Last weekend I visited the open day at VU Amsterdam in The Netherlands. My 43rd university visit on my blog “Around the World in 80 Universities”, just 37 more to go! I had hosted the university here in the UK earlier this year, we visited some UK high schools and I was fortunate to be invited out by their international office to their open event! I jumped at the chance to go!
Before I go out to any university I do my research on the origins of the university. VU Amsterdam has an interesting history. It was Abraham Kuyper, Prime Minister of The Netherlands from 1901 to 1905 who founded VU Amsterdam in the year 1880! To begin with the university was only open to Reformed Christians and was entirely financed by their fund-raising efforts and donations. But since the 1960s, VU Amsterdam has been open to everyone and funded in the same way as the other Dutch universities, although it still retains its tradition of Christian standards and values. This finds expression in the emphasis placed upon social involvement in the teaching style and research programmes. Not only was this evident throughout my weekend but I noticed a programme offered to all undergraduate students called “A Broader Mind”, which I’ll explore further later on.
VU is consistently listed amongst the world’s top universities in various rankings and is located in one of the most dynamic and fastest growing business districts in The Netherlands. It has a modern campus with student housing just a five-minute bike ride away! Remember, most residents own a bike so getting around is pretty easy!
VU is located in lively and multicultural Amsterdam, the city with the largest concentration of students in t
The Netherlands and where English is the second language. Just by walking around the campus and the city you feel that the city is open to all cultures, nationalities and religions.
Amsterdam is a city that is easy to fall in love with. Amsterdam is now considered a major hub for business, but has humble beginnings dating back to the 13th century when it was a fishing village on a river bed.
Evidently, Amsterdam has a strong tradition as a centre of culture and commerce which makes Amsterdam a city you must visit! If you do study at VU you will probably stay in one of the neighbourhoods outside of the centre. What I really liked about Amsterdam compared to other times that I’ve visited is that I got to go outside the city and explore the neighbourhoods. Each area of Amsterdam has its own character and charm, and a unique variety of shops, restaurants, cafes, museums and attractions so when you do visit make an effort to go and explore the surrounding areas!
You are in for a real intercultural treat studying at VU with around 25% of students on their English-taught programmes coming from overseas which makes for a truly international feel on campus. VU is constantly looking at ways in which they can diversify their student population so students get a truly global experience.
VU Amsterdam offers over 14 different Bachelor programmes for international students and over 133 Master’s programmes. With courses from artificial intelligence to philosophy you won’t struggle to find a course that fits you. You can find a full list of their undergraduate programmes here
All international programmes are taught in English so you don't have to worry about the language barrier. In fact there isn't a language barrier in The Netherlands! 95% of the Dutch speak English!
What I really liked about VU Amsterdam is their approach to broadening minds which links nicely to the origins of the university.
They run a programme called “A Broader Mind” which is a programme designed to enable all students to think creatively about solving complex problems. During the Broader Mind programme students get the opportunity to develop personal skills like team working, debating, reflecting, and problem solving. The programme is made up of two parts. Firstly, Community Service Learning (CSL) where students get to apply professional knowledge to practice. The second part is where students work with students from other discipline areas on a particular problem. This approach enables students to become more rounded and gives them the opportunity to work on their soft skills - something which employers want to see on your CV! I saw this in practice when I attended the mini workshop on psychology on the Saturday of the open event.
The workshop was delivered by Killian Wawoe who is an Assistant Professor at the university. He shared a model for thinking about what determines someone’s performance (Performance = Motivation X Abilities) whilst Killian was talking about this in a psychological setting he was able to apply it to a range of settings, business and health to name a few. It was in that moment I realised just how much the university encouraged thinking in a very lateral cross disciplinary way.
I strongly encourage you to take a look at his very insightful TedTalks “Does Money Make you happy” and Banks and Bonuses: where did we go wrong?
This was my 5th visit to Amsterdam and by far my best! All in all my visit was insightful with VU leaving a lasting impression on me! I would recommend students, especially those in the UK who want an international experience to consider VU as an option. The international team and university staff members are incredibly friendly and forward thinking, especially when creating an international minded campus. Thank you VU for making my visit possible!
Look out for my next blog post on university number 44 - where will it be!?