Tomorrow is the Study Abroad Fair from 12-4pm in Academy 2, the Students’ Union. To find out more, read this student’s experience of Study Abroad:
“Having just returned from my Year Abroad in Amsterdam it’s safe to say it was the most amazing year in regards to personal development, life experiences and academic progress I have had. Study abroad continued to exceed my expectations up until the day I boarded the flight home.
I was eager to study abroad after visiting the Study Abroad Fair in my first year and speaking to some of the Global Guidance Ambassadors regarding their time abroad. Studying abroad is a no-brainer for Geographers with the degree program tailored to an international experience for your full third year. The Erasmus exchange seemed like the perfect fit; enough cultural differences coupled with the ability to make it home for Christmas and the occasional birthday! After visiting Amsterdam whilst inter-railing in 2011 I loved the relaxed atmosphere, people and culture so placed the Universiteit van Amsterdam as my first choice, which I was lucky enough to receive!
Upon arriving in Amsterdam in August 2013 I was assigned an apartment in Stavangerweg in Westerpark, a 10-minute cycle from Central Station and around 20 minutes from the centre of the city. Stavangerweg is comprised of shipping containers converted into student accommodation catering for over 800 students in total. My container had its own kitchenette, bathroom and bedroom, which became very homely after a few trips to Ikea and Waterlooplein, a famous market in the city near the main University buildings. The site itself is similar to Owens Park, if it had its own man-made beach, beach bar and had views across the River IJ! This accommodation, like all of the UvA’s accommodation was overflowing with international and Erasmus students all eager to explore the city and travel. This meant that there was never a dull moment and always people to enjoy a boat trip or a wander around the canal ring with.
There is plenty to do and explore in Amsterdam. With hundreds of independent cafés, bars and restaurants you can immerse yourself into the Dutch coffee culture or enjoy a refreshing, yet deceptively strong, local beer! I also invested €50 into a Museum Card which allowed entry to all the cities museums which was a great option for a lazy afternoon off! With regards to nightlife I was also spoilt for choice with a plethora of exciting clubs and hundreds of day festivals catering for every music taste and budget. From free events in one of the many parks, to the world famous Koningsdag (Kings Day) it seemed that every weekend the city was full of life.
I was also lucky enough to visit some of the surrounding cities too. The amazing transport infrastructure allows easy access to anywhere in the country at a good price. Visiting Utrecht, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Haarlem and Maastricht highlighted how spoilt we were to live in Amsterdam and how vibrant the country really is. It was also great to take advantage of travelling opportunities whilst away. I was able to visit Hungary, Poland, Belgium and France during my time abroad, often with natives I had met whilst in Amsterdam.
Aside from networking with the international community I was lucky to take a number of unique and cutting edge courses in the social sciences. Courses included ‘Social Movements’ where students to completed participatory observations in a local squat and ‘Media Life’ which set weekly assessments such as ‘send in a ‘selfie’’ and later required students to produce a ‘media artefact’ such as a video, website, blog or art piece. Other courses such as ‘Secret Affairs’, run by an ex-intelligence analyst, also requested students to sit the notorious ‘cheating exam’. Held in the last week of the course, the cheating exam openly required students to cheat in order to write a 200 digit code. The way to achieve a 10.0 was to trick the 5 Dutch Intelligence officers who are tasked with exposing cheating methods. Secret earpieces relaying the code, painted fingernails with complex patterns and specially designed posters were just a few valiant attempts – all of which were uncovered by the officers!
Whilst abroad I was also able to complete my dissertation research on Augmented Reality Smartphone applications. There was no shortage of participants and I was able to discuss my project further with academics at the UvA all of which aided my data collection. The dissertation is a big part of a Geographers 4th year so it was good to have the year to refine ideas, complete research and arrive back in Manchester with a clear idea of how to move forward with the analysis and write up.
Aside from academia I was lucky to extend my stay to complete a 4-month internship at 3D Hubs, a 3D Printing start-up in the heart of the city. As a ‘Community Intern’ I was able to gain international experience and work in a fast paced environment which further enhanced the teamwork and communication skills I had learnt at the University of Amsterdam.
I would recommend any form of international experience as a way of building your CV, meeting and learning from people from around the world and growing in confidence. It was the best decision I have made so far at The University of Manchester.”
Dan Spooner, The University of Manchester