This post is also available in Greek
Student in the Netherlands! What a challenge! You think it again and again, you weigh all the possible options and you finally decide to take the big step. Congrats! Now you have to start searching for a university, the town or city that you will spend at least one year of your life, accommodation, expenses, insurance, etc…
It looks like a nightmare, but honestly, it’s not (been there, done that)! The first thing to look for is the university, its courses and the qualifications. There is an amazing and full of information website www.studyinholland.nl where you can find everything you need for each specialization & universities. After that just fill in the application from the university's website (most of them can give you any information you need) and if any problem comes up, just send them an email. But, generally, it is pretty easy to do.
If you apply in different universities, you will see that each one of them has its own procedure, one might ask you to pay some money in order for them to check your application (and if you won’t be accepted you won’t receive these money back ie University of Leiden) another one might ask money in order to find you accommodation (but if they don’t, they fully refund you)…anyway, you might get lost at some point but as I told you before, always send an email and ask.
One of the big, huge, problems that this country has, especially Amsterdam, is accommodation. It is so hard to find a place here and for some people is discouraging to relocate. Fortunately, for students who apply early in a University, are provided with room in a dorm, otherwise with a room in a Student Hotel. But the prices sometimes are very high (especially in Student Hotel), you may have to have share facilities (bathroom, kitchen) with other 8-12 students. It is kind of being in the military- boys know what I mean. But there is nothing scary about that, hygiene is a personal issue after all and in all cases cleaning services have contract with the dorms to clean the shared areas once in a week or 10 days.
If, for whatever reason, you are not provided with a room, then you’ll have to find one yourself. But this can be a little tricky. A very accurate website is kamernet.nl, but the internet is full of fake pages and fake owners who will ask you in advance to pay some money and then they will send you the keys of the house…just stay away! Unfortunately, there have been many incidents with students who didn’t know, didn’t ask, they lost their money and, practically, they were homeless. So, just be aware and always ask for a second opinion. And if you don’t know where to ask, there are numerous Facebook pages, some of them are also Greek pages is the HSSN Hellenic Student Society Netherlands.
Another big issue is transportation! Buy a bike or not? Just, buy a bike. The cost of transportation in the Netherlands (and especially Amsterdam) is too high. On the other side, you will notice that the whole city has bike lanes, and you can go from the one part of the city to the other on your super cool bike. Sometimes it might be exhausting, especially in the mornings where everyone is upon a bike trying to get to their job, but overall it is nice for your health and your pocket. It might be cold sometimes or even raining, but with a nice raincoat you have nothing to be afraid of. If, one the other hand, prefer the ‘luxury’ of the public transportation, you’ll have to pay €92/month to travel across Amsterdam. To do so, you have to apply for a personal ov-chipkaart from here www.ov-chipkaart.nl
The good thing is that you don’t have to pay for insurance when you are a student, since in the Netherlands the health insurance is a private matter. All EU students are covered from the European Insurance Card (Ευρωπαϊκή Κάρτα Ασφάλισης in Greek) and you can get it from the Greek insurance provider (IKA). But the thing is that if you decide to get a part-time job or even you get a paid internship, then you have to start paying for Dutch insurance, starting from almost €100, but then again as a working student you can get some kind of discount and eventually pay less.
The truth is that the Dutch system has many good things. One of those is that there are some benefits for students, and students that work. A great and extremely accurate blog, which helped me in my beginning here is http://surviveholland.blogspot.nl. It is written in Greek, has a lot information about almost every matter and, personally, I am grateful to whoever wrote it.
Sometimes, you will experience the great feeling of loneliness. It doesn’t mind if you are a super social person, there will be moments and you will miss your friends, your family, your dog…you will find yourself ‘stuffed’ with the load of the courses and the papers and the studying…and the weather! There will be times that you’ll want to book a ticket and fly back home and enjoy a nice freddo cappuccino somewhere near the sea!!!! When these moments come, just go for a walk or get your bike and go to the nearest park (thankfully there are many here) and clear your head. Being abroad as a student or a worker is a great opportunity and you have to get the best out of it.