Study Abroad: Amsterdam! by Oscar Williams

This is the second of this year’s dispatches from our outgoing Study Abroad students. We hope it inspires you to go on your own Study Abroad adventures. Scroll down for further information on how to apply.

Living and studying in Amsterdam has been one of the most formative experiences of my life. I love the place. It’s unlike anywhere else, you can be whoever you want to be here and there’s always something going on. Compared to cities like London or New York, Amsterdam feels more provincial—less intimidating. Nowhere is more than 30 minutes way by bike, everyone is friendly and there are several inner-city parks and forests. But at the same time, it also feels like one of the cultural capitals of the World, housing the largest collection of Van Gogh’s artwork, a thriving counter-culture and countless museums.

Beside the bikes and weed, there’s also not that much of a culture shock. English, for better or worse, is becoming the dominant language here so there’s no language barrier. However, the Vrije Universiteit, where you’ll study if you decide to come here, is completely different to YSJ. First, it’s massive, there are tens of thousands of students here from hundreds of different countries, huge concrete buildings and the library is spread over 15 floors. Also, the courses are more intense. There is a lot of reading to do, as well as a combination of exams, assignments and presentations. This was perhaps the only thing I was a bit intimidated by before coming—one of the reasons I chose YSJ was because they don’t have exams! But it’s really not that bad and you get used to it pretty quick.

I do a range of courses here, not just Literature modules. One of the most interesting modules I have studied so far has been Amsterdam Jewish Culture, which explores areas of the city you perhaps otherwise wouldn’t go to and the Netherlands’ problematic relationship with the holocaust. When you’re choosing what courses you will study here, the uni recommends you choose a pre-packaged minor programme, but ignore that and really go for the modules that interest you.

A few more tips: most supermarkets here don’t take VISA or Mastercard, there’s not many things more embarrassing than getting to the checkout with a full trolley of stuff with no means of paying for any of it, so be prepared! Also, if you manage your time and cash well, Amsterdam is a fantastic departure point to visit Belgium, France and Germany easily by train. With Brexit looming it’s probably a good idea to make the most of Europe while we still have access to it.

I’d really encourage you to choose Amsterdam for Study Abroad, it has become a second-home for me and I’d really consider coming back to do my master’s here. If you embrace the experience you will meet fantastic people and have a great time. I realise I’ve probably left out loads of stuff you might want to know before applying, so I’d be happy to answer any other questions via email:


Study abroad opportunities
YSJ has links to universities across Europe, North America and beyond where you can spend time as part of an English Literature Single Honours or Joint Honours Degree. There are fee discounts and grants available. If you’d  like to find out more about the amazing opportunities on offer, please email the Study Abroad tutor, Adam Stock (, or the Study Abroad team ( for further information. Hope to hear from you!