All you need to know

The VU Amsterdam Gap Year Experience allows students to gain first-hand university experience before choosing a three or four year Bachelor's programme. From practical matters to course selections to social outings, we aim to assist you with all aspects of life as an international student and help you develop a clear path for your academic future.

The VU Amsterdam Gap Year Experience offers start-to-finish personal guidance and advising to all Gap Year participants, both on and off campus. This includes the following services:

  • Airport pickup 
  • A full programme of social activities 
  • Monthly check-in’s
  • Exam preparation sessions
  • Study groups
  • Extended arrival and orientation programme
  • On-site housing assistance
  • (optional) Academic English course

In addition, we also offer extended guidance in the arrangement of all practical services including: 

  • Housing
  • Visa
  • Insurance
  • Registration at the municipality
  • Immigration appointments
  • Registration with a general practitioner
  • Help with public transportation

Getting to know your fellow classmates and progamme particpants as well as other Dutch and international students is one of the most important aspects of spending a semester or year abroad. Let us help you! Every semester we plan a full programme of social activities and events, both specifically for Gap Year Experience students as well as events with other international students. We also offer an extended orientation programme at the start of each semester.

Spring 2021 Arrival Day: Friday, 29 January, 2020

Introduction and Orientation Programme

Your first few days and weeks in Amsterdam will be filled with new experiences and new people, as well as many new practical considerations. Each semester, the international office at VU Amsterdam offers an extensive orientation programme for all students. For Gap Year Experience students, this programme is extended to include many additional social activities as well as start-to-finish guidance in the arrangement of all practical matters.  The orientation programme also includes a special overnight trip to another city in the Netherlands only for Gap Year students.

Gap Year Exerience Social Activities

Gap Year Experience activities are designed exclusively for Gap Year students and have an educational or cultural focus. Some possible activities include:

  • Cycling/sustainability bike tour of North Amsterdam
  • Vrolik Museum of human anatomy at the Amsterdam Medical Center
  • Teylers Museum of art, natural history, and science 
  • Tour of the Maastricht underground caves
  • Visit to Zaanse Schans
  • Visit to Hoge Veluwe National Park

Additional Social Activities

In addition to the activities designed specifically for Gap Year students, you are welcome to join activities provided for Semester and Exchange students. Some possible activities include:

  • Visit to the Anne Frank House and Tuschinski Cinema
  • Trip to the famous Efteling Theme Park
  • Tour of homosexuality in the animal kingdom at Artis Zoo
  • Amsterdam Light Festival Boat Tour
  • Day trips to other cities in the Netherlands

VU Amsterdam guarantees furnished housing in shared apartments with on-site assistance to all Gap Year Experience participants. All VU Amsterdam Gap Year Experience students will live together at the Student Hotel West.  The Student Hotel offers fully-serviced, state-of-the-art accommodation. This includes: a personal bike, cleaning and change of bed-linen, 24 hours reception & security, use of the gym, study room, game room, library and other common areas. Optional services: meal plan, room cleaning service, bed linen, kitchen utensils sets. You will have a private bedroom and bathroom and enjoy a shared kitchen and communal space. You can read more about the Student Hotel West here.

Welcome to the world’s most diverse city! With residents hailing from over 180 countries, Amsterdam is considered to be one of the most multicultural cities in the world. With 75 world-renowned museums, more than 350 festivals a year, and a 17th century canal ring which is now a UNESCO world heritage site, Amsterdam is a bustling cosmopolitan city with a small-scale feel which offers something for everyone.

Getting Around By Bike

With more than 880,000 bicycles - four times the number of cars - Amsterdam is a city of bikes. With an extensive network of cycle lanes, bicycle parking and specific traffic lights the city is perfect to traverse by bike. Everything in Amsterdam is within reasonable biking distance. Even though cycling in Amsterdam is fun and an essential part of living the Amsterdam life, it is not without risk. Check out this handy guide before cycling in Amsterdam.

Public Transportation

If you don't feel comfortable biking, no worries. The city of Amsterdam has an extensive public transportation network consisting of trams, metro services, buses, ferries, and trains. Extensive maps and timetables of all routes can be found on the GVB (municipal transport company) website

Public transport Card (OV-chipkaart)  

The most convenient and affordable method of paying for public transport is by 'OV-chipkaart'. We will provide all students with a refillable anonymous OV-chipkaart upon arrival. 

You can opt for automatic reloading which links the card to your bank account and automatically refills it when your credit drops below a certain amount. Or you can use a loading machine. Loading machines can be found in stations and in some buses, supermarkets, and convenience stores. You can also purchase single-ride tickets if you prefer, but using an OV-Chipkaart is cheaper, faster, and more convenient.  

Check in, check out

Public transportation in Amsterdam uses a check-in and check-out system. It is important to remember to check both in and out when using your OV-chipkaart. This can be done by holding the card against the check-in/check-out scanners which you will find on train and metro platforms.  For trams and busses, you will find the scanner on the bus or tram, you do not need to check-in before you board. You must also check in and out when changing to a different line or mode of transport.  

*Please note that in order to take the train, you must have at least €20 on your OV-Chipkaart. This is not the case for other forms of public transportation such as the metro, bus, tram, or ferry. Ferries are free and do not require an OV-Chipkaart to travel.

Living in Amsterdam

Upon arrival in Amsterdam, you will receive a goodie bag which includes, among other things, a SIM card. The SIM card is from Lebara and allows you to add credit for calling, texting and internet data. It is easy to download the app for iOS or Android and to top up credit on your phone. The SIM card can be used in all EU countries without extra costs.

You may consider bringing some cash for the first day, but it is usually easier to pull out cash upon arrival from one of the many ATMs in the airport and all over the city. Major credit and debit cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants. Bear in mind that most ticket machines for the tram and metro do not accept cash and some shops, such as many popular grocery stores, do not accept cards without a V-Pay or Maestro logo.

Apart from housing, you may consider the following estimated cost of living per month:

Food€150-300: This depends on how much you cook or eat out. You can reduce this price by shopping at discount supermarkets such as ALDI or LIDL, or shopping at one of the local markets.
Insurance€50-100:  All students are required to have health insurance. You can sign up for discounted student insurance during the arrival days if your home insurance does not cover you in the Netherlands.
Transportation€25-100: This depends on how much you bike and walk. Cycling will greatly reduce your public transportation costs.
Course Materials€50-100: Most professors make their reading materials available online.
Other CostsThis depends entirely on you and your personal lifestyle and preferences. If you want to travel and go to events every weekend you can expect to spend much more than if you prefer to stay home. Luckily, there are plenty of free things to do in Amsterdam! We also highly recommend getting a museum card for anyone that plans to spend their weekends at one of the many world famous museums!

VU Amsterdam is a campus university: almost all university buildings are situated on one site, with teaching and research facilities and several leisure activities all together. It is located in the business district of Amsterdam, so that during your studies you can also get a glimpse of the business world.

Our campus is:

  • A modern international campus 
  • Situated in the middle of the most dynamic and fastest growing business district in Europe 
  • Well connected to public transport 
  • A 15 minute tram or bike ride away from the historic city centre 
  • An 8 minute train journey away from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport 
  • Rich in possibilities for grocery, drink, and food options

Sustainable Campus 

VU Amsterdam has a clear vision for a sustainable future. We value the stewardship of our planet and the responsible planning and management of resources which leads to a sustainable future. Environmental sustainability is not only a priority for teaching and research programmes at VU Amsterdam, but is also a major consideration for construction and building projects. VU Amsterdam offers several Bachelor's and Master's degree programmes in the field of Sustainability & Energy, collectively known as Science for Sustainability. Flexibility, sustainability, and cost-consciousness are important factors in the development of the VU Amsterdam Campus. New sustainable buildings are created according to BREEAM standards, the most trusted sustainability assessment method. Old buildings are refurbished to meet current sustainability standards as much as possible.

Your safety is our top priority. Fortunately, Amsterdam is ranked Europe's safest city on the Economist Safe City Index. Of course, like any major city, you should be aware of pickpockets in busy areas. 

Read more about the safety measures at VU Amsterdam campus.

Useful Phone Numbers

Emergency (police, ambulance, fire): 112  

Alarm number VU Amsterdam, available 24/7: +31 20 59 83 255 

Police (theft and other queries): 0900-8844 or +31 343 57 8844 from abroad.

Curious about what life in Amsterdam is really like? Check out some of the VU Amsterdam student bloggers here! The Amsterdam Students Blog is a collection of experiences, ideas, adventures, tips, and stories about living and studying in Amsterdam. Here you can also find fun videos, tips, and insider information about student life in Amsterdam, all for students by students.