Study Abroad in Amsterdam with CIEE May 20, 2022

By (Finance/ Actuarial Science, University of Hartford) - abroad from 01/31/2022 to 06/03/2022 with

CIEE: Amsterdam - Business + Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Study abroad opened my eyes to other cultures and the uniqueness of each country visited. It is the perfect opportunity when you are a college student as you have more free time now than after you graduate.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

We had to take classes through the program (CIEE) and through the host institution. CIEE courses were relatively enjoyable as the requirements were clear and the topics were interesting. Instructors were also really amiable. I also took classes in English language through Vrije Universiteit (VU). These were much more brutal. The Dutch grading system is on a 1-10 scale and the instructors grade very hard compared to the US. Achieving full marks on an assignment is practically impossible (that is why the conversion to the US grade system makes anything above a 7.5 an A). The final exam may be worth 70% or more of your total grade. One thing that struck me was that when it came to group projects, it was unbelievable how difficult it could be to work with some of the students. My friend who came to study abroad with me had a similar experience in their classes. Almost every group had that one person going M.I.A. for days in the chat, one person doing his part half hour before it's due, and another guy that is still asking what the project is about two weeks into it. It goes without saying - prepare yourself for some academic intensity in Amsterdam.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

My general impression of the CIEE staff at Amsterdam was that they were inexperienced and failed to effectively communicate. Having just arrived in a new country, many students on the program including I, felt like we were fending for ourselves in the first month. Even from day one when I arrived at the airport, I had to source my own ride (Uber) to my housing because CIEE didn't provide a bus (COVID reasons they stated). The first few weeks were stressful and hectic as there was no on-site orientation. Rather, we were put in a zoom call and made to watch a PowerPoint. When we had questions, the academic coordinator would simply tell us: "It was covered in the PowerPoint." On top of that, the transportation cards were delayed in reaching us. I won't even begin to mention the absolute mess class scheduling was.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

For context, CIEE fumbled the housing from the start. We were supposed to select housing by November for the spring semester in Amsterdam. I did not get to do this until January. I was placed in Htel Serviced Apartments in Amstelveen which was not an option for housing. I understand that the Netherlands is facing a housing crisis for foreign students, but this part was poorly communicated to us at pre-departure. Getting to classes from the apartment took between 20-40 minutes by tram and metro. Getting into center of Amsterdam could take up to an hour. The primary reason the rating is so low is because of the quality and furniture. The apartment was intended for a couple or one person - not for two roommates like in my case (in Htel, two small beds are put together to make a big bed). I had to sleep on a bed smaller than a twin size in width with little privacy. CIEE promised clearly to have bigger sized bed, more privacy, and that we could move the furniture. They went back on their word and said that the furniture was not movable and would be fined if we did. On top of this, Htel is rather rundown with used kitchenware, scuffed up gym, and old laundry machines to name a few.

* Food:

Netherlands has some of the most superb food in terms of quality and taste. There is also great variety especially closer to the center. Would visit the Netherlands again for the sole purpose of eating here.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The Dutch were very welcoming and open in many of the interactions I had. Perhaps some of the coolest people in all of my Europe travels. Despite some cultural difference between the United States and the Netherlands, I was able to assimilate very easily to the point where almost everyone would first begin speaking to me in Dutch. The English language is spoken by practically everyone so I never had an issue with communication. Simple Dutch is also easy to pick up for English speakers as many words sound similar. Unfortunately, in the University making Dutch friends as an abroad student is difficult so this is something to keep in mind.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Experience may vary for everyone but if you get sick abroad - you are in for a treat. Healthcare in the Netherlands is limited for study abroad students. I had only 3 options consisting of "tourist doctors" or student doctors at a university clinic. These are the only places that accept your insurance. A friend of mine on the program went to go see a tourist doctor who was unprofessional and of little help. Still got charged out-of-pocket fee despite having global insurance. The University clinic was too booked up to even get a consultation.

* Safety:

Amsterdam, like many cities in Europe, is overall safe. The main form of crime is pickpocketing. There are the occasional odd characters you get especially in the tourist areas. However, it goes without saying that you should use common sense and travel preferably with others.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Netherlands has affordable and cheap stores that make it possible to live on a very minimal budget. However, if you are looking to travel, eat out, or go to the club for instance, it will be on the pricier side.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Groceries averaged around $40-60 a week. Other expenses like shopping could be $100+
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Avoid eating out often as the costs quickly add up. Cooking at home saves a great deal of money you can use for other things like travelling.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? The best way to practice is to do a little everyday like a quick lesson on Duolingo. Try your best to

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Travelling Europe
  • Independence
* What could be improved?
  • Staff
  • Class scheduling
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? What other programs offered for academics and countries.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.