There is a lack of representation of BIPOC individuals studying abroad, as well as a lack of specific advice. I really noticed this whilst browsing the study abroad fairs and brochures both in Amsterdam and back in Manchester, which only seemed to portray the generic white, middle-class study experience. Having spent the last year in Amsterdam, I wanted to share my experience to hopefully serve as a helpful tool for anyone worried about feeling uncomfortable in a different environment.
To help amplify the experiences of other’s which are often not included in the brochures, I have also listed some articles I found helpful at the bottom of this post for specific factors to look out for when doing your research as well as first-hand experiences in different cities and countries.
Today marks my final day in Amsterdam participating in the Erasmus+ Programme at Universiteit Van Amsterdam. I am extremely sad to be leaving such an amazing city and I am so grateful for the amount opportunities I have had whilst on my study abroad.
Having grown up in a multicultural household (Spanish mum and a South African-Indian dad), taking part on the exchange programme wasn’t a massive cultural adjustment for me personally, but I can still say that the Erasmus+ programme has made me more open and tolerant towards other cultures.
Whether you are studying abroad at a different university or on placement/ interning in a different city or country, being away from your comfort zone and in a new environment will sometimes come with its own difficulties. The effect of moving away on mental health is often not spoken about before departure, and this can potentially end up completely overshadowing what should be a year of making new friends, improving language skills and learning a new way of life.
So it is important to recognise that these transitions can be challenging, and anticipating being away from home and familiar support networks can sometimes lead to worry, anxiety and stress. These emotions are to be expected, especially when you’re adapting to a new environment, culture, group of friends, education system, and sometimes even a new language in a short timeframe.
Here are a few tips to look after yourself whilst abroad and a list of some resources that are available to you if you live or study in Amsterdam more specifically.
For me, finding accommodation for my time at Lund University, initially, seemed like a never-ending endeavour. I would say this is the only negative experience I have had so far with my time in Lund. However, I do also feel that potentially my year was particularly bad. Therefore, I have tried to accumulate all the information I feel is useful and relevant when looking for housing and accommodation for your time in Lund.
As some background on my experience of housing: when I flew out to Lund, I did not have anywhere to live and was staying in a hotel for the first two weeks. So, my first piece of advice is to book somewhere to stay for the first few days/weeks whilst you are getting settled. This could be a hostel (Winstrup Hostel is popular), Airbnb, Bopoolen, Blocket or a hotel. I would recommend doing this early as lots of places get booked up. Also, if you do find somewhere to stay after booking a place to stay, you can always cancel it. However, it is still useful to have somewhere to stay when you arrive in late August as most tenancies do not begin until September, so you would need somewhere to stay for that time anyway. I did not do this as I expected to find somewhere and then paid a higher price for a hotel. Additionally, within the hostels there are often many exchange students staying there so can find friends through this too.
About a week into being out in Lund I found a place in Åkarp, outside of Lund. It is about 5 minutes on the train or 20 minutes by bus. I found it on a site called Boopolen. I did not like this very much as Lund is a very concentrated place, so I felt once you were out of Lund you were out of it. The trains and buses were not very frequent (trains twice an hour and buses 2-3 times an hour). Also, both the trains and buses stopped running to Åkarp at 1am ish, which also meant I had to catch ~£30 taxi home on my own after nights out as a result of missing the last one. Following 2 months here, I found a place on AF Bostader in Lund where I am happy and going to stay for the rest of my time.
Lund University’s Accommodation
Lund University (LU) provides some accommodation for its students. This is distributed through a lottery system and is very competitive to the point I hardly know anyone who stays in these halls. This is aside from a place called Ideon. This used to be a hotel until the summer and this year is just international students who were given it on arrival day. Other than this, I am not sure what the LU halls are like. LU has a guarantee agreement with some universities so their students are prioritised. They are all within Lund so are convenient and I believe are all pretty nice, as most student halls in Sweden are. I know some students from previous years were offered a place within some LU accommodation following some people dropping out throughout the course of the year also.
2) AF Bostader
AF Bostader is also a housing lottery. You can only get a place in their lottery as a student of Lund and being a member of StudentLund (which is how you also become a member of the student nations). No one I have met this far truly understands how this system works; however, I will explain as much as I think is correct. During a week in July, when you sign up for AF, you will be given a time (e.g. mine was about 22:17) through a lottery system and this time is your place in the housing queue. So, the earlier your time is, the higher chance you have of being given accommodation during the novisch period (the so-called fresher period, when AF have set aside so many rooms for ‘novisch’ students). Through AF, you can get a ‘corridor room’ (like a normal halls) or a flat for one or several people. The flats are more competitive.
Once you are in the housing queue, you can sign up for 3 rooms each day, or until the rooms have expired and been given to someone. If you are first in the queue at midnight on the day that the room expires, the room is yours and will receive an email regarding it the next morning. These, like LU accommodation, are very competitive. There is a general rule of being on the waiting list for 6 months before being able to obtain a room. Mine was only 3 months, however. If you are active whilst in the queue, changing rooms when you have a higher place in a different queue, you will take less time. I think this is why mine took less time. Also, I was kind of desperate so wasn’t picky about where I was living, as long as it was in Lund.
One of the reasons these halls are so competitive is all Lund University students can live there. For example, in my corridor there are students who are close to finishing their degrees as well as students who have just started. As students can live in the same room for their whole university careers, rooms will not necessarily be furnished, so this is something to bear in mind when looking for accommodation. This is the case not only with AF but anywhere you look. If it is furnished, generally, it will mean there is a bed, desk, wardrobe as well as cutlery, crockery and kitchen utensils. It is, therefore, quite good to go for a furnished room, not only because then you do not have to buy a bed but also because you do not need to get plates and stuff, which makes it cheaper and less hassle at the end of the year when moving out.
The picture below is what the queue looks like.
Something to note is the ‘party’ halls are Delphi, Parentesen and Sparta. Vildanden is known to be quieter and further out, but that only means it takes 15 minutes to get places rather than 5 minutes, like the rest of Lund. This is because, like I said previously, everything is very concentrated in Lund so as long as you are in Lund, you are not actually that far away from things so I wouldn’t let this particularly tempt you towards one or the other, as it is good to just get one!
These pictures are from my room in Vildanden. It is en-suite, has ethernet connection (as most AF rooms are) and about 4545 SEK per month (around £365).
LU has 13 nations associated with it. These are good places to meet people as they do brunches, lunches and general activities as well as being where the majority of Lund’s clubs are. They also have some accommodation but you can only try for accommodation in the nation that you are a member of, and you can only be a member of one nation. There is generally 6 months waiting list for these also. However, some do put some rooms aside for new students, like Kristianstads nation.
There is also Smålands nation which is not directly linked to the university which you can be a member of, in addition to another one. Smålands seems to have pretty regular rooms available that are also a reasonable price and in a good location.
Bopoolen is a website, specifically for students, to find accommodation. This is where I found my first place to live in Åkarp. These tend to be apartments sharing with other students or living with the flat owner. It is not unusual for students to live with just normal people in their spare rooms, in their converted basements or something similar. My previous place was a large house, where three other students and I lived. We lived upstairs in the house, which had been converted to a flat, with its own kitchen and bathroom and the homeowner, our landlord, lived downstairs. This was a better set up, in my opinion, than some others I had seen whilst looking for somewhere to live, such as being in the room next door to the landlord. However, I also have friends who have done this and really get on with their ‘landlords’ and it has worked out well for them. It all depends on what you want and are expecting. To find these places, there are adverts on the site and you have to email or ring the landlord. These, again, are very competitive and one advert can have 10+ people coming to look at the housing. They also depend on what the landlord wants from their tennants (long or short stay), whether they took a warming to you etc. Therefore, I would recommend emailing everyone or as many as you would feel happy with. As a result of the high demand for places, it is not uncommon for people to not respond to you also as a forewarning. Also, you are able to email Bopoolen themselves to ask for accommodation if you are feeling time is getting on, but I think this is only really done once in Lund.
These adverts are often outside of Lund, like mine was, and can be in nearby Malmo. I think if you are in the situation of living outside of Lund, I would say it is better to live in Malmo as it is a city and there are frequent trains as well as trains throughout the night to and from Lund. Also, there is also an university in Malmo so there are students there too. Alternatively, someone from Manchester this year is living outside of Lund and not in Malmo and he is loving that. It all depends on you and who you live with.
Bopoolen’s website is useful to look at generally as it has a list of housing sites which are legitimate as well as ways to avoid fraudulent sites/people. Being defrauded can occur as people know that students are in need of places to live. I would not say it is very common and should not happen if you use common sense.
Blocket is a similar case in regard to the type of accommodation that is available on it. It is a website for selling things generally. So, there are people selling second hand bikes, sofas and apartments as well as renting them. These are not necessarily specifically for students, so that is something to be aware of too. The same emailing process takes place with this website too.
Greenhouse is an eco-friendly accommodation about 15 miles outside of Lund. It is supposed to be quite social as everyone is there together as well as quite cheap.
On arrival day this year, 20th August for reference, there was a housing lottery. This is for international students who did not have accommodation and took place between 9am-10am. Everyone who was there was given a number and then numbers were chosen like a lottery after the hour and these people were given accommodation. So, it also may be useful flying out to Lund prior to the actual arrival day. The accommodations distributed included LU and Greenhouse. We were not informed about this until about 2 weeks before leaving so I had booked my flights and was not able to participate.
There are lots of people there who are there to help you, whatever your situation is, so just talk to anyone and they will try to help or point you towards someone who can. Also, on arrival day you can book some activities for the first few weeks to get to know people, like dinners or sports days.
There are lots of groups on facebook which advertise housing in Lund also. Some of these are specifically for students and some are general. Again, there is the precaution to be aware of scammers on these as there is not the safety that comes with the other websites. To name a few there are:
Lund Student Housing
Lund Sweden Accommodation
Lund Apartments for Rent
There are also long-term Airbnbs you may be able to find to stay in for a few months.
Some things I think are important to note:
Your flatmates are not necessarily your friendship group, as is often the case in the UK. This is to do with people of all years living in the same corridor so there is not the same want to get to know each other. I would not take this as a wholly negative thing however, particularly as, an international student as there are so many ways to get to know and meet people. A lot of this takes place in the first few weeks (the novisch period). I would recommend signing up for as many mentor groups and novisch events as you can because it gets you meeting people. There are also the nations novisch week and the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) which does lots of trips and activities.
It is good to try and obtain any accommodation until Christmas or for a month/s as the initial craze to get housing will have dropped by then, making it more likely for you to find somewhere later. It also means you have your own space for your stuff, which is important for yourself when you are settling in.
Lots of exchnage students leave after one semester, at Christmas, so more rooms will become available around this time.
When you come out to Lund it is not unusual to have nowhere to live, if this is you, you will not be alone!
Don’t let where you live stop you from socialising and going out.
If you don’t have anywhere to live, it can be hard to try getting to know people and socialising but the housing will work itself out, make sure you make the most of your time!
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.
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!
It has been two and a bit weeks now since I moved into my studio apartment in Nieuw West Amsterdam in a building called Maassluisstraat which is part of the DeKey housing company. Prior to moving in I was very concerned about living by myself in a studio after having got used to living in an 8 bed house in Fallowfield and always having someone around for company. I am actually surprised at how much I am enjoying living in my studio here and having my own space, I also think it has probably pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit as you don’t have the comfort of ‘flat mates’ to fall back on and has probably contributed to me meeting more people than I initially thought I would. I was also worried that living in a studio would be quite isolating and lonely but I’ve had neighbours knock on my door to say hello etc when they moved in and my accommodation also had a social event early on which helped create a really warm and welcoming atmosphere straight away.
Alice Logan, English Literature and American Studies, University of Copenhagen
After completing the first half of my semester abroad I thought I’d do a blog post on the differences between studying in England vs Copenhagen, as the scandi culture seems to have a massive influence on the way that the Danes study and has changed my approach to studying.
Alice Logan, English Literature and American Studies, Univeristy of Copenhagen
After just two weeks in Copenhagen, I already feel at home in this beautiful city and am slowly acclimatising to the depths of Danish winter. I defy anyone to not have positive first impressions of this incredible city. Copenhagen boasts beautiful architecture, both modern and Renaissance, canals to rival Amsterdam, a multitude of ornate gardens and the most beautiful harbour that’s so colourful it can cheer you up even when the sky is grey (which it is 90% of the time).
Mitch, second year, studying English Literature at Freie Universitaet Berlin
I’m just going to come right out and say it: a literature BA from FU Berlin, while similar in some ways, is actually very different (in this blogger’s opinion) from the version of the degree you get from, for example, Manchester.
Mitch, second year, studying English Literature at Freie Universitaet Berlin
As promised, my last blog was on the fun, positive side of Berlin and studying abroad (or a taste of it anyway). This blog is something a bit different – mainly because my study abroad experience certainly hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine all the way through. These occasional periods of negativity, which eventually lead to greater insight into myself and therefore a positive outcome, are anti-perks.
Mitch, second year, studying English Literature at Freie Universitaet Berlin
Every time I write a blog, I wonder how to start it. I know that that’s kind of reasonable as I’m starting out on what I hope is a new idea, but I find that as I write, my ideas come to me a lot more naturally than at the beginning of a post. So, here I am, starting a post again. Wondering how to start it. So I’ll start by saying how amazing Berlin is for student discounts for cultural stuff! Yay!