe how my year abroad has been is a task which I find difficult because it has been such an interesting, exciting and happy time but also one which had its lows. It is bitter sweet that this chapter has ended and i’m now back to reality. However,  all I can say is that I am very grateful that I got to have this experience and would definitely do it all again in a heartbeat.

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“Great things never came from comfort zones”

Today marks two months since I returned from my year in Amsterdam, which has made me reflect on my time there. The experience has been one the most rewarding things I have done in my life, and I would highly recommend it.

The idea of going on a year abroad was always appealing to me, however it was not something I seriously considered because I was enjoying university so much that I didn’t want to leave it. I was afraid of missing out on living with my friends in third year and graduating together. The idea of starting something new abroad wasn’t what was putting me off, it was leaving the bubble I had created for myself in Manchester. Knowing that if I stayed, I was guaranteed to have a great final year, but if I left there was the potential to miss out, which scared me from applying. 

I eventually realised that I was looking at it from the wrong perspective, and that when else in my life would I get the chance to study abroad. Once I committed to the application process, and got my acceptance, I was suddenly desperate to go and ready to experience something new. 

Arriving in Amsterdam and becoming a new student in an unfamiliar city hit me hard. I was expecting it to be a relatively smooth transition because I had found starting in Manchester easy. I realised that moving from a house with ten of my best friends to living with just one other person was the main reason for feeling lonely, so I decided I had to ‘put myself out there’. This didn’t come naturally to me and I found the making friends process more difficult than I thought I would, not because there weren’t lots of great people around, but because there were almost too many people to choose from.

However, as the weeks moved on and school started, I began to settle in. I met some great friends, who were quite different from my friends at Manchester. It was so refreshing to meet people from all over the world, making friends from Australia to Canada and everywhere in between. I loved the city, the feeling of making my home in a new country was exciting. Cycling around at night with my friends, exploring restaurants and bars, visiting places I had never heard of before all contributed to my fantastic time there. I’ve made some amazing memories and friends for life (who right now, I am very much missing).

Looking back on my year, despite the tough start and ups and downs along the way, I truly did have such a fun, happy year. I discovered new passions, grew in confidence and developed my love for travel. As cliché as it sounds, living abroad has changed me for the better. 

As the quote says, “great thing never came from comfort zones”; if I had stayed in Manchester, I’m sure I would have had a fine year, but I would have missed out on all the great things that my year abroad gave me. 

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if you are considering going on study abroad don’t let your comfort zone convince you not to. 

Recommendations for the Netherlands

As you can imagine, living in Amsterdam is pretty cool. However, the hustle and bustle of city life can be pretty exhausting, especially when trying to explore the city at the weekend. There are huge amounts of tourists cycling around with no clue where they are going…and booking up lots of the museums far in advance. So, I decided to explore some of the less ‘touristy’ places in the Netherlands – they are well worth a visit!

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Top tips for thriving not just surviving Amsterdam

All things considered Amsterdam is a very easy place to live for a foreigner, with 90% of people speaking English. However, there are a few things I wish I had known to buy or to do which would have made my first few weeks easier. So here are some things to consider when moving here:

Set up a dutch bank account: up until Christmas time I managed to get by using my international bank card. However, it was causing me a bit of hassle, as lots of shops here only take dutch cards. Also, online shopping using dutch companies is impossible without a dutch card. However, since I got a job and had to set up an account I realised how worthwhile it is to have one. I recommend ING for a free student account.

Get a bike ASAP: I actually brought my bike with me from home, as I was lucky enough to have my dad drive me here. But if you can’t do that, then I suggest either renting one from Swapfiets for €15 per month, or you can buy a v cheap one at Waterlooplein.

Order a student OV chip card: for the super windy and rainy days when you can think of nothing worse than cycling, you’ll need to have a student OV chip card to allow you to take public transport (unless you want to fork out a fortune for the standard ticket).  You can order them online and they give a discount on all transport.

Museumkaarts: are a must if you like museums. Going to exhibitions in the Netherlands can become expensive, so if you want to go to more than 4 times I would recommend you get a card. It costs about €60 to get one, but if you buy it at the museum the cost of the visit is deducted.

Free food: there are quite a few spots in the city for free or cheap meals. Taste before you waste is a charity which hosts dinner’s twice a week. You can also go to their food market and get free ingredients.

Booze: annoyingly, I wandered around the supermarket for about 15 minutes looking for vodka before I mustered up the courage to ask where the spirits were. Turns out, in the Netherlands if you want spirits you have to go to a liquor shop.

Flixbus: by far the cheapest and easiest way to get around; both to different dutch cities but also further afield.

Although this blog isn’t super exciting, I do wish I knew these things and I hope it is useful for whoever comes to Amsterdam on exchange.

 

 

I can’t believe I’m halfway through already

Currently, I am sat at the airport on my way back to Amsterdam for the beginning of semester two. Circling my mind I have so many thoughts about the last four months, which prompted me to write a post to reflect on my first semester abroad.

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Academic differences between UoM and UvA

Before coming to study at the University of Amsterdam I had heard that there were  differences when it came to academia, some of which I learnt before I even arrived. However, I would say that university here is more different than I initially expected which resulted in me struggling a little at the start. Therefore, I decided it would be a good idea to write a blog post about it to prepare other students who want to study here.

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My whirlwind romance with Amsterdam

Abigail Herd (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

The 17th September marked a month of my time in Amsterdam, a city which I am now proud to call home. Within a month of being here I have completely fallen in love with the city, country and people.

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10 of my Favourite Things about Amsterdam

A lot have people have asked me why I decided to study abroad in Europe. Admittedly, I am incredibly jealous of everyone who has been able to experience life in an exotic far-off land, especially from the @uomgoabroad Instagram page. However, coming towards my time here in Europe I have never been so glad I picked Amsterdam, and I thought you all deserved to know why..

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Amstel Canal, Amsterdam.

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Academic Differences in Amsterdam

The way the grading system works in Amsterdam, takes some getting used to compared to back in Manchester. Exam period has just been here in Amsterdam. Therefore, I thought it would be useful to note the main differences I have experienced in my time here.

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