I may be biased, but after living in Amsterdam for three months, it's hard to imagine how studying abroad in any other city could have given me a better experience. With three universities, a large student population and many international students choosing to undertake an exchange here every year, I’m clearly not alone.
Here are seven reasons why I believe Amsterdam is the ideal city for a student exchange.
1. There’s always something going on
There is never a dull day in Amsterdam. There are constantly festivals and events being held around the city, as well as a whole assortment of museums, galleries, and activities (not to mention the coffeeshops) to keep locals and tourists alike entertained.
The only downside to this is that when you are studying or running errands, you can feel like you are missing out on all of the events that are constantly happening around you. But for students looking for a cultural experience, Amsterdam’s huge range of things to do is perfect to make the most of your exchange.
2. The open-minded outlook
The Netherlands is known for being a very open-minded, accepting and liberal country—and Amsterdam rings true to this stereotype. The fact that it is such a multicultural city means that you can effortlessly blend into Amsterdam’s melting pot no matter what your nationality, religion or sexual orientation, and, in turn, have the chance to meet a whole assortment of people from very diverse backgrounds.
And, if you so wish to smoke a joint in public or even go to see a live sex show, then those options are also available to you. Nobody will be judging.
Amsterdam is home to many markets, such as the Waterlooplein and Albert Cuyp markets which are open daily. Every two weeks in Amsterdam Noord, there is also the IJ Hallen Market—the largest flea market in Europe. Here you can buy everything from clothing to furniture, all on a student budget.
The ability to buy quality items at such low prices is very ideal as a student when there isn’t the money to spare on clothes shopping, and no city quite has the range of markets that Amsterdam offers every day.
4. Cheap travel
Due to its location in mainland Europe and bordering both Belgium and Germany, the Netherlands is a good option for a study abroad destination if you wish to travel during your exchange. Buses to Brussels cost as little as 6 Euros, and I even managed to fly to Dublin—which is far closer to my home in England—for less money than it would have cost me from London.
Additionally, there are many other towns and cities around the Netherlands which are well worth visiting, such as Maastricht in the south, and The Hague, which is only a short train ride away and home to the Netherlands’ parliamentary buildings.
5. Cycling culture
Cheaper than paying for the bus, the ability to get everywhere on two wheels is a godsend for students who are on a tight budget. Amsterdam is known for its biking culture, which at first I found daunting as I hadn’t cycled much before. It might be difficult to get used to when you are first starting out, but once you start cycling every day and become accustomed to the rules of the road, then you will find that biking is a much more convenient way to get around your student city. Plus, it gives you daily exercise so you don’t need to splash out on a gym membership.
6. Idyllic working spots
The University of Amsterdam itself has several libraries, although most of these are often very busy, especially around exam season. On a sunny day, it is more desirable to work on a bench alongside a canal—a luxury that a student would not have in many other exchange cities.
Now the weather is getting colder, I prefer working in a café with a hot chocolate or a coffee to keep my focus. There are plenty of places to go and work in Amsterdam in a more relaxed environment, which is perfect for any student with looming deadlines.
7. The nightlife
Every student loves a good night out. And, if you’re planning to study abroad, then having fun and socializing with new people is likely to be high on your priority list. In terms of nightlife, Amsterdam never fails to deliver. With hundreds of bars and clubs to suit all tastes, as well as many bands playing gigs, every night in Amsterdam has something new to offer.
Some events are far from conventional—such as the annual “Museum Night” in which many of Amsterdam’s museums are open until two in the morning, with special exhibits, live music and even club nights held inside. This diversity of after-dark activities is one thing that is sure to make anyone’s study abroad experience.Add this article to your reading list