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Sammi Huang

SFU Student Undergraduate
Beedie School of Business › Operations Management | Beedie School of Business › Management Information Systems
Study Abroad › Exchange

Program:
Experience Faculty
All these international experiences and exposure to different cultures have allowed me to bring a different perspective to SFU.
Experience Details
Semester
Spring
Year
2023
Introduction + Preparation

The application and preparation process is time-consuming, but it's so worth it! Before going abroad, I had the mindset that I was going to have the best memory in my life, which really motivated me to get all the processes and preparations done. There were things that needed to be dealt with in Vancouver, such as canceling MSP, suspending my phone number... etc. But after all, it's all worth it!  

Previous Experience

I moved across the globe from Taiwan to Canada by myself when I was 15, so this was the second time that I was moving internationally. However even though I had the experience, I was still feeling a little bit nervous before leaving as I had never lived in Europe before, but at the same time, I was very excited. 

Location Research

I had always wanted to study abroad in Europe because my best friends are from Germany and Italy. I orginally had Copenhagen as my first choice and Amsterdam as my second. However, after conducting research, I found Amsterdam to be my best option because of the weather, cost of living, location, and lifestyle. 

Financial Preparation

I did four co-ops to save some money for the exchange because I anticipated myself to be traveling as much as I could while I was abroad. I am also grateful for all the scholarships that SFU provides. 

I also had to find a way to bring money from Canada to Europe, and I contacted my bank to see what my options were. In the end, I decided to open a bank account in Amsterdam and use Wise to transfer money. 

Packing

Packing was challenging for me as I tend to want to bring everything that I "need", even if I don't really "need" them. I in fact overpacked... I really suggest not bringing too many clothes because there are so many places to go shopping in Europe, with very unique styles and things that you can't find in Canada. So pack light, and leave some room in your luggage for things you will buy while abroad.

Travel and Transportation

I have traveled solo multiple times prior to the study abroad, therefore it wasn't that hard for me to navigate through the transportation options. I was also lucky to have a friend picking me up from the airport, which saved me a lot of time from getting lost. I definitely recommend reaching out to someone you know who's already in the city. They can be extremely helpful and can reduce your anxiety when you first arrive. 

Preparation Tips for Future Students

It is not easy to go to another country by yourself, but the experience is extremely valuable! Really keep in mind that it's such a privilege to be able to study abroad, so just enjoy it as much as possible while you are there. The feeling of homesickness is temporary, but the memories are forever!

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

I joined the ESN (Erasmus Student Network) introduction event which was a three-day orientation to meet people from all over the world, who turned out to be people I hung out with during the exchange. The three-day event included a boat ride through the canals, ice skating in front of the national museum, sports events, and a final party. I definitely joining ESN orientation!

Business students also have their own orientation for the business department. We had a nice event with some snacks and we were given a UvA Business and Economics water bottle as a gift.

School is fast-paced because all classes are done in 2 months, so studying is necessary from the first week to prevent cramming for exams. 

Accommodation and Living

I secured a room from Lieven De Key, which had a lot of options depending on your needs. I chose a private room with a private washroom and shared kitchen with 6 others. I absolutely enjoyed it because I became very close to my hallmates. We would hang out in the kitchen and we always took care of each other when someone's in need. It is a great way to meet people compared to those rooms that have a private kitchen. 

Day to Day

Depending on the week and workload, I was able to take care of schoolwork meanwhile hanging out with friends at night. When I have class, I will normally ride my bike to school, which is usually a 25-minute ride. It does rain and gets windy sometimes, which will take me longer. I have to bike through a nice park - Vondelpark, which I really enjoy. 

When I don't have classes, I either go out for a walk somewhere or go to a cafe to study. I also hang out with my hallmates in the shared kitchen a lot. We would play some board games and drinking games, or just listen to music and chat in the kitchen. I am very grateful to have close hallmates to spend time with.  

On most weekends I am traveling around as I don't have classes on Mondays and Fridays. I utilize my time to discover other parts of Europe.

Learning and Adaptation

The school system is a little different from SFU so it took me a while to really understand. Classes are taught in English and professors have a high level of English proficiency so there was no problem understanding.

One thing to keep in mind is that some classes require a certain grade for the midterm for students to be eligible for final exams. It is important to check the requirements when the classes start.

Learning Dutch is not necessary because most Dutch people speak English, so I didn't have language barriers while living in Amsterdam.

Accomplishments and Challenges

Challenge:

Adapting to the Dutch education system was challenging because I really had to make sure I passed the midterm exams as they are the entry tickets to the final exams. I was able to pass the exams meanwhile enjoying my time there and traveling around.  

Biking in the rain and wind every day was also challenging for me. I left Vancouver thinking that the weather in the Netherlands was nothing like Vancouver, which turned out to be wrong. It was as rainy, if not more, like Vancouver. The wind just makes it hard to bike as well.

Proud Moments:

I am very proud of myself for always ending up biking regardless of the weather to save on expensive transportation costs. 

I am also very proud of myself for having the courage to go on a solo trip! 

Cultural and Environmental Observations

Dutch people are generally friendly and open-minded. However, they can also be a bit impatient towards tourists when biking. It is important to learn the essential biking rules to ensure the safety of yourself and others, even if you don't plan on biking in Amsterdam.

People who travel to Amsterdam to study are very open-minded and friendly as well. I was able to meet people from all over the world and I had the opportunity to learn about different cultures. 

Social and Extracurricular Activities

ESN hosts several social events during the week, which really encouraged me to meet new people. I had different groups of friends to hang out with, and we normally chill at a bar, play pool, play board games, chill in our shared kitchen, or sometimes we would have movie nights together. 

I personally didn't join any sports clubs, but I really recommend CREA (Student Cultural Center). They host different classes, from salsa dancing to tennis, and these are great ways to meet new people who have the same hobbies.

Wrap Up

It was an absolute blast and I really appreciate all the opportunities to meet new people and travel around! Amsterdam is definitely a great study-abroad destination. You will never get bored as there are always a lot of things going on in the city, It is also a safe city to live in. Although one downside is that public transportation is very expensive, but biking is the solution to this problem. The design of the streets in the Netherlands is extremely bike-friendly, so having a bike is essential.

It is easy to get around the Netherlands itself because the public transport network is developed. It is also easy to travel abroad because the Netherlands has flights connecting from Amsterdam and Eindhoven to the rest of Europe, with cheap flight ticket prices.

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

This study abroad experience has been a dream of mine since 2017, and I am beyond grateful that it finally happened! I was supposed to go on exchange during the Spring term in 2022, but it was canceled due to Covid. I was devastated, but I also did not want to graduate without making this dream come true. I really thank myself for not giving up!

It was a lot of adjusting to different cultures, lifestyles, and social life. I personally grew a lot more extroverted as well compared to how I was back in Canada. 

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

Personal growth and all the traveling that I was able to do during the trip is the most valuable thing throughout this exchange. I visited 21 countries in the last 6 months. Specifically, I took a 2.5-week solo trip to Spain, Portugal, and Rome, which turned out to be the best time of my life! This experience really pushed me to go out there and visit other countries to learn about different cultures and experience different local lifestyles, which I could never have done without going on this exchange journey. The memories will last forever!

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

I originally wanted to go to Rotterdam to study for my master's. It turned out that I prefer to go to Spain because of the weather, therefore, I am looking into schools in Valencia. 

Advice for Future Students

Take the opportunity, don't hesitate! It will be way harder for you to study or work abroad once you start working. I really recommend it! Overall, I really enjoyed the exchange experience, and I am excited to share all these memories!

Author

Sammi Huang

SFU Student Undergraduate
Beedie School of Business › Operations Management | Beedie School of Business › Management Information Systems
Study Abroad › Exchange
visibility  232
Jul 22, 2023