THE NETHERLANDS A period of study abroad is probably one of the most challenging opportunities that a student undertakes during their university life. It is also one of the most demanding. This guide aims to offer some helpful guidelines on how to survive when you get there. Although it does not contain specific information about particular universities, it provides you with a basic framework of the essential information you will need to live and study while you are away. Whilst some of the information may apply to everyone, the rest will vary according to individual circumstances. Bureaucracy is probably the worst obstacle to overcome - it is important to note that the way in which the system works varies to a certain extent at a regional level. However, this booklet contains much information which cannot be found in any of the official guides, and will hopefully prove very useful. Additional reading can be found in the Lonely Planet or Rough Guides or the ISIC handbook. This information has been prepared by the European Office of the University of Kent. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information is correct at the time of going to press, the University of Kent takes no responsibility for errors and omissions. Views, where expressed, are not necessarily those of the University of Kent. TO BE READ IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE YEAR ABROAD GUIDE Immigration and Police Registration EU Nationals and Nationals of Liechtenstein and Switzerland do not require a visa to study elsewhere in the EU. Other Nationals should enquire about visa requirements at the Dutch Embassy in London if they hold UK resident status. Non-UK residents must apply through the consulate in their home countries. If you do need a visa you should apply at least 3 months in advance. For further information call the Dutch Embassy's Visa Section on 020 75903200 or at email@example.com. The Dutch Embassy website is: www.netherlands- embassy.org.uk Everyone who intends living in Holland for more than 90 days must obtain a residence permit (verblijfsvergunning) from the Aliens’ Police (Vreemdelingenpolitie) in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague (which also covers Leiden) or, in the case of Groningen, from a police station in the area. You must first ring to make an appointment. You'll then receive a letter confirming an appointment, usually in about two weeks. Bring with you your passport, two passport photos, the original and your European Health Insurance Card that covers the whole of your period of study, along with the originals and copies of your enrolment documents as proof of your student status. Usually the police require proof of a regular monthly income of approximately €500. In Utrecht, a residence permit is organised for you on campus during introduction week. Everyone is also legally obliged to register themselves on the population register (Bevolkingsregister). You can and should do this as soon as you receive your rental contract, which you take along with your passport to the Stadhuis (Amstel 1, 1012 CM Amsterdam). If you don't have a rental contract take along a letter from the University confirming your place of residence. The Vreemdelingenpolitie will automatically check to see if you are registered when you apply for a permit. Despite the rather uninviting name, the Aliens’ Police are on the whole friendly and discharge their duties accordingly. Accommodation Remember that students in the UK are generally quite privileged by the amount of university accommodation available for them; elsewhere in Europe you will discover that many students have to find accommodation for themselves throughout their course of study. ERASMUS has done much to encourage universities to help International students, but where accommodation is scarce no amount of goodwill and effort can completely alleviate problems in cities where rooms are scarce for all students. All Dutch universities have arrangements whereby exchange students are helped to find somewhere to live, though in places like Amsterdam where accommodation is at a premium they cannot guarantee places to all students. Although the specific procedures vary from university to university, once a place has been confirmed a student's name is passed on to an accommodation office or an International students' committee or even a faculty co- ordinator who then set about organising rooms. Finding private accommodation is no joke in a country where physical living space is in short supply. The situation is aggravated by a housing system which vies between a highly regulated social housing sector (for which there are long waiting lists) and the free market (with rents beyond the means of average wage-earners). If the Housing Office is unable to provide accommodation, exchange students are in the situation of competing with Dutch students for what little accommodation there is. Advertisements appear on the many noticeboards in cafés, libraries and other more alternative venues. (Needless to say, be careful if you place an advertisement.) Dutch national newspapers have accommodation adverts, particularly rooms in student flats. Every Wednesday De Telegraaf has a weekly "Woning" supplement containing a larger than usual number of ads for rented accommodation. Via Via appears every Thursday and available rooms are advertised under rubriek number 700 Kamers aangeboden (rooms offered). Again, ring early as rooms are snapped up very quickly. If it's still available the following day it means something is seriously wrong with it or that no one was desperate enough to take it. When perusing adverts these are the things to look out for: Th. (Te huur) To let Kam: (Kamer) Room gemeub: (gemeubileerd) furnished ongemeub: (ongemeubileerd) unfurnished m. gebr van: (met gebruik van) with use of Keuken: (kitchen) douche: (shower) C.V: (Centrale Verwarming) Central heating balkon: (balcony) een maand huur/borg: 1 month’s rent/deposit required. inc.: inclusive of gas, electricity and any service costs. Always take someone with you when viewing a flat or room, not only on safety grounds, but as a witness to any deposit you may have to pay. When paying a deposit, make sure you obtain a receipt with the date, your name and purpose of payment on it along with the recipient’s signature. Without these you don't technically have a receipt and could run into difficulties if you needed to get a deposit back. Housing Agencies No matter how desperate things may get, do not use commercial agencies. These are wholly profit based and expect up-front payments before they will even begin to help you. Even then the chances of them either being willing or able to find something remotely within the range of a student budget are slim. Non-commercial housing agencies are a much better bet as they are often able to provide impartial advice and help should you run into landlord difficulties. ASW (Amsterdamse Steunpunt Wonen) Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 32 1012 RZ Amsterdam Tel: 020-5230130, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ASVA (Algemene Studenten Vereniging Amsterdam) Spinhuissteeg 1 1012 CJ Amsterdam Tel: 020-622771 Useful telephone numbers and addresses in Amsterdam: www.housingonline.nl/pathfinder.asp In Utrecht, housing is easy to find if you sign up with SSH, the universities housing company. Electrical appliances The voltage current is between 220-230 volts on a two-pin plug system requiring adaptors for stereos, hairdryers or electric kettles. TVs and videos are not compatible with the UK. University Systems There are thirteen universities in Holland, ten of which are public and three private (including the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). On average they are a similar size to their UK counterparts, or slightly smaller. Registration Your host university will provide information on enrolment either in an information pack or online before arrival once they have received your application forms. Assessment The Dutch Grading System is as follows: 10 = excellent 6 = satisfactory 2 = poor 9 = very good 5 = almost sufficient 1 = very poor 8 = good 4 = insufficient 7 = highly satisfactory 3 = highly insufficient Grades are much less important to Dutch students than to their British counterparts, and by far the commonest grade achieved is a 7. The possibility of resitting and upgrading results also leads many Dutch students to concentrate efforts tactically on certain courses, as doing less well first time round in other courses can always be remedied later. Student Services There appears to be no national student body. Independent student bodies co-ordinate information, help and advice at the universities themselves. The consensual nature of Dutch politics dictates that these student bodies partake jointly with faculties in the decisions affecting the university. Student mensas are by far the cheapest places to eat and are open to everyone. The quality of food varies considerably but there is usually something for everyone. Just show your student card and you'll get a further reduction on the already rock bottom prices. For those under 35 the CJP (Cultureel Jongeren Paspoort) costs about €15 and is available in Uitburos or VVV (Tourist Information Offices). You can get reductions on museum, film and concert tickets but check on the individual venues themselves for availability. The Museumjaarkaart is extremely good value and is available for student and non-student alike. It gives you unlimited access to all of Holland's many and varied state museums and given the regularity of changing temporary exhibitions is more than likely to pay for itself in the course of an academic year. Foreign Student Services Oranje Nassaulaan 5, 1075 AH Amsterdam, Tel: 020 671 5915 Libraries Books tend to be expensive – it has been reported that websites can sometimes be alternative sources of adequate information for study purposes. As public libraries are organised on a regional basis with something in the region of 300 different rules and regulations governing lending procedures, this section is confined to libraries in Amsterdam. You can find a list of the public libraries in the Netherlands on the following website: http://www.libweb.rtin.bz/Netherlands.html The Central Library has a large number of academic textbooks in English, a café where all the British quality papers can be found and a good software, CD, video and audio library, though these attract lending fees. Centrale Bibliotheek (Main Public Library) Prinsengracht 587 1016 GD Amsterdam Tel: 020-5230800 (during office hours: 9am-6pm) Tel: 020-5230900 (after office hours) Everyone over the age of 18 must pay an annual fee; adults between 18-22 pay about €10 per year, those between 23-64 pay about €16. To become a member bring along your passport and proof of address such as a bank statement not older than three months and you'll immediately receive a library card with which you can borrow up to ten books at a time. The lending period is three weeks and the return date is not stamped in the book itself but on a separate receipt. So if you have a bad memory take care of those receipts. Banks Student accounts don't exist for International students, let alone exchange students. Banking rules dictate that an account can only have student status when a student grant is paid directly into a bank account. Of the three main Dutch banks two, the ABN Amro and Rabobank, indicated that there were local branch discretionary powers on accounts. So depending on your branch manager, you may be able to open a student account at either of these banks. The benefits accruing from a student account are not very clear. Only the Rabobank came up with specific benefits, such as a discounted credit card (all Dutch credit cards have an annual fee) and free electronic banking. ABN Amro and Postbank offer virtually the same: namely an account, cheques and a cash card. Overdraft facilities may be offered with varying conditions and charges, depending on the bank and type of account. In all cases, you must bring along your passport, residence permit and proof of income during your period of study. An account will be opened immediately and you should receive your cards and cheque book within a week. If opening an account with the Postbank ask for the Girorekening (Giro Account) information folder available in English. Banks are usually open Monday to Friday 0900-1600. Some are open from 1900-2030 where there is late shopping (usually on Thursdays). GWK exchange offices (Grenswisselkantoor) are found at most Central Stations and are open from 0800-2100 and from 0700-0000 at Amsterdam's Central Station. Telephones The cost of local and national calls through the domestic telephone company is next to nothing while calling abroad is prohibitively expensive. Calls from public phones attract higher tariffs. NEVER use a private operator as the price is often very high. Calls from English mobiles are also extremely expensive, so one option is to invest in a Dutch mobile. For those who prefer to have their own phone, provided that a phone socket is already available, just go along to a Primafoon shop with your passport and Verblijfsvergunning (residence permit). Your details are then entered on to a database and you are given a number and a date and time when the line will be connected and you simply plug in. The connection charges for a PTT telephone line are high, so you may wish to shop around for other (commercial) telephone services. VAT at 17.5% is added to all bills. Confusingly 06 numbers are used for both freephone and premium rate lines. Make sure that when dialling a 06 number you know which one it is. It is a legal requirement that a premium rate number has a tariff written after it. Directory Enquiries (in English) (0900) 8008 International Directory Enquiries (0900) 0418 Travel Cycling This remains a practical, cheap and environmentally friendly way of getting around. In a country devoid of mountains it's hardly a physical challenge and is made more attractive by the sheer number of facilities available for cyclists. An extended network of cycle lanes exists complete with cycle traffic lights, route signs and distances to rival that of any road or motorway system. Motorists tend to show respect for cyclists being both aware of their presence and keeping a healthy distance when encountering one. In other words there's no excuse not to cycle. Any reputable secondhand bike shop should provide a three-month guarantee and there are plenty of bike shops listed in De Gouden Gids (Yellow Pages) under tweedehands fietsen (second-hand bikes). Alternatively you could choose to illegally buy a stolen bike off the street. If you do, you run the risk of either getting a dud bike or being arrested by an undercover police officer making a foray into the stolen bike trade which the police are known to do every now and then. If you decide to bring your own bike or buy a local one, make sure you bring one or two good locks from the UK – locks cost 3 or 4 times more than the bike. If it's a mountain bike forget it! If you don't have adequate storage facilities you won't have it for five minutes. Disappointingly, the carriage of bikes on trains is discouraged by both the rather high cost of bike tickets for the train and the lack of available room for bike storage. This is offset by cheap bike hire available at all major railway stations. Just go along to the Rijwiel (bike hire shop) situated next to the station with your passport and a returnable deposit and you're away. The VVV tourist information office can also provide cycle route maps. Buses and trams Public transport in Holland is efficient. The country is divided into zones based on De Nationale strippenkaart which are used for local rather than national journeys. Regular travellers can purchase weekly or monthly season tickets, abonnement. Just go along to any regional or municipal transport office with your passport and passport photo. Strippenkaarten can be purchased individually from the driver but it's more economical to buy a multi-strip ticket of either 15 or 45 strips. These are available from railway stations, tobacconists or even some supermarkets and can reduce journey costs by up to 50%. You use two strips for one zone, three for two zones, four for three zones etc. Once cancelled you have a time limit for your journey: one hour from the time stamped on your card for a journey within one zone, an hour and a half if the journey crosses two zones. Within this time you can change buses, trams or metros (there are metros in Amsterdam and Rotterdam) as often as you like. On buses the driver cancels the required number of strips but on trams or the metro it’s up to you to do so. To combat abuse of the system, a number of tram routes have introduced conductors whilst the number of random ticket inspections has radically increased. If you're caught without a valid ticket and are unable to prove your identity, you face being hauled off to a police station until your identity is proved plus a hefty fine. Dutch Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) Clean and comfortable by British standards, NS is user-friendly even if its fares are higher than the European average (although still significantly cheaper than British rail fares). From Amsterdam there are at least two trains an hour to all major cities and an hourly service throughout the night running on the hour in The Randstad, a geographical area covering Amsterdam, Utrecht, Leiden, The Hague and Rotterdam. The "Rail Aktief Kaart" offers a 40% discount on rail journeys even when the fares are already discounted. If you are under 26, you can by a “Jongerenkaart” (Young Persons Card), which entitles you to the same benefits as the Rail Aktief Kaart but is cheaper to buy. Hitchhiking Hitchhiking is legal in Holland EXCEPT on motorways. EHIC/Travel and Personal Accident Insurance Please ensure that you have read the advice about Insurance on page 17 of your Year Abroad Guide. Safety and Welfare Emergency Numbers Police, Fire and Ambulance: 06-112. As in the UK, emergency services are co-ordinated from a central switchboard. Some areas of Amsterdam are notorious for car crime. When parking on-street, never leave anything in your car - even a stereo is almost guaranteed to be stolen. The British Consulate Please see the notes in the Year Abroad Guide about Consulate services, or look on the fco website at www.fco.gov.uk and click on ‘Directory’ and then ‘UK Embassies Overseas’. There is a British Consulate at the following address: Amsterdam British Consulate-General, Koningslaan 44, 1075 AE Amsterdam Tel: (020) 676 4343 Fax: (020) 676 1069 For visa or passport enquiries, e-mail: email@example.com. Utrecht When planning your year abroad, I would really recommend doing a summer intensive language course. This can be organised through the European Office or privately. The James Boswel Instituut (http://www.jbi.uu.nl/) offers a wide range of language courses from beginner to advanced. The teaching is of a very high standard and usually takes place 4 days a week 9-3. This gives plenty of time to take part in all the social events organised for international students by the student society ESN (http://www.esn-utrecht.nl/). They also offer a mentoring service, where a group of local students can pick you up from the airport. They are allocated around 8-10 students between 3, so you get to meet up with your group regularly at socials your mentors organise. Getting to Utrecht is very simple. Easyjet and BMI will take you to Amsterdam Schiphol airport for as little as £20 one way. From there, you get a train to Utrecht Centraal, which leaves directly below the airport every 10 minutes and takes about 20 minutes. Get yourself an OV (student travel card) from the train station and get 40% off travel. All student accommodation allocated by the local student accommodation service SSH (http://www.sshu.nl/) is within 15 minutes bus ride radius of the station. Cambrigelaan is in de Uithof where most classes are about 15 minutes bike ride from the city centre and Panassos and Baden Powlweg are student accommodation situated in the city. The best way to get around is on bike, a decent one will cost you about 70 Euros, although you can get them from as little as 20 Euros at the station. Bike shops are all over town. Utrecht itself is a student city, with plenty of bars, shops, clubs, theatres, cinemas and restaurants to keep you entertained. There is a great music scene, with live music playing every night at Ode Pothuis on the Oudegraght canal. In the summer, the place really comes alive, with everyone sat out on terraces having beers or sunbathing at the park or outdoor swimming pool/lakes. I really recommend Utrecht for a year abroad, it is a great city with a lot to offer as well as close links to Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Den Haag at 30 minutes train ride away. If that wasn’t enough, you are pretty central, Paris, Brussels, Warsaw and Berlin are all with reach!