VU Amsterdam

VU Amsterdam

De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands

For centuries Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, has been a renowned cultural, scientific and commercial centre.  It was in the thriving atmosphere of this inspiring city that Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam opened its doors in 1880.  VU Amsterdam is special: its foundation was the result of one man’s initiative.  In 1878, theologian and statesman Dr. Abraham Kuyper led a group of orthodox Protestant Dutchmen to establish an association whose goal was the foundation of a free Christian university; ‘free’ in the sense of independent of church and state, and bound only by God’s word.  The university’s unique background has given rise to an organizational culture that embodies a distinctive approach is founded on a caring attitude, attention to students’ needs, and a socially responsible attitude towards developments in the wider world.  Such an approach necessarily entails a strong focus on the quality of education.

Amsterdam is virtually unique in having all the advantages of a big city – culture, history, good food, entertainment and extensive public transport – with relatively few of the disadvantages.  It is physically small, relatively quiet and, thanks largely to its canals, has relatively little traffic.  Yet the city still has plenty to offer: a wide range of places of interest, historical monuments and over 50 museums.  Art and antiques are on sale in picturesque quarters, while the latest fashions and upmarket products abound in the chic shopping streets.  For a relaxed evening out, you can visit one of the city’s many cinemas or cosy cafes.  If clubbing is more your style, there is a large choice of dance venues and nightclubs.  In Amsterdam, boredom doesn’t come easily!

Website URL:
Cost: High
External Funding Available: No
Availability: 5
Academic Dates:

Semester 1: early-September to late-January
Semester 2: early February to late June

Course Timetable:


Note that by far most courses taught in English are available in the FALL term. There are only few courses offered in English in the Spring term (January - May).

Program Type: Exchange , Summer school
Language: English , Native language
Available Subjects: anthropology , archeology , biology , business and entrepreneurship , chemistry , computer science , english literature , environmental studies , economics , geography , geology , health sciences , history , international development studies , kinesiology and sports sciences , law , linguistics , media and film , philosophy , political science , psychology , sociology , world literature and culture studies
Travel Information:
Practical Information:
Visa Requirements:
Summer School Information:


Ted Flett, Law, on exchange in Fall 2015

Check Ted's column on exchanges in Canadian Lawyer magazine.


Phil MacGillivray, Business Administration, on exchange in Fall 2014 and Winter 2015

"As soon as I got off the metro on the first day and began to walk toward my new home, I knew this was going to be the best year
of my life. Often I think of everyone experiencing UNB for the first time and I’m jealous, because going to a new university and meeting new people, you usually only get to do once at this age. I am ecstatic that I get to do it all over again, and with all other exchanges students. VU Amsterdam is one of the most diverse universities in the world, and it is the number one such in all of the Netherlands. As for the city of Amsterdam, I have never been to such an intriguing place in my life. The history, architecture, canals, culture, everything. I can’t believe how bikes rule the city over here. Bike lanes are almost scarier to cross than normal streets.  Even though Dutch is the main language here, it is nice to know that almost every single person in this city speaks English too. It has only been a few weeks since I have arrived here, but I can already say that I love my new home, and I can not wait for this new chapter in my life to begin."


Lea Britt, JD 2015, on exchange in Fall 2014

"I don’t think I suffered a serious amount of culture shock, a lot of what I had read about the Dutch turned out to be true when I arrived, so I felt like I was prepared for most social interactions.  I would say the culture shock that I have experienced has been in the classroom.  The interaction between students and professors at VU University is not the same as what I have experienced at law school, or during my undergraduate university.  In Dutch universities professors and students are treated equally, meaning that their position in the classroom is almost virtually the same.  This means that students openly question the professor about why we are learning something, interrupt them while they are speaking, are blunt in how they state something or continue speaking when the professor has begun class.  The first time I experienced this it was quite shocking to me, as this would likely be considered rude in most Canadian classrooms.  I discussed the practice with a number of fellow international and Dutch students, and discovered this was quite a common experience for international students.  I felt more comfortable about the interaction after a few weeks of classes, and discussing the situation with others.  Though I am a little more used to this practice after half a semester, I will not be trying it out on any of my professors. 

Though it was not part of culture shock, it has been interesting to see how much Dutch people enjoy being on boats in the canals in Amsterdam.  As soon as the weather is nice, or there is a holiday Dutch people take out their boats and cruise on the canals with friends and family, and enjoy some food and wine.  The other aspect of Dutch culture that I have greatly enjoyed experiencing is the Dutch love of stroopwafels, a cookie that is available just about anywhere in the country, and incorporated into all sorts of foods.  The culture shock that I have experienced in the Netherlands has been offset by the wonderful international and Dutch people that I have met, who have been open and friendly."


Josh Tuttle, JD 2013, on exchange in Fall 2012

"Living in a major European city was simply amazing. We were constantly biking around Amsterdam; getting to know each of the distinct neighbourhoods. I was surprised to see how well almost every single Dutch person spoke English, and how the older generation still thinks kindly of Canadians, as a result of their liberation during WWII. We did a ton of travelling; finding cheap flights around Europe every couple of weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed my classes as well. My favourite was a course called “International Criminal Courts and Tribunals,” which really opened my eyes to the inner-workings—and great importance of—the ICC, the ICTY, and the ICTR.

This experience has enhanced my UNB degree, by exposing me to a whole new approach to the study of law. VU Amsterdam uses a very different method of teaching law; much broader and more theoretical in nature than here at UNB. It was very interesting to be immersed in a new approach to legal study, over the course of an entire semester.

I think I have grown as a person, as a result of this experience. Travelling around Europe and even northern Africa during my weekends and time-off, I learned a great deal about both myself and the world around me.

It was totally amazing."