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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A Comprehensive Guide to Housing Whilst at Lund University

A group of people posing for the camera

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From https://www.facebook.com/LundsMemes/?epa=SEARCH_BOX

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.

  1. 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).

A bedroom with a bed and desk in a small room

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A bedroom with a bed and a window

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3) Nations

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.

3) Bopoolen & Blocket

Förstasida

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.

https://www.blocket.se/

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.

4) Other ways of getting accommodation

  • Greenhouse

http://www.newgreenhouse.se/

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.

  • Arrival Day

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.

  • Facebook Groups

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 Housing
  • Lund Sweden Accommodation
  • Lund Apartments for Rent

  • Airbnb

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!

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!

Amster-DAMN!

Moving In

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.

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Studying Scandinavian Style

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.

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South Campus looking very pretty in the sun ☀️

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Two Weeks in Copenhagen

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).

 

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Candid Nyhavn photo as modelled by my parents

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Academic differences from Semester 1, and all that jazz…

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.

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The anti-perks of studying abroad

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.

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Wherefore art thou, Berlin student discount?

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!

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Worth the wait!

Mitch, second year, studying English Literature at Freie Universitaet Berlin

So. It’s definitely been a while. Like, a really, really decent while. Everything’s been quiet on the blog front while everything’s been hectic and busy on the ‘year abroad life’ front. I’ll start not by making excuses, but making a plan: this blog will be a general (hopefully interesting) ramble on things that have gone on for me recently on this period of time abroad – because it really is amazing in its own unique way. Then, there’ll be two blogs on all the fun things/hard things that have happened, all the stuff I’ve enjoyed (or not) and why/what I gained from these experiences, which I think is a pretty interesting topic, no?

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My post-Brazil, pre-Berlin (positive!) post-mortem

By Mitch Mainstone, English Literature (Freie Universitaet Berlin, Germany)

So. Berlin is now a thing in my life. A big, leafy, musical, beautiful thing that up until a week ago I’ll admit I had no real conception of. I think that if I write that I feel that same way about myself, but reflecting back on myself as I am at the moment, in some future ‘conclusion of study abroad’ blog, then I think this year will have been a successful one!

I’ll start this by saying that both my uni-home of Manchester and my home-home city of Bristol have an incredible amount to learn from Berlin’s public transport system. Study in Berlin and you get an ID ticket that lets you use all systems of transport – Magic Buses seem almost barbaric in comparison, never mind the flaky monstrosities that pass for bus schedules in Bristol. I already love that if you want to get somewhere in the city as a student, the only thing you will really have to pay with is time. And, fortunately, that is something I have a lot of at the moment! When I met my new flatmates, because of this, I could actually get to know them instead of passing through the flat like some sort of crazed Erasmus orientation alien, which resulted in finding out that one of them is Brazilian! To others, this might seem pretty interesting, but to me, having up until three weeks ago spent six weeks volunteering there with AIESEC this summer, I CAN ACTUALLY USE PORTUGUESE AGAIN! I couldn’t really express how happy I was at that, because it was like I was combining a place that is already special to me (Brazil) with a place that I’ve newly started to call home (Berlin). The fact that he speaks almost no English, but amazing German, only helps the situation, as do my other wonderful flatmates who are brilliant, and from three other countries themselves.

That’s also one of the reasons I wanted to leave my first blog a little later, until I was half-way between being at home, and being fully immersed in FU Berlin student life, as Berlin has two weeks of orientation that are really not-quite-university but not-quite-home. That, as well as having all but a few days between getting back from Brazil, into the UK, and being in Berlin left basically no time for anything other than spending time out with my family! I feel like I’ve been doing the things that people talk about doing: the travelling, learning new languages and being freaked out a little by new cultural norms, and yet, here I am, relatively settled, happy, and wiser for it. This is where I’m at now: I haven’t completely left home in my mind yet, but I am most definitely in the thick of studying abroad, having paid my rent for this month, gone shopping, and gotten fully enrolled. My head felt like it was going to burst with how new all the sounds, sights and norms seemed to be here, and culture shock has proven itself to really be a thing, having been shouted at by one of the administrative staff, having signed my rental contract late! Anyone thinking of coming to Germany… get everything signed and sealed on time if you can!  But despite that cultural faux-pa, I’m trying to keep it in perspective as all a part of the learning curve of my year abroad fun, really.

These first two weeks are FU Berlin’s way of registering who is where, doing what, and when. The pressure to get yourself organised academically-speaking, and in terms of accommodation has more than replaced the pressure to go out in the first week at Manchester… a pretty different kind of “re-freshers” week, I’ll be honest! After this fun but paperwork-heavy bit, I have a boat-trip around Berlin organised by my university (bizarre, wonderful, costing only 5EUR), and, currently, nothing else.  There is this gulf of time this week where I want to do things, but don’t really have any clear idea what I could do. I already feel like study abroad goes at such a breakneck pace, so I want to at least make a big list of things that I can do, see, and get involved in, to feel like I have some influence over the feeling of displacement that I myself have gotten, and expect to get again, as my own personal facet of culture shock. But, I imagine, this blog will definitely help, as will making an effort to truly ‘live’ my year abroad, with all the difficulties and triumphs that are undoubtedly coming my way.