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Erica Dong

SFU Student Undergraduate
Health Sciences › Population and Public Health

Experience Faculty
A valuable opportunity to gain different perspectives both inside and outside the classroom.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation
Financial Preparation

Studying and living abroad is extremely expensive - especially in Amsterdam - so I am very grateful for the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion International Mobility Award for making my experience possible. I encourage students who have financial doubts to do research on what opportunities may be available to them.

During my Experience
Day to Day

I lived in Amsterdam South, a 5-min bike ride from the university I attended (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). I participated in a medical minor which required me to be on campus Monday-Friday. Typically I would wake up and bike to class in the morning, be in class until mid-afternoon, then bike home/to the gym. Evenings I would usually study or do my remote jobs. I tried to make as much free time as I could during the weekends to explore; thus I had the opportunity to get to know Amsterdam as well as visit other Dutch cities and take weekend trips to Spain, Sweden, Germany, and Belgium. 

Accomplishments and Challenges

The biggest challenge I faced was by far housing. The housing crisis in Amsterdam is very difficult for both locals and expats. Despite looking for housing everyday for months beforehand, I ended up having to live in a hostel for 1.5 months before I managed to find a room to rent. The hostel room I was in was pretty typical, with 8 bunk beds with 1 shared bathroom and small lockers. It was also very expensive: one month cost me over 1000 euros. It was a very stressful experience to be without a home for so long, not knowing when I'd be able to find one, while attempting to get settled in a new country and keep up with my studies and remote job. 


Cultural and Environmental Observations

Amsterdam is a great city to have the opportunity to live in. The city itself is small and dense, so you generally have everything you need in a close vicinity. If not, the transit system is very well-connected, albeit expensive. If you can, get a bike while you're there! It's the fastest way to get places and a great way to get to know the city.

Reflection & Tips

Despite the challenges I faced with housing and the expensive costs of just about everything in Amsterdam, I encourage students to try studying abroad in Amsterdam - as long as you are aware of these things beforehand! 

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

I participated in the Cancer and Immune Diseases Personalized Therapies Minor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. It was a Medical Minor consisting mostly of lectures and some practicals and labs. At SFU, I am a BSc Health Sciences student in the Population and Quantitative Health concentration. I am interested in the intersection of infectious disease immunology, epidemiology, and disease ecology. The minor was an opportunity for me to explore my interests in immunology and gain a global perspective on medical research and novel immune therapies. 

Advice for Future Students
  • Housing: make sure you are aware of the Netherlands' housing situation.
    • Try to make connections, do lots of research beforehand, and make sure you know how to avoid scams. 
  • Friends: join clubs and check out Facebook groups in order to make friends.
  • Transportation: I highly encourage getting a bike in the Netherlands.
    • SwapFiets temporary bike rentals are a great option for many. 
  • Attractions: Amsterdam has much to offer from the canals, coffeeshops, museums (get a Museum Card if you plan to visit multiple), and easy connections to other Dutch cities and other countries. 
  • Travel: If you're in Europe, take advantage of cheap travel deals to travel to nearby countries.


Erica Dong

SFU Student Undergraduate
Health Sciences › Population and Public Health
visibility  222
Jan 19, 2023