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Life in the Lowlands – UvA

Hello, my name is Emma & I was luckily enough to be accepted into the University of Amsterdam! I’m almost half way through now and wow what a time I’ve had so far.


After months of planning – being accepted, finding a place to live, forms, forms, FORMS – I finally arrived in Amsterdam on the 29th of January. And what a sight met my eyes! When you hear about Amsterdam overseas everyone speaks about the drugs and prostitutes, but no one accurately describes how beautiful the city really is. In the city centre, every street is separated by a series of canals, lined with house boats and trees. During the day the canals reflect the beauty of the buildings back at you, while at night it glows brightly with the city lights. Historically a city below sea level, Amsterdam is covered with canals, and as I look out my bedroom window I can see the Lozingskanaal which follows me all the way to class.

I thought it best here for me to jot down a couple observations about Amsterdam, things I love & will miss when I return home:

BIKES: I’m addicted to life on a bike – here, everyone has one, regardless of age or fitness – I see my professors hope onto one after class. It’s the way that people here get around, as there is a bike lane on every street, and being so compact it’s the best way to get around the city. Every morning I can hop on my bike which is parked directly outside my building, and be at school within 10 minutes. Amsterdam seems so accessible to me now, and the thrill of biking while listening to music will never go away. NB: no one here wears a helmet. no one

SIZE: the netherlands is an incredibly small place. While the concept that I can drive to the Belgium boarder within 2.5 hrs still scares me sometimes, it means that the country is incredibly simple to explore as everything is so close. For the dutch, the idea of distance is a completely different concept. I took a 30 minute train to the beach yesterday which many would describe as a long journey. The cities themselves as small too, as people are crammed together in tall apartments, & on every single inch of land.

DUTCH TREATS: while the dutch do lack a national food identity, they make up for it in their treats! So far I’ve developed an unhealthy addiction to stroopwafel – but some other ‘must tries’ are bitterballen, a apple pie from winkel 43, and cruesli. For coffee lovers – yes the dutch can make great coffee (check out Coffee Bru, Two for Joy, Rum Baba, Latei, KOKO just to name a few).

CITY LIFE & CULTURE: the thing I love most about Amsterdam is what goes on at night. every night of the week something new & exciting is happening. I can barely keep up. & the great thing is that people here participate! it doesn’t matter if it’s cold & raining outside, or its a tuesday night, every venue is packed & there’s always something new to experience. no idea seems to be rejected here.

LANGUAGE: although I’m taking a dutch language course here it really doesn’t seem to be necessary. EVERYONE speaks english. it’s also important to note that Amsterdam is a very international city & when I go out only half the people I meet are dutch. Amsterdam has become a melding point for so many different cultures, with english as the common language between all. I will say that the only downside to not understand dutch is that it’s harder to get to know a dutch person & be included in their group of friends. While they all speak english, they like to speak dutch to each other, and sometimes forget that you don’t understand.

Just a few other observations:

– having a dutch bank account is a necessity here! people don’t carry cash anymore

– the best sunny days are spent in vondelpark or lazing by a canal

– food is always cheaper at the market

– the dutch are very direct, don’t be put off

– don’t be scared to walk up & talk to people – they’re incredibly friendly once provoked & so helpful once you know them

After only being here for 2 months I can highly recommend choosing to study at UvA. I still can’t believe that soon have to leave this place I now consider home.





— Emma


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