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MAGAZINE 2010-2011

The best way to get started


WWW.UVA.NL INTRODUCTI ON 6 Higher education

in the Netherlands


Decentralised Intake procedure Insurance Money matters Work

Studying at the University of Amsterdam Learning at the UvA The academic year Credit system Assessment and grading Fraud and plagiarism The Student Charter and Code of Conduct Stay in touch!


OW GOOD TO KN 16 Practical matters


A good start: International Student Network Amsterdam The Introduction ISN coaches ISN Amsterdam activities ESN card UvA Masters Introduction

Sign up

for the UvA introduction

We offer you Student Services Health and welfare Study Leisure


/INTERNATIONAL This UvAStart Magazine International provides an introduction to the University of Amsterdam for new international students. It will tell you what we have to offer, what organisations and facilities are available to you as a UvA student and what we expect of you while you are here. You will also ďŹ nd practical information about studying at our university and life in the city of Amsterdam.


34 40

Coming to Amsterdam History & today Personal safety Arriving in Amsterdam Getting around Sexuality, alcohol, drugs

DIVERS 44 48 50

Important dates and events Checklist How to survive

Living in Amsterdam UvA Housing Finding a room on the private market Shops and markets

Cultural Amsterdam Museums Cinemas Theatre Music Nightlife Comedy

Colophon UvAStart Magazine International is published by the International Student Services Office (BIS) of the University of Amsterdam. The magazine is issued once annually and sent to all new international students. Print run 5.000, May 2010 Photography Cover: Maarten Schuth Arne Coomans, Liesbeth Dingemans, Marcel van Gaalen, Dirk Gillissen, Wim Jonker, Marie-JosĂŠ Keijzers, Brechtje Keulen, Eduard Lampe, Fernando McDougal, Wilko Miletic, Jeroen Oerlemans, Maarten Schuth, Martijn Steiner, Wilbert van Woensel. Design Crasborn Grafisch Ontwerpers bno, Valkenburg aan de Geul, 10065, Disclaimer No rights can be derived from the contents of this publication.

WELCOME TO THE UVA The UvA is one of the largest educational institutions in the Netherlands. We want you to feel at home and enjoy your studies here. At the UvA we’re proud of our ‘international classrooms’, where students from all over the world learn together on an equal footing. Discussions have a distinct flavour at the UvA thanks to the diversity of the participants’ cultural, national and academic backgrounds. We strive to provide you with everything you need so that you can complete your programme. What we ask for in return is a full commitment on your part. We want you to feel responsible for your own academic progress and to put the best of yourself into your work. Choosing the University of Amsterdam means opting for the intellectual depth of an academic study in an inspiring and challenging international setting. From wherever you come in the world, we hope and believe your time here will prove to be of lasting value. Professor Dymph van den Boom Rector Magnificus, University of Amsterdam



AND IN AMSTERDAM Choosing to study at the University of Amsterdam means choosing the city of Amsterdam as well. With its wealth of cultural activities, diverse forms of entertainment, wide range of businesses and countless other organisations, Amsterdam is a city packed with opportunities, experiences and challenges that will enrich your student life. Home to some 170 nationalities, Amsterdam is truly a global city but in many ways it is also like a large village, compact enough that you can easily cycle to and from lectures, the gym, the theatre or wherever else you want to go. The University of Amsterdam is at the heart of our city, both literally and figuratively. Its 30,000 intelligent, creative and imaginative students make a huge contribution to Amsterdam’s unique ambience, image, culture and diversity. Studying here forces you to make choices and to think about how you view and experience life. As mayor of Amsterdam, it is my great pleasure to wish you a warm welcome and to invite you to enjoy an unforgettable experience. Lodewijk Asscher Acting Mayor of Amsterdam



HigH Education in the Netherlands




Dutch higher education is renowned throughout the world for its high standards. These are guaranteed by a national system of strict regulation and quality assurance, supervised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. length, and also lead to different kinds of degree.

As in many other parts of the world, higher education is organised into three so-called cycles: the Bachelor’s, the Master’s and the doctoral (PhD) phases. Unlike in most other countries, though, it is also structured in what is known as a binary system. This means that two distinct types of programmes are taught at two different institutions: the theoretically oriented education (WO), offered by research universities like the UvA, and higher professional education (HBO), provided by the hogescholen, or universities of applied sciences. This distinction is extremely important because WO and HBO programmes have very different admission requirements, content and


To qualify for admission to a research university (WO programmes), Dutch students must successfully complete a highly selective six-year preparatory programme (VWO). Only about 15 per cent of all school students pass this. Following a set curriculum, they learn Dutch, English and a second foreign language, science, history and social studies, cultural and artistic appreciation and physical education. In the final phase they choose one of four specialisations, or ‘clusters’ as they are known, depending upon the subject they wish to take at university: (i) nature and health, (ii) science and


technology, (iii) economics and society or (iv) culture and society. The nature of the programme means that Dutch VWO graduates have completed one or two years more preparatory training than their counterparts in many other countries by the time they enter university. As a result, from the outset the degree curriculum focuses almost exclusively on their major subject and chosen specialisation. An HBO graduate can usually enrol in a WO course in a related subject, but in many cases they must take a special conversion programme to bring their know-how and research skills up to the required standard.




With more than 30,000 students and 5,000 staff members, the UvA is one of Europe’s largest research universities. It has an excellent academic reputation and offers degree programmes in a wide range of subjects through its seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economic and Business, Law, Science, Medicine and Dentistry. The UvA has a rich history and has long been an integral part of the city of Amsterdam. Currently the largest university in the Netherlands, it can trace its origins back to a small city academy called the Athenaeum Illustre, which was founded in the seventeenth century. As a metropolitan institution, the UvA has always been housed in old and new buildings scattered throughout the capital. In fact, we regard the city as our campus! Most of our buildings lie in the heart of Amsterdam, with only the faculties of Science, Medicine and Dentistry located outside the centre. The presence of so many UvA students has a huge impact on everyday life in Amsterdam. They’re found everywhere - not just in the university lecture theatres, libraries and computer rooms, but in every part of the urban community – not least the city’s many theatres, cinemas, restaurants, bars, clubs and other social venues. Educationally, our aim is to offer you an inspiring academic environment. A place where you can develop your learning potential to the full. The UvA stands out for its critical, creative and international character, its openness, and its close ties with the city of Amsterdam and with society at large.




Learning at the UvA Most teaching at the UvA is in the form of lectures, seminars and tutorials. Typically, you will be expected to attend two or three sessions a week for each course module. In addition, there will be a significant amount of work to do in your own time: private study, writing essays or papers, and preparing assignments, either on your own or with fellow students. The UvA’s academic tradition places great emphasis on active personal responsibility in learning and on critical independent thinking. Our aim is to stimulate personal interests and motivation. The ideal UvA student is self-disciplined, has good organisational skills and likes to take initiative.

Academic year 2010-2011 First semester 6 September 2010 - 28 January 2011

Second semester 31 January – 8 July 2011

University holidays in 2010-2011 The exact dates of the academic calendar vary from course to course.

The academic year

The following dates are designated as general university holidays (when all UvA buildings and facilities are closed).

Our academic year lasts from early September until mid-July and is divided into two 20-week semesters. The first of these ends in late January and the second begins in early February. There are no mid-term breaks, only a short holiday around Christmas and New Year.

Christmas holiday Good Friday Easter Monday Queen’s Day Liberation Day Ascension Day Additional UvA holiday Whitsun Summer holiday

Credit system The UvA has adopted the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) to measure student workloads. This means that credits earned at our university can in principle be transferred to other institutions in any of the participating European countries. A full Bachelor’s degree programme (BA, BSc or LLB) lasts three years (180 ECTS). In most cases, 150 of these credits need to be obtained in courses related to the major subject, with the remaining 30 coming from electives. A Master’s programme (MA, MSc or LLM) has a duration of one to two years (60-120 ECTS).

Credits One ECTS credit represents 28 hours of full-time study. A full-time student accumulates 60 ECTS credits (1,680 hours of study, including lectures and seminars) per academic year, or 30 ECTS credits (840 hours) per semester.

20 December 2010 - 2 January 2011 22 April 2011 25 April 2011 30 April 2011 5 May 2011 2 June 2011 3 June 2011 13 June 2011 8 July - 2 September 2011

Assessment and grading At the end of each course, you are awarded a grade. This can be based upon a written examination, a test, coursework or any combination of these. In the Dutch education system, all marks and grades are awarded using a ten-point scale, with 10 representing a ‘perfect’ score. The table below shows how these marks are distributed on average and how they compare with other common grading systems.

Fraud and plagiarism Copying, cutting and pasting, passing off someone else’s work as your own, not citing your sources, falsifying the results of an experiment... At the UvA, such conduct is considered fraud or plagiarism and is taken very seriously. As an UvA student, you are expected

International grading systems Dutch ten point system

ECTS Quality Assessment

Distribution percentages

Recommended US grades

Recommended ECTS grade

8-10 7.5-8 7-7.5 6-7 5.5-6 < 5.5

excellent very good good satisfactory sufficient fail

10% 25% 30% 25% 10% -





to know how to properly quote and paraphrase other people’s texts, and how to report research findings accurately and correctly. If you present work written by someone else as your own, that is clearly plagiarism. But even simply quoting large sections of text and citing them correctly, although not strictly speaking plagiarism, is unacceptable at the UvA. Your work must contain your own original ideas and it must be verifiable. To avoid committing fraud or plagiarism, even inadvertently, make sure that you are familiar with the rules, including those for citing sources. For more information, see

Student Charter and Code of Conduct The UvA’s Student Charter cover a wide range of topics of great importance to everyone studying here. These include our rules and regulations, your rights and duties as a student and details of the university organisation. The Dutch Code of Conduct for universities guarantees proper recruitment, selection and coaching of students from outside the European Union. For the full text, see


Janie (South African)

‘Students are given much more autonomy for interpretation, which pressures you to do your best.’

Stay in touch! The University of Amsterdam’s alumni network reflects the quality and diversity of those who have studied here. As a past student of the UvA, you join a broad and varied – yet select – group of people with all kinds of backgrounds and from all over the world. Whether you return to your home country, stay in the Netherlands or move on to somewhere new, you can benefit from this connection by becoming an active member of the network. Maria (Russian)

‘The interaction between students and tutors is organised in a more informal manner than I’m used to. And I like it! It provides you with more freedom and involves you in discussions.’


One of its most important functions is to provide you with contacts to assist you in your professional life after graduation. We strongly encourages alumni to take initiatives that help strengthen the UvA’s links with the job market, such as organising events and arranging placements. We also invite you to attend the lectures, seminars and other events hosted by the UvA and by its representatives abroad. Last but not least, please give us your feedback about your experiences at the UvA! Knowing what you liked and what you didn’t during your time here will help us to improve the quality of education for future students. For more information, see





A good start INTRODUCTIO N

International Student Network Amsterdam

ISN Amsterdam is a student-run organisation dedicated to helping international students make the most of their stay in the Netherlands. It has the full support of the UvA. Your time here begins with a four-day Introduction organised by ISN Amsterdam, and throughout your stay it continues to offer further social and cultural activities. It can also provide information about housing, working and living in Amsterdam. The Introduction 24-27 August 2010 ISN Amsterdam organises Introduction days at the beginning of each semester. This is a great chance to meet other students from the Netherlands and all over the world, and to find out much of what you need to know about the UvA, the city and Dutch culture. The Introduction opens with an official reception to welcome you to the university and the city. Other activities include a tour of theUvA, a city tour, a canal cruise, a sports day and museum visits, as well as a full social programme in the evenings: a Dutch movie night, a karaoke night

Sign up now!

and so on. The whole thing ends with a huge party on the last night! The entire programme costs just â&#x201A;Ź50. For more details and to sign up, see

ISN coaches ISN Amsterdam has established a network of coaches to help international students mingle and make friends with their Dutch counterparts. If you sign up for this programme, local students will show you and your group around the UvA, help you settle in, and connect you to Dutch student culture.



Carlos (Costa Rican)

‘The ISN introduction was a beautiful experience. From one day to the next, I found I had new friends from all over the world. Having the university Rector give the opening speech was really impressive.’

Sign up now!

Student Language Exchange Amsterdam To meet local students and learn Dutch in an informal setting, visit the Student Language Exchange website at This online forum, a joint initiative by ISN Amsterdam and student union ASVA, is designed to foster language exchange. In return for teaching or conversation practice in Dutch, you offer to help a Dutch student improve their skills in your language.

ESN card ISN Amsterdam is part of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), a federation of similar organisations throughout Europe. If you sign up for the introductory event, you receive a free membership card. Otherwise, you can buy one at the ISN office for just €3. Cardholders receive discounts at a number of restaurants and nightlife venues in Amsterdam.

Pimp my Bike Learn all about the Dutch way of travel at ISN Amsterdam’s unique ‘Pimp my Bike’ workshop. You receive a second-hand bicycle, plus paint and accessories to customise it. The workshop costs €60, which includes the bike and everything else you need. Register early, as places are limited.


ISN-Amsterdam activities ISN Amsterdam organises a wide variety of activities throughout the year. Some of the regular events are listed below. For full details, see


Weekly borrel A borrel is an informal social get-together with drinks. Every Tuesday night, about 300 students gather at a local café to enjoy a cheap drink in a relaxed, sociable atmosphere. This is also a perfect opportunity to meet the ISN team and to buy tickets for other activities.


City trips To show you more of the Netherlands, ISN Amsterdam organises regular one-day sightseeing trips to places like The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht.


Weekend excursions At the beginning of each semester, ISN Amsterdam arranges a weekend away from the city. This is an excellent opportunity to meet new people and discover the beautiful Dutch countryside.


Parties Once a month, ISN Amsterdam holds a party or theme night for 500 or so students at a city-centre venue.


Newsletter To keep up with all ISN Amsterdam activities, and for other


useful information about the international student scene in Amsterdam, sign up for the weekly e-newsletter.

UvA Master’s Introduction All new international Master’s degree students at the University of Amsterdam are cordially invited to attend a special three-day introduction. The main purpose of this event is to prepare you for your forthcoming studies. Participants are divided into groups, as far as possible with others from the same field of study, led by UvA ‘master coaches’. As well as academic activities, there are social events and an introduction to the UvA and the city. In part, the programme overlaps with general introduction arranged by ISN Amsterdam. The Master’s event, however, is organised by the university itself, exclusively for degree-seeking Master’s students. A key component is the Master’s symposium, focussing on how to get the most out of your Master with regard to your future career. Also on the programme are cultural awareness workshops, a film night with introductory lecture, a crash course in Dutch, creative workshops and a canal cruise. Price: €50. For more information and to register, see








Once you have been accepted by the UvA, there is a lot you have to arrange. What do you need to do before you leave for Amsterdam, and what can you expect after your arrival?

Decentralised The UvA is a decentralised organisation. To enrol correctly, you must therefore register both with the university itself and with the faculty where you will be studying. The faculty will help you with the application, while the central UvA will help you with the enrolment procedure and explain how to pay your tuition fees. The faculty is also there to help you with the registration for specific courses. Entry visa

Depending on your nationality, you may need to obtain a long-stay entry visa (MVV) before coming to the Netherlands. The coordinator of your programme can tell you whether this is applicable in your case and provide more details about the procedure. The UvA will apply for the visa on your behalf. For more information, see

Intake procedure To ensure a smooth start in Amsterdam, each student upon arrival attends an intake meeting to help them with UvA and Dutch formalities.



Where are you? Always keep your family, friends and home university (if applicable) informed of your current address in the Netherlands. You should also give them the telephone number of the Office of International Student Affairs: +31 20 525 8080.

Once you have finished advance online registration, you will be sent an e-mail asking you to book your intake appointment. To make sure you receive that message, please add to your list of safe e-mail addresses. The procedures indicated below are dealt with during the intake meeting.

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Your enrolment at the UvA is finalised and, if you have not already done so in advance, you are helped with the payment of your tuition fees. Exchange students are issued their UvA Student ID card.

Thembi (South African)

‘Registration was generally smooth and really efficient. The residence permit collection process was also well organised. The procedures are painless as long as you bring all the necessary documents.’

Residence permit


Unless you are an EU/EEA or Swiss citizen, you also need to finalise the application for a residence permit The UvA submits the application on your behalf, so there is no need to contact the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) yourself. For details of the documents required and an explanation of the procedure, see

applying for a residence permit through the UvA, liability coverage is mandatory. EU citizens can apply for a European Health Insurance Card from their insurance provider. Its terms are determined by the insurer, so be sure to check that it’s sufficient to cover your stay here.

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Personal registration

If you are going to be living in Amsterdam, the Service & Information Centre staff arrange an appointment at a local government office so that you can register as a resident and receive your Dutch social security number (BSN).

Depending upon the restrictions, you may find it better to purchase a separate policy to cover your time in the Netherlands. Many standard packages do not cover exceptional costs incurred abroad, so please confirm that you are properly insured for all unforeseen expenses. For more information, see

Bank account

The Service & Information Centre staff also provide you with information about opening a Dutch bank account. This is needed if you wish to pay your tuition fees in monthly instalments.

Insurance Dutch law requires that you have adequate health insurance for the full duration of your stay. So be sure to check this before you come to Amsterdam. You are also advised to take out third-party liability insurance. For non-EEA/EU students



Money matters Dutch currency

The currency used in the Netherlands is the euro (€ or EUR). Coins worth five, ten, twenty and fifty cents and one and two euros are in circulation. Notes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. Most shops do not accept notes of €100 or above. The one and two cent coins are no longer in use, so change is rounded off to the nearest five cents. Cash

Most everyday payments are settled in cash or using electronic debit cards with PIN codes. For some UvA services, like photocopying and printing, you need to use a prepaid card called a Chipknip. If you open a Dutch bank account, you will be


issued a combined debit-Chipknip card. You can add value to the chip at UvA catering outlets and at terminals outside banks. Alternatively, nonrechargeable Chipknip cards are available at the UvA library.

■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Cash dispensers (ATMs)

Most debit and credit cards are accepted at any of the numerous cash dispensers in Amsterdam. If you are not sure your card will work in the Netherlands, please consult your bank about the availability of this service, its conditions and the charges involved. Credit cards

Credit cards are not as widely accepted in the Netherlands as in some countries. For example, supermarkets, small shops or cafés rarely accept them, so make sure you always have cash on hand. Nevertheless, you are strongly advised to carry a credit card so that you always have an alternative source of funds.

Accommodation: €375-600 per month. Subsistence (food, etc.): €400-500 per month. Insurance: €45 per month. Books: €800-1,000 per year. Public transport: €70-100 per month (more if you live outside Amsterdam).

Covering your expenses

Make sure you can cover all your expenses for your entire stay before you come to Amsterdam. It is very hard to find additional funding once you are in the Netherlands. Most scholarship programmes, for instance, will only accept applications while you are still in your home country.

Work Depending on your nationality, you may require a work permit if you wish to combine your studies with a job. Finding work can be difficult if you do not speak Dutch.


Personal cheques are not used in the Netherlands and traveller’s cheques are not accepted for retail purchases (you can only cash them in at banks). Large payments such as rent are generally made by bank transfer. Living expenses

While in Amsterdam, expect to spend between €850 and €1,300 a month. This does not include tuition fees. These expenses roughly break down as follows:


Working after graduation

Unless you are an EU/EER or Swiss national, you will probably hold a residence permit for study purposes only. But if you want to stay in the Netherlands after graduation and find work here, you may be able to make use of the one-year ‘search period’ allowed for recent graduates. For more information about working in the Netherlands, see


We offer you Facilities

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Student Services | P21 Various student services help you to find your way when you come to study in Amsterdam.

Health and welfare | P23 To support you in matters relating to health and welfare, the UvA has a team of doctors, psychologists and dentists, as well as an ombudsman.

Study | P24

The UvAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s facilities for students include the University Library, study centres and a variety of computer services.

Leisure | P25

To complement your studies, you can participate in sport and cultural activities. There are also student restaurants where you can eat at reduced prices. The UvA provides many facilities to help students make the most of their time here. These include the Service & Information Centre (SIC), libraries, modern study centres, doctors, dentists and counsellors, sports and cultural facilities, and restaurants.




The UvA provides many facilities to help students make the most of their time here. These include the Service & Information Centre (SIC) to answer all your administrative questions, libraries, modern study centres, our own doctors, dentists and counsellors, sports and cultural facilities, cheap restaurants and so on.


Student services

International student affairs

Service & Information Centre

The Office of International Student Affairs (BIS) coordinates the UvAwide exchange agreements with other universities and provides support services for all international students. For example, it allocates housing and administers scholarships, loans and visa applications. For more information, see

The front desk of the UvAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Service & Information Centre (SIC) will be one of your first stops in Amsterdam. This is where you enrol at the UvA and deal with administrative procedures such as arranging your residence permit (if needed). You can also contact the SIC if you require other information or assistance while studying at the UvA. For more information, see

Faculty ofďŹ ces The individual faculties have their own international and admissions offices. These are responsible for course information, advice and admissions, enrolments in individual courses, academic supervision, producing course transcripts and so on. They are also your first point of contact in the event of any problems, academic or non-academic.



Changes of address As soon as you have an address in Amsterdam, please notify the Service & Information Centre (SIC). If you move during your stay here, remember to update both the SIC and your faculty contact person. You can also register your address online, at

Student counsellors

Students with disabilities

Student Career Centre

Student counsellors offer help and support if, for example, your studies are affected by personal circumstances such as illness, if you need special consideration due to a disability or if you wish to lodge a complaint or appeal. In any such situation, contact a counsellor as soon as possible. The earlier they are informed, the more likely it is that they will be able to help. Student counselling services are confidential and free of charge. If your problem is related specifically to your course, you can also approach your study programme advisor for assistance. For more information, see

The UvA wants to be optimally accessible to all students, regardless of any disability or special needs they may have. As well as offering help and advice to make your studies as successful as possible, we will try to respond to your individual situation as best we can. If there is anything you feel we should take into account â&#x20AC;&#x201C; limited mobility, a chronic illness or a condition such as dyslexia, for example â&#x20AC;&#x201C; it is important that you contact a student counsellor at the UvA as soon as possible. For more information, see

The Student Career Centre provides advice and supervision on all aspects of employment. As an international student, you are welcome to contact the Centre if you want to find out more about working in the Netherlands, including student placements, part-time jobs and finding work after you graduate. As well as information and practical tips, the centre offers personal guidance and group training courses. Please note, however, that your visa conditions may prohibit you from seeking work in the Netherlands (see pages 17 and 19). For more information, see





Health and welfare Doctors As an international student enrolled at the UvA, you are entitled to use the Student Medical Service. It is possible, however, that you may have to pay the cost of each consultation (plus any prescriptions) in advance and seek reimbursement under your insurance. Check with your insurance provider how your medical costs are reimbursed and if medication is freely available (with or without prescription). For more information, see

Citizens of EU countries are entitled to a European Health Insurance Card, which simplifies the procedure when receiving medical assistance in another member state. For more information, see

Psychologists > your language of choice > healthcare abroad

A new country, a new city, an unfamiliar culture. All of these things can make for an exciting experience, but also – far away from family, friends and trusted surroundings – a daunting one. If you find that you are experiencing personal problems, lacking motivation, losing concentration or suffering anxiety, depression, anxiety or culture shock, the UvA has a team of psychologists who can help you. Consultations are confidential and free of charge. And if you wish, the university psychologist can find a therapist who speaks your own language. For more information, see

Dentists Dental care for students is available at ACTA, the Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam. Treatment is provided by university dental students, under the supervision of qualified dentists. This takes slightly more time but ensures better quality at a lower cost (on average, one-third less than the standard fee). For more information, see > patient care



Confidential Adviser and Ombudsman The UvA does not tolerate sexual harassment, violence or any form of aggressive or discriminatory behaviour. It takes all such incidents very seriously. The Confidential Adviser has been appointed to deal with complaints of this kind, whether they involve students or members of staff, independently of the university hierarchy. If you feel intimidated by anyone at the UvA, you can always approach the Confidential Adviser either directly or through the contact person in your own faculty. The UvA Ombudsman is an independent, neutral person to whom students can turn for help regarding complaints about the UvA – for example, if they feel a grievance has not been properly resolved through through the normal procedure at their faculty or institute. All approaches to the Ombudsman are treated in confidence.



University Library



All UvA students have free access to the University of Amsterdam Library (UBA). Your student card doubles as your library card. The main library is housed at a convenient location in the heart of the city. Some specialist collections are held at other sites, usually at or very close to the relevant faculty. In addition to many thousands of printed books and journals, the UBA has a digital library providing round-the-clock access to countless written and visual databases, e-books and full-text electronic journals. You can also search the UBA’s online catalogue and order books, which will then be delivered to the university collection-point-of-your-choice within 36 hours. They can be returned to any of these locations too. The UBA website includes detailed instructions on this procedure. Crash courses in library skills for Englishspeaking students are also available. For more information, see

MijnUvA is the university’s integrated student portal. You only need to log in once for full access to your personal course information, messages and e-mail account, Studieweb and Blackboard (see below), the library databases and so on.

Studieweb is the UvA’s secure student administration system. Use your UvAnetID and password to log in to it from any computer and, for example, to check your latest examination results or register for exams and study groups.

Forwarding e-mail from your UvA account


If you prefer to use a non-UvA e-mail account, you need to configure your UvA mailbox (at > options) to forward all incoming messages to that address.

Blackboard is an online educational environment. Amongst other things, it is used for communication between tutors and students and to distribute important course information and documents.

Student e-mail


All UvA students are assigned their own free e-mail account upon enrolment. This remains valid throughout your time at the UvA.

Many UvA buildings now have wi-fi hotspots where you can access the UvA network or surf the web from your own laptop.

Study centres You can use the UvA study centres for any work requiring a computer. Use of the PCs is free, although you pay a small fee for services like printing and scanning. To log in, you need a ‘UvAnetID’ and password. These are issued automatically after you enrol at the UvA.


It is important to check this account frequently, as it is used for all communications related to your studies: information from your department and faculty, notifications concerning work placements and grants, messages from the university, comments from your tutors about your work, notes from fellow students and so forth.


Udrive Every UvA student can store up to 100Mb of data in their personal Udrive allocation on the university’s central server. This can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection. For more information, see

GOOD TO KN OW Dutch language courses The INTT (Institute for Dutch as a Second Language) offers courses at various levels, starting six times a year. Intensive 48-hours courses are given in August at all six levels and in January at the absolute beginners level only. Starting in September, November, January and April, general courses are offered at all levels. These run for six weeks, with six hours of classroom tuition a week (36 hours in total). In addition, 12-week courses for absolute beginners begin each September and February. These involve three hours of classroom tuition each week. To qualify for the reduced fee for UvA students, you must submit your application through your programme co-ordinator at the university. For more information, visit

UvA Pride UvA Pride is the platform for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) students and staff at the University of Amsterdam. As well as a monthly social, we organise film nights, debates and lectures on GLBT-related themes. For more information, see



University Sports Centre

Arts and culture

Ice skating, tennis, rowing, aerobics, swimming, dancing, golf, and even skiing: the University Sports Centre (USC) offers more than 50 sports and activities at discount rates for UvA students and staff. With several halls, the main building covers more than 5,500 square metres. There is also a second sports centre at the Academic Medical Center (AMC), home to the UvA Faculty of Medicine, plus eight outdoor tennis courts and a new fitness centre at other locations. In addition, the USC organises activities ranging from salsa dancing to swimming, indoor climbing and horse riding at specialist venues. All USC locations feature well-equipped changing rooms and showers, and also have their own cafés. For full details, see

CREA, the UvA’s own cultural centre, is the place to meet the university’s creative minds. Here, you can make music, take to the stage, dance, write, film, photograph and design. The centre’s studios are open to anyone wanting to develop a cultural activity. The CREA Café is a great place to meet friends and the CREA Theatre plays host to student drama, stand-up comedy and public debates. For more information, see > English



Restaurants The UvA’s two main restaurants (called Atrium and Agora) offer good cheap food every day, and both have bars attached. There are also more modest catering facilities at several other locations.


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History & today | P27 Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in a name? Holland or the Netherlands?

Personal safety | P28 Amsterdam is a small city with a pleasant atmosphere.

Arriving in Amsterdam | P29 Your Dutch coach may even be able to collect you from the airport.

Getting around | P30

You will soon discover that the Dutch love their bicycles.

Sexuality, alcohol, drugs | P33 Drug use is lower in the Netherlands than in many other countries.



Amsterdam is a colourful, lively city that has a lot to offer. With some 735,000 inhabitants, it has all the advantages of a major metropolitan centre but retains a cosy, small-scale feel. Holland or the Netherlands? Correctly speaking, you are coming to the Netherlands (Nederland in Dutch, meaning ‘low country’), so-called because much of the land here is at or below sea level. If it weren’t for sophisticated sea defences and drainage systems, large areas of the country – including Amsterdam – would be under water! Many people, though, are more familiar with the name Holland. But that really refers only to the western part of the country, the region encompassing Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and other well-known cities such as Delft and Leiden. The confusion dates back 400 years, when seven provinces united to form a new Dutch republic. Then, as now, Holland was the wealthiest and most heavily populated region, so it came to be identified with the country as whole. The name is still used in this way, even sometimes by the Dutch, although people from other provinces are not always happy about it.

Suresh (Australian)

‘Amsterdam is the perfect city for cycling. It’s so small and flat that riding a bike doesn’t even feel like transport.’ 27


History & today

Amsterdam boasts beautiful architecture and over 150 canals, lending the city its characteristic layout and atmosphere. It has countless museums, art galleries, theatres and concert halls, as well as many lovely parks that serve as the residents’ gardens in summer. Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, one of Europe’s smaller countries. The city is named after the Amstel River, which flows through its centre and was dammed by the region’s first inhabitants in 1275. Amsterdam expanded rapidly from the early thirteenth century onwards thanks to a flourishing maritime trade, and by 1500 it was the largest city in the Netherlands. The seventeenth century, known as the Dutch Golden Age, was a period of great prosperity for Amsterdam. It was in this period that the city’s famous ‘canal belt’ was constructed. Because of the Dutch society’s relatively tolerant attitude towards dissidents, Amsterdam attracted scholars and writers seeking a level of freedom they could not find in their own countries. Scholars, poets and artists such as Rembrandt, Spinoza, P.C. Hooft, Constantijn Huygens and his son Christiaan flourished during this period.



Intellectual and cultural curiosity has prevailed in Amsterdam since the olden Age. The city is still known for its spirit of tolerance, which has made it a natural centre of international intellectual exchange. During the twentieth century, the Dutch capital developed a rich, dynamic culture characterised by a climate of forwardthinking professionalism. Education has been central to this process, and it is no coincidence that the University of Amsterdam is one of the largest, most comprehensive centres of study and research in the Netherlands. The people of Amsterdam are generally easy-going and welcoming to people from other countries. English is the city’s unofficial second language, so it is easy to find English books, TV channels, restaurant menus, library resources and cultural activities.

Short student films Check out for short films featuring international students. They give you tips about coming to Amsterdam and the UvA, and tell you about their experiences here.


How to feel safe There is no need to feel unsafe as long as you take the same precautions as when visiting any big city. ■ Always watch your belongings. - Never place bags you where you cannot see them. Be especially careful when using public transport and shopping. - Never leave your belongings unattended. When visiting a café, for instance, keep your bag with you rather than leaving it on a coat rack. ■ Be alert and stay aware of your surroundings, especially if you are wearing headphones ■ Do not tempt pickpockets by leaving your purse or wallet sticking out of your pocket or in an open bag. ■ Do not use cash dispensers in quiet areas at night. ■ Bicycle theft is common in Amsterdam. Always lock both wheel and frame properly, preferably to a cycle rack. ■ Never leave your room without locking it, and always be sure to check that your windows are closed. ■ Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

Personal safety

Although the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is a small city with a pleasant atmosphere which will soon make you feel at home. It is also a relatively safe place. Violent crime is rare, but ‘petty’ offences – bicycle theft, pickpocketing and the like – are more common, especially in the city centre, on trains, on trams and near tourist sites. Pickpockets’ preferred victims are tourists and others who look like they’re new in town. So watch your bags closely at Schiphol Airport and on the train to Amsterdam. Wear important items such as passport and cheques on your body and be aware of people trying to distract you with irrelevant questions or noises. Do not



respond to strangers approaching you in the street or at Amsterdam Centraal station attempting to sell you things or wanting to take you to a cheap hostel.

Climate The Netherlands has a temperature maritime climate, with mild winters, fairly warm summers and quite a lot of rain. Temperatures can vary from -7°C (19°F) in winter to 30°C (86°F) in summer. In the winter you will need a warm coat, gloves, a woollen scarf and a hat, and in the spring and autumn a raincoat (or full waterproofs if you plan to cycle). In the summer it is often possible to wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.


Airport/station pick up Your Dutch coach may even be able to collect you from the airport or railway station when you first arrive in Amsterdam. To arrange this, it is important that you know your itinerary and request the service well in advance.

ID card In the Netherlands, everyone aged 14 or over must carry a valid official photo identity document with them at all times. This can be your passport or your residence permit. If you are stopped by the police and are unable to provide identification, you will be taken to the police station to have your identity verified and will probably also be fined.



Arriving in Amsterdam

Most students arrive in the Netherlands at Schiphol Airport or Amsterdam Central Station (CS). From Schiphol, the easiest and cheapest way of reaching the city is to take a train to Amsterdam Central Station. A ticket costs €3.80 (second class single) and can be bought at the machines in the baggage hall and on the station concourse. During the day, trains run about every 10 minutes. Between midnight and 6.30 am, there is one an hour. The journey takes about 20 minutes. Make sure you take the train to Amsterdam Central Station, not one of the city’s other stations. By comparison, a taxi is very expensive: the journey from Schiphol to the city centre costs about €50. At Schiphol Airport there are free trolleys


you can use to bring your luggage to the train or taxi. At Amsterdam Central Station there are no luggage trolleys. Most destinations in the city can be reached by taking one of the trams which depart from the square in front of Central Station. If you need directions, ask at the GVB Tickets & Info office opposite the Station’s east entrance. You can buy a singlejourney ticket from the driver or conductor, but it is cheaper in the long run to purchase a stored-value chip card (OV-chipkaart, see page 30) at GVB Tickets & Info or from the ticket machines inside the station.


Getting around

Public transport Amsterdam has an extensive transport system, including trams, buses, trains, metros and ferries. If you plan to travel regularly by public transport, it is best to buy a monthly season ticket. The city is divided into travel zones, so you need to make sure your ticket covers the correct zones for the journey you usually take â&#x20AC;&#x201C; probably between your home and your main place of study. Otherwise, we recommend that you buy a multiple-use OV-Chipkaart. Most public transport in Amsterdam is operated by the GVB.


Its website,, provides full details of ticket types, prices and points of sale, as well as maps, timetables and other information. Students are not entitled to any discount on public transport tickets.

Night buses A night bus network operates after the regular trams and buses stop running at about midnight. Services are less frequent and more expensive, however. They also take different routes â&#x20AC;&#x201C; so take care to get off at the right stop.


OV-chipkaart The OV-chipkaart is the new means of paying for public transport in the Netherlands. The size of a bank card and containing an invisible chip, the card can be loaded with credit in euros. Several different kinds are available, but a basic version that can topped up for regular use is sold at railway and metro stations, many newsagents and at supermarkets like Albert Heijn. For full details of the new system and all available types of card, visit > UK or the OV-chipkaart pages at


NS Voordeelurenkaart Trains The Netherlands has an extensive rail network, with fast and frequent connections to all major cities and many smaller towns. Amsterdam also has direct rail links with Belgium, France and Germany. The suburban network around the city is a good alternative to the tram and metro for some commuters. Timetables are posted on yellow notice boards in station halls and on platforms. You can also use the journey planner at > English

Domestic tickets can be bought online (also at or at stations – the fares are the same. But at the station it is better to use a ticket machine (payment by debit or credit card only), as you pay a surcharge (€0.50 per ticket) if you buy at the counter. International tickets are usually cheaper if you buy well in advance, at

If you plan to visit other parts of the Netherlands during your time here, consider investing in a NS Voordeelurenkaart. This card gives you a 40 per cent discount on all off-peak rail travel (after 9 am on weekdays and all day at weekends). For details, visit

Taxis Taxis are expensive in the Netherlands, but you can keep down the cost by sharing with others. This is a good option at night, when there is little public transport. Although you may be able to flag one down in the street, it is better to order a cab in advance (in Amsterdam call 020 777 7777) or to go to a taxi stand. Insist that the driver use the meter. Dutch taxis are legally required to have number plates with black lettering on a blue background. Vehicles without those plates are not licensed to carry passengers.

Road safety and rules For pedestrians

For cyclists

■ Traffic in the Netherlands drives on the right. ■ All traffic is supposed to stop for pedestrians using marked crossings, but it does not always do so. Be cautious, even when you have right of way. ■ Newcomers often have trouble telling the difference between pavements and cycle paths. Watch out for cyclists. ■ Many larger streets have several separate traffic flows: bicycles, cars and trams or buses. These travel at different speeds and are often controlled by different sets of lights, so always take great care when crossing the road. Whenever possible, use pedestrian crossings. ■ Be especially careful of taxis, which are allowed to drive on the tram lines. ■ Most narrower streets have one-way motor traffic only, but cyclists are allowed to ride in both directions. Always look both ways when crossing.

■ Ride with great caution until you are used to cycling in Amsterdam. ■ Always use a cycle path or lane when provided. Otherwise, ride on the road, never the pavement. ■ Obey the special traffic lights for cyclists, where provided. ■ Even though many locals do it, do not run red lights. Not only is this an acquired skill, it is also illegal. If the police catch you doing it, you risk being fined. ■ It is compulsory to ride with lights on after dark. Again, you can be fined if you fail to do so. The best option is to use detachable lamps and take them with you when you park, so that they will not be stolen. ■ When crossing tram lines, be careful not to get your tyre caught in the rails. ■ Traffic coming from the right generally has the right of way. But there are exceptions! ■ Many large vehicles have a blind spot just where cyclists pull up beside them at lights or junctions. Stay well clear, especially when they could turn right.



Andile (South African)

‘In the evenings and at weekends, I usually went to Leidseplein and to student parties. I think Amsterdam must be the safest city I’ve ever been in - I never had any problems’

Bicycles You will very soon discover that the Dutch love their bicycles. Most people own at least one, and they use it for everyday travel as well as recreation. In Amsterdam, cycling is usually faster than public transport. On a bike you can reach places where no cars are allowed and the buses and trams cannot take you. Most streets have special cycle lanes or paths. For parking, there are countless cycle racks, and even special garages, and when things go wrong you are never far from a repair shop. Any bike will do in Amsterdam. Many people prefer an old model, as newer ones are more likely to be stolen. However, the brakes, bell and lights should work, otherwise you risk a fine. Wearing a helmet is not compulsory, and few people do.

While it may seem as if people leave their bikes anywhere, there are restrictions and those parked incorrectly may be removed. Look out for signs containing the words hier geen fietsen plaatsen svp (no bicycles please).

Getting a bike You can buy second-hand bicycles at most repair shops. At the beginning of each semester, a number of UvA student organisations organise bicycle lotteries. And the ASVA student union holds a bike sale every Thursday. > English > ASVA bike

Never buy a bike from a stranger in the street: it has almost certainly been stolen and you risk being arrested for receiving stolen goods.

Thousands of bicycles are stolen every year, so good locks are essential. Always use at least two: the best combination is a thick chain with a strong padlock plus a ring lock fitted to the back wheel. When you park, try to chain your bike to something fixed like a rack or railing so that it cannot easily be carried away. And make sure the front wheel is secure, as well as the frame, since it is easily detached and stolen separately.






Sexuality, alcohol, drugs



The Netherlands is a relatively liberal country where sexuality is concerned. Homosexuality and bisexuality are generally accepted – same-sex couples can marry here – and unmarried couples living together have the same rights as those who are married. Amsterdam is well known as one of the gay capitals of the world, with a large, open and varied social scene. There are also numerous organisations providing support services on a wide range of issues related to sexuality.

Many foreigners think of the Netherlands as a country with a liberal attitude towards drugs, and of Amsterdam as a place where you can buy them on every street corner. However, this picture has changed considerably in recent years. For one thing, the authorities are now quick to take action against any trouble caused by drug addicts and dealers.

Alcohol The Netherlands has a fairly relaxed attitude towards alcohol consumption. Amsterdam has thousands of bars, pubs and cafés, and for many students they are an integral part of their social life. Nevertheless, alcohol can be addictive and dangerous, so moderation is always advised. If you find you are drinking too much, you can seek help through the UvA student counsellors or medical service. Also remember that it is illegal to drink and drive, and that this applies to bicycles as well as cars. The legal drinking age in the Netherlands is 16 for beer and wine, 18 for spirits.


In the Netherlands, a distinction is made between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ drugs. Cannabis (‘marihuana’, ‘weed’, ‘hash’) is considered a soft drug and its sale (at ‘coffee shops’), use and possession in small quantities are tolerated. On the other hand, hard drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and heroin are strictly forbidden. Anyone causing a nuisance while under the influence of drugs can be charged with disturbing the peace.

Contrary to what many people elsewhere assume, drugs are not a big part of life in Amsterdam. Only about 10 to 11 per cent of people aged 20-24 use soft drugs on a more or less regular basis, and in other age groups the percentage is even lower. In fact, drug use in every category is lower in the Netherlands than in most other western countries.


Rules The basic rules governing drugs are as follows: ■ It is illegal to possess, sell or use any hard drugs. ■ It is illegal to have more than 5 grams of soft drugs in your possession. ■ It is illegal for anyone aged under 18 to use or possess soft drugs. ■ It is illegal to promote or advertise the sale of soft drugs.

Living in Living space

1 2 3

UvA Housing | P35 The UvA has agreements with housing corporations to help students find accommodation.

Finding a room on the private market | P38 The number of students in Amsterdam always exceeds the accommodation available.

Shops and markets | P39

Most students shop for their food at supermarkets or street markets.




Amsterdam As in other major European cities, the demand for reasonably priced housing in Amsterdam is very high. Because of this, the UvA’s student housing facilities are limited.


UvA Housing

Housing corporations Housing corporations are non-profit organisations which own and manage residential property, most of it socalled social housing. They are by far the biggest landlords in Amsterdam. The UvA has agreements with several corporations to assist international students in finding appropriate accommodation. This is provided in the form of furnished rooms for short stays. In all, the UvA has more than 1,000 rooms to allot to international students. Most are managed by the housing corporations De Key and Duwo. For more information about this accommodation, see

Residence assistants

Residence assistants (RA’s) are present at half of the international student buildings. RA’s are Dutch students who offer general support to international students dealing with Dutch culture and life in Amsterdam for the first time, and who can contact different university services such as



the student counsellors in the event of an emergency. RA’s are there to look after your safety and well-being.

Reserving a room As an international student, you cannot apply for housing corporation ccommodation yourself. Your name must be put forward by your faculty or department. Your contact there will inform you about the possibilities. Although not every faculty or department guarantees student housing, in the past few years the UvA has been able to offer nearly all its first-year international students a room. Because the UvA has more than 1,500 international students who need accommodation each year and the supply of rooms is limited, reservations are subject to strict regulations. Housing for international students is spread throughout the city and its suburbs; types and rents vary widely.

Laura (Costa Rican)

‘People in my building helped me to survive the horrible process of cooking!! I didn’t know how to cook and if it wasn’t for them I would have not survived at the beginning of my stay.’

Sharing with Dutch students

Energy use Global warming is becoming an increasingly important world issue. The UvA therefore asks its students to make every effort to save energy. ■ When you leave your flat, please ensure the lights are turned off and the radiator or central heating is turned down. ■ Please turn off lights in hallways and communal areas. Most central heating systems in student housing are controlled by a timer. This lowers the temperature at night to save energy.

Electrical appliances Electrical appliances brought from your home country may not be compatible with the Dutch power supply (220 Volts/50 Hertz) or with the sockets used here (type F, for two round pins). You may therefore need to buy an adaptor or purchase new appliances in the Netherlands.


Most international student rooms are in buildings or on floors with only international students. Some, however, are in locations where the majority of tenants are Dutch. Living alongside local students offers the opportunity to make Dutch friends, a first-hand introduction to student culture in

Amsterdam and the chance to improve your language skills. On the other hand, you will be expected to comply with existing house rules (about cleaning the communal areas, etc.). Although many local students speak English well, the main language on these mixed floors will probably be Dutch.

Room regulations Rooms can be rented for complete semesters only. It is not possible to end your tenancy before the end of the semester. You need a credit card to reserve a room. Only after sending the details of this to the housing corporation will the reservation be finalised. The card acts as a guarantee and will only be charged in the event of damage to the room or late cancellation. If you do not have your own card, you may use a relative’s. Only one reservation will be made for you. It is not possible to change rooms. If you cancel your reservation, the UvA will not nominate you for other housing. It is also not possible to change rooms after arrival. Only under very exceptional circumstances may you contact your programme coordinator with a request to do this. If you are planning to stay longer in Amsterdam, it is recommended you register with the local student housing website as soon as you arrive. If you want to cancel your reservation, contact both the housing corporation and your programme manager as soon as possible, by e-mail or fax. A reservation can be cancelled free of charge up to 30 days before the starting date of the tenancy. After that, you will be charged the first month’s rent plus administration costs. If you intend to arrive more than seven days after the starting date of your tenancy, you must notify both your programme coordinator and the housing corporation. For the room will be given to somebody else and you will still be charged the first month’s rent and costs. Students can rent a room through the University of Amsterdam for a maximum of one year.


THE AMSTER DAM LIFE Carlos (Costa Rican)

‘Living in a shipping container sounds dodgy, but it’s the best accommodation you can choose!’

When you arrive

If you have been assigned a room, go to the office of the appropriate housing corporation as soon as you arrive in Amsterdam. There you will sign your tenancy agreement, pay (or show proof that you have already paid) the first month’s rent, a deposit and administration fee, and pick up


your keys. The housing corporation will inform you about the payment procedure. When you leave

Towards the end of your tenancy, a caretaker will contact you to make an appointment to inspect your room and collect the keys. Leave your room


clean and tidy. You will be charged for any damage to the room or necessary cleaning after you leave. The housing corporation will inform you about this ‘checkout’ procedure.

Everyone living in independent accommodation (that is, units with their own private facilities) in Amsterdam must pay local council taxes. These fund services such as rubbish collection, water supply, sewerage, land drainage and water defences. For more information, see


Tips ■ Student union ASVA provides general information on renting a room in Amsterdam, as well as acting as a mediator between students and landlords.

Finding a room on the private market

If you have not been allocated student accommodation, you will need to find your own housing on the private market. Because the number of students in Amsterdam always exceeds the accommodation available, this can be difficult and time-consuming. The best place to start your search is the website of the City of Amsterdam Housing Department (Dienst Wonen), at This provides an overview of accommodation in the city.

■ Amsterdam’s International Student Network (ISN Amsterdam) has a ‘live and work’ forum where you can place an ad if you are looking for a room or a flatmate. ■ SRVU is a student union based at VU University Amsterdam, but UvA students can also become a member. SRVU offers the same mediation service as ASVA. (in Dutch only)


■ The Foreign Student Service (FSS) in Amsterdam can assist international students in finding accommodation.

StudentenWoningWeb is a website listing student accommodation available in Amsterdam. It is operated jointly by the housing corporations De Key, Duwo and Ymere. This site works on a waiting-list system. If you plan to stay in Amsterdam for longer than a year, register as soon as you arrive so that you will have accumulated some waiting time by the time you need to look for housing in your second year. Registration costs €30. The website is in Dutch but provides English summaries of important information. See

■ is a website with extensive room listings. You must pay a fee to be able to contact landlords (€17.95 for 20 contacts), but no further commission is charged after that. (listings in Dutch only, but with an explanation of the service in English) ■ provides a similar service.

or, if you have questions, e-mail

■ Amsterdams Steunpunt Wonen (ASW) is a tenants’ support centre providing much useful information on housing in Amsterdam.

■ Students for Students provides listings of rooms owned by private landlords.

Commercial letting agencies The student organisations ASVA and SRVU are the only non-profit services of their kind in Amsterdam. All other letting agencies in the city are commercial, which means that they profit financially from the city’s major housing shortage. They must be registered with the local authorities and are allowed to charge a ‘reasonable’ registration fee, but you are entitled to a refund if they do not offer you a house, flat or room within four months. If they do find a place for you to live, they charge commission when you sign the tenancy agreement. By law, this must be a ‘reasonable’ amount – which in practice means no more than the equivalent of one month’s rent. You can also expect to pay contract fees (about €200) and a deposit, usually equal to two months’ rent.

ASVA housing raffle Student union ASVA provides information on finding accommodation in Amsterdam, and also offers rooms to students. Its housing service is a non-commercial operation, which operates on a raffle system. A weekly draw is held to allocate available rooms. The results are completely non-discriminatory and there are no waiting or priority lists. Details of the rooms on offer in the next draw are posted on the ASVA website. To enter, you must be a member of the union.




3 Private Landlords You can also find a room privately by checking the local papers and advertisements posted in supermarkets. Before you visit a prospective home, it is important to prioritise what you are looking for in terms of price, location, size and so on. During the viewing, look carefully at the condition of the room (check for proper insulation, possible mould or water damage and signs of vermin) and the facilities available (heating, kitchen, bathroom, etc.) to check that it meets your needs. Unfortunately, rogue landlords are common. To avoid being caught out, never go to a viewing alone and never pay anything before you have clear agreements in writing. More information can be found at:

Shops and markets

The Dutch traditionally prepare their evening meal at home. Although students are away from home – and despite the available alternatives, such as university restaurants and other cheap places to eat – many of them still prefer to make their own dinner. Groups sharing accommodation often like to cook and eat together. Because of this, all student housing has its own cooking facilities.

Most students shop for their food at supermarkets or street markets. The biggest supermarket chain in the Netherlands is Albert Heijn (AH), although competitors like Dirk van der Broek, Aldi and Lidl claim to be cheaper. Street markets often offer better value, and tend to sell a more cosmopolitan range of produce. They are also a good place to pick up essential non-food items. The best-known markets in Amsterdam are on Albert Cuypstraat, Dapperstraat and Ten Katestraat. To equip your room or flat, check out chain stores like Hema, Blokker, Xenos and Ikea. They sell household items such as cutlery, crockery, kitchen utensils and bed linen at reasonable prices.

Shops in Amsterdam are usually open Monday to Saturday, 9 am-6 pm (9 pm on Thursdays). In the city centre they are also open on Sundays. Some shops are closed on Monday mornings. Most supermarkets stay open until 8 pm every day, or 10 pm in the city centre. You are expected to pack your own groceries and are charged for plastic bags. To use a supermarket trolley you must insert a 50-cent coin, which is released when you return the trolley. For beer and soft drink bottles you pay a deposit of 10-25 cents; this is reimbursed when you bring them back empty.

Youth hostels and budget hotels If you have not been assigned student accommodation or if you arrive in Amsterdam before the start of your tenancy, you will need a place to sleep. There are numerous hostels and budget hotels where you can stay fairly cheaply. For addresses, see







Amsterdam the place to be!

Amsterdam is a place you may well fall in love with. Many students stay on here after graduation. And nowhere else in the Netherlands are there so many museums, cinemas, theatres and other cultural facilities. Whether you’re looking for intellectual stimulation or an entertaining diversion.


I amsterdam For comprehensive information about the city’s sights and activities, the best place to start is the promotional website

Amsterdam has dozens of museums devoted to almost every conceivable form of art and aspect of history. Amongst them are the world-famous Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, Anne Frank House and Rembrandthuis. But many of the smaller museums are also well worth discovering. In recent years, photography and multimedia exhibitions have been booming.

Museum Night (Museumnacht) On the first Saturday in November, more than forty museums in and around Amsterdam open deep into the night, with many of them hosting concerts, parties and other special events. Taking part in Museum Night is a great way to experience these institutions in a new way, with a festive feel.

Museumjaarkaart (MJK)

This annual card gives you free entrance to most museums in the Netherlands. It costs €17.50 for the under-25s and €35 for everyone else, plus a €4.95 handling fee. You can buy it online at or over the counter at any of the major museums.

Many venues offer substantial discounts upon production of your student card



Amsterdam Public Library (OBA) Amsterdam’s central public library is housed in a new building on Oosterdokskade, close to Central Station. Designed by the Dutch architect Jo Coenen, the facility has an open feel with wide views of the city. As well as holding many thousands of books, CDs, DVDs, journals and magazines for reference and loan, the library makes an excellent place to study. There is wi-fi access throughout and a restaurant on the top floor. Moreover, the upper storeys offer a beautiful panoramic view of Amsterdam. The OBA is open daily, 9 am-10 pm. For more information, see

Cinemas Amsterdam has numerous cinemas showing all kinds of movies. NonDutch films are almost always shown in the original language, with subtitles. Hollywood blockbusters and other major commercial releases are screened at the large Pathé multiplexes concentrated around the Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein nightlife districts. For alternative, non-Western and experimental offerings, check out one of the smaller art houses. These include Kriterion and Studio K, which are programmed and run entirely by students. For €17.50 per month, the Cineville card offers unlimited access to thirteen independent Amsterdam cinemas.

Theatre With a total of about 225 stages at seventy different venues, Amsterdam is a mecca for theatre lovers. Although most plays are in Dutch, a number of international productions are staged each year. And there are no language barriers at the many ballet and other dance performances. Nes, a street close to the main university buildings,


has three small theatres specialising in more or less experimental work, often with an international flavour. On Tuesday nights there is an ‘open stage’ at one of these venues, De Engelenbak, where anyone can perform.

Music Amsterdam has three top-class classical music venues: the Concertgebouw, the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ and the Muziektheater. All three are characterised by unique architecture.

Comedy Boom Chicago is a popular venue for improvisation-based comedy by mostly American performers, and you can eat and drink whilst watching the show. Wednesday is Student Night. Top Dutch and international stand-up comedians appear regularly at the Comedy Café on Max Euweplein.


The world-famous ‘pop temple’ Paradiso, well-known for its good acoustics, can accommodate around 1,700 people, while the nearby Melkweg is slightly smaller. Major international stars often perform at the ArenA stadium or the Heineken Music Hall (HMH). At the other end of the scale, many cafés and other small venues regularly host live pop, jazz, blues and world music. Admission never costs more than a few euros, and is often free.

Nightlife Amsterdam’s nightlife is varied and cosmopolitan. From late-night theatre to lounge bars, coffeeshops to clubs, cosy pubs to grand cafés, there is something for everyone. The traditional nights for students to go clubbing are Wednesdays and Thursdays. Fridays and Saturdays are usually very crowded and more expensive. Most people arrive at about midnight, and the clubs are open until 4 or 5 am. The most popular clubs are Paradiso, Melkweg and Sugarfactory, all located a few minutes walk apart around Leidseplein.








Holland Festival 1-23 June 2010

This is Amsterdam’s flagship festival of world-class theatre, music, dance, opera, film and visual arts. The performances are hosted by the city’s most prestigious cultural venues, such as the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, Muziektheater, Stadsschouwburg and Westergasfabriek.

Vondelpark Open-Air Theatre

14-22 August 2010

An eight-day festival of classical music, with more than seventy concerts by top international musicians and young artists. All twenty venues are situated in the historic canal belt. The climax is the Prinsengracht Concert, performed from a boat in the middle of the canal.


June-August 2010

27-29 August 2010

Located at the heart of Amsterdam’s ‘central park’, the open-air theatre presents a varied programme of music, dance, cabaret and other performing arts every June, July and August. Nowhere else will you so many different people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities enjoying themselves together. And all performances are free!

This weekend, which marks the start of the new cultural season, features previews of many of the coming year’s music, drama, shows and comedy events, plus free markets, exhibitions and open-air concerts.

Amsterdam Gay Pride 5-8 August 2010

Every August, thousands of people come to Amsterdam from all over the Netherlands and beyond to celebrate Gay Pride. The highlight is the Canal Parade, featuring hundreds of colourful boats filled with even more colourful people.

De Parade

Dam to Dam Run (Dam tot Dam loop) 19 September 2010

This is the largest fun run in the Netherlands, and for corporate teams the biggest event of its kind in the world. The main run covers ten miles from the Dam in Amsterdam to the Dam in Zaandam, but to make the event as accessible as possible there are shorter routes starting at just 600 metres. Thousands of people take part, and even more turn out to watch.

6-22 August 2010


Every summer the touring theatre festival known as De Parade transforms Martin Luther King Park in Amsterdam into a temporary cultural hotspot packed with colourful performance tents. All shows are staged several times each evening.

21 September 2010


Amsterdam Canal Festival (Grachtenfestival)


Prinsjesdag is the official opening of the Dutch parliamentary year. On the third Tuesday in September, the Queen is driven through The Hague in a golden carriage to deliver her speech outlining the government’s legislative programme for the coming year to Parliament.

Museum Night (Museumnacht) 5 November 2010

More than forty museums in and around Amsterdam stay open deep into the night, with many of them hosting concerts, parties and other special events.

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) 18-28 November 2010

Offering ten days of nothing but nonfiction on screen, IDFA is the largest event of its kind in the world. Its international programme, variety of genres and political engagement make the festival a must for all documentary enthusiasts.

Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) 20-23 November 2010

Combining Europe’s leading electronic music conference and the world’s biggest club festival, this is the perfect opportunity to tap into the international dance scene. The festival is held at multiple venues around Amsterdam.

behaved well all year, there are presents to be had. After Sinterklaas and his assistant Piet arrive by steamship from Spain in November, they ride over the rooftops at night, listening through chimneys to check on the youngsters’ behaviour. Tradition demands that gifts given on the night of 5 December be wrapped imaginatively and accompanied by a poem written by the giver. Old-fashioned treats like spiced speculaas biscuits and chocolate letters are sold at this time of year.

Christmas (Kerst) 25-26 December 2010

Most people celebrate Christmas with their family, decorating the tree and sharing a sumptuous dinner. Catholics attend a midnight mass to mark the beginning of the festivities in honour of Christ’s birth, and all churches have special services on Christmas Day itself. In recent years more and more people in the Netherlands have adopted the tradition of exchanging Christmas presents, making Santa Claus a serious rival to Sinterklaas.

New Year’s Eve (Oudejaarsavond) 31 December 2010

The traditional way to spend New Year’s Eve is playing games with family or friends, watching special cabaret reviews of the year on television and eating oliebollen (a kind of deep-fried doughnut) and

Sinterklaas 5 December 2010

For Dutch children, the eve of Saint Nicholas’ Day is the most exciting day of the year: as long as they have



apple turnovers. At midnight people go outside to wish their neighbours a happy new year, let off or watch fireworks and drink champagne. Afterwards, there are parties all over the city. Those at Paradiso and Melkweg are the most famous.

Carnival 21 - 24 February 2011

Carnival is not celebrated in Amsterdam, but is popular in the southern provinces of the Netherlands and other traditionally Catholic areas. It is a time when the regular order of things is turned upside down. Parades are held during the day and wild parties at night.

Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag) 30 April 2011

Queen’s Day has been celebrated since 1889 and over the years has evolved into a major national holiday. The rules on street trading are suspended for the day, so the country becomes one big jumble sale as people sell off stuff they no longer want. Amsterdam is one of the best places to be on 30 April. The celebrations begin the night before (Koninginnenacht) and involve live music, public games, lots of food, dancing and copious amounts of beer consumed in the streets. Be sure to wear orange, the official colour of the Dutch royal house.


Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking) 4 May 2011

Marking the end of the Second World War in the Netherlands, this is a day of reďŹ&#x201A;ection in honour of the victims of war. In the evening the Queen and other members of the royal family lay wreaths at the National Monument on Dam Square in Amsterdam, and people all over the country gather for similar ceremonies at war memorials in their own communities. At 8 pm


the whole nation observes a twominute silence for those killed in wars and peacekeeping operations. (If you are in a public place at this time or with people who are observing the silence, you should respect it too â&#x20AC;&#x201C; failure to do so may cause grave offence.)


Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag) 5 May 2011

The next day, the solemnity of remembrance gives way to joyful celebrations on the anniversary of the capitulation of the occupying Nazi forces in the Netherlands in 1945. Many local authorities organise special events for their own communities, and the thirteen liberation festivals held in different parts of the country are especially popular with young people.

cHe Checklist

Before you arrive

After you arrive

Make sure that...

You must...

You are in possession of a valid passport, and if necessary an entry visa (MVV) or – if you have Chinese nationality – a Neso certificate.

If you have been assigned student housing, sign your tenancy agreement with the housing corporation within seven days after the let begins.

If you have been assigned student housing, you have submitted your housing registration form, accompanied by proof of credit card payment form or a bank transfer of the first month’s rent.

Participate in the faculty introduction. If you are unable to do so for any reason, be sure to contact your programme coordinator for information about your courses and timetable.

If you will be arriving before the beginning of your tenancy: you have arranged accommodation for your first few nights in Amsterdam.

If you are receiving a scholarship or loan administered by the UvA, contact the Financial Assistance Officer at the Office of International Student Affairs (

You contact your programme co-ordinator for information about course registration deadlines and timetables. You have thoroughly read all the instructions sent to you by the UvA concerning enrolment, registration, visa formalities and residence permit requirements, and that you bring all the necessary documents with you. You have appropriate health and liability insurance. You have scheduled an intake appointment through the Embark registration system. You bring a credit card and have sufficient funds to cover your first few months in Amsterdam. You have signed up for either the ISN Introduction or the special Master’s Introduction.



Attend your intake appointment at the Service & Information Centre. At this meeting you receive your student card, computer and e-mail log-in details and assistance in setting up a bank account.





Dutc How to survive

Most Dutch people speak fairly good English, so language should not be an obstacle when moving to Amsterdam. But if you want to take courses that are not part of the international programme, or simply make the most of your experience here, you will need to learn some Dutch. For details of courses, see page 25. Translation For more useful expressions and pronunciation tips, pick up a phrasebook to Dutch from your own language. Good English-Dutch titles include:




To find out more about the Netherlands and the Dutch, check out the following books. ■ Colin White & Laurie Boucke, The Undutchables. WhiteBoucke Publishing, Lafayette (Colorado), USA, 2006 (fifth edition). ISBN 978-1-888580-32-1. Humorous observations about the Netherlands, its culture and its inhabitants. ■ Han van der Horst, The Low Sky: Understanding the Dutch. Scriptum, Schiedam, 2006 (sixth edition). ISBN 978-9055944-05-7. A description of the weird and wonderful normality of life in the Netherlands. ■ Hunt Janin, Culture Shock! Netherlands. Graphic Art Center Publishing Company, Portland (Oregon), USA, 2003. ISBN 978-1-558687-58-5. Dutch customs and etiquette explained. ■ Jacob Vossestein, Dealing with the Dutch. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, 2001. ISBN 978-9-068325-65-2. A practical guide for foreigners working in the Netherlands or doing business with the Dutch.




 erlitz Dutch Phrase Book B & Dictionary, 2008

ISBN 978-9-812683-25-0 L onely Planet Dutch Phrasebook, 2007

ISBN 978-1-74179-180-8  ollins Dutch Phrasebook, C 2007

ISBN 978-0-007246-67-0

To start you off, here are some common words and phrases. The pronunciations shown are approximate only, based upon standard English. The ‘ch’ sound in Dutch is similar to that in the Scottish ‘loch’. If you are unable to reproduce this, use a hard ‘k’ instead.



English University of Amsterdam

Dutch Universiteit van Amsterdam

education lecture seminar exam (study) programme office hours time place teacher/tutor/lecturer friends hi hello See you!/ goodbye no yes here you are thank you Dutch The Netherlands I would like... may I have... do you want a receipt? may I have a bag, please? how are you a beer a glass of (white/red) wine an orange juice a soft drink a tea do you want to... (to) go out (to) dance (to) eat (to) play football (soccer) (to) study student I am... you are... sweet nice, fun nice (food) busy boring smart dumb I love you cosy bicycle

onderwijs hoorcollege werkcollege tentamen opleiding spreekuur tijd plaats docent vrienden hoi hallo Dag/tot ziens!/doei! nee ja alsjeblieft dank je wel Nederlands Nederland ik wil graag.. mag ik... wil je een bonnetje? mag ik een tasje? hoe gaat het? een biertje/een pils een glas (witte/rode) wijn een sinaasappelsap iets fris een thee wil je... uitgaan dansen eten voetballen studeren student ik ben... jij bent... lief leuk lekker druk saai slim dom ik hou van je gezellig fiets

Pronunciation (Uu-nee-ver-see-teit van Ahmsterdahm) (on-der-weiss) (hohr-col-lay-sje) (werk-col-lay-sje) (ten-taa-mun) (op-lei-dung) (sprayk-uur) (teid) (plaats) (doh-cent) (vreen-dun) (hooy) (hal-loh) (daCH – tot zeens – doo-ee) (nay) (yah) (als-tuul-bleeft) (dank ye vel) (Nay-der-lants) (Nay-der-lant) (ik wil CHraaCH) (maCH ik…) (wil ye un bon-nu-tju?) (maCH ik un tassye?) (hoo CHaat ut?) (un beer-tju – un pils) (un CHlas vit-tah/ro-dah wein) (un (eets fris) (un tay) (vil ye…) (uit-CHaan) (dan-su) (ay-tu) (foot-ball-lu) (stuu-deer-ru) (stuu-dent) (ik ben) (yei bent) (leef) (leuk) (lek-ku) (druek) (sah-ee) (slim) (dom) (ik how fan ye) (CHe-sel-leCH) (feets)


UvA Start Magazine International  

This UvAStart Magazine International provides an introduction to the University of Amsterdam for new international students. It will tell yo...

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