Mia Uys at VU Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Mia Uys

BCom International Business 

Semester Exchange in the Second Semester, 2022 at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam



There were many aspects before departure that I now know I should have done better or not have bothered with at all. Firstly, Visa applications were quite a headache for me. Although my host university, Vrije Universiteit, did make the process simpler for me by eliminating the need to make a physical appointment at the Dutch Embassy to submit my documents to the IND, I still felt extremely overwhelmed. There were just so many documents I had to sign and submit that I was unsure off. Thus, I would advise you to do research on which documents they need and the deadlines for the Visa application and to not be afraid to ask others, such as representatives from the Host University, questions.


I would also recommend that on the day you receive your Visa acceptance letter that you make an appointment at the Dutch Embassy closest to you. I had trouble securing an appointment to collect my MVV at the embassy, so to ensure that you receive your visa before you need to travel to your host country, I would put this at the top of my priority list. I would also advise others to utilize student housing if they are planning on doing an exchange in the Netherlands, especially at VU Amsterdam. Student housing is by far the cheapest accommodation you will find in Amsterdam, and you will have the benefit of the housing being relatively close to campus. Additionally, you will be living with other students, so it will be easier to make new friends and build a support network in an unfamiliar country. I would also recommend packing lightly, as you will need less stuff than you think for the next six months abroad. You will also want to bring souvenirs back to your family, friends, and off course, for yourself, thus you will need some extra space in your bags. In terms of winter clothes, I would also recommend buying them while on exchange if you are travelling to Europe, as the clothes are usually better quality and are cheaper than you would find in South Africa.



I found that the university system in the Netherlands, specifically at Vrije Universiteit, differs quite a lot from South African Universities such as Stellenbosch. A semester is divided into three periods, where periods one and two are usually two months each, and period three only one month. You would typically have two modules each period and they would start and end in the specific period that they occur in. This is a big difference from Stellenbosch, where all modules would start at the beginning of the semester and end at the end of the semester. This would effectively mean that modules are completed at a much faster pace. Furthermore, where one would have 50-minute classes at Stellenbosch, one class here is usually two and a half hours long. Consequently, this would mean that there are less classes per week than what you would be used at Stellenbosch. In my personal experience, I did prefer Vrije Universiteit’s way of working, although work had to be understood and completed at a much faster pace than what I was used to, there were never periods that I felt overwhelmed with university work, thus I felt I had a good work-life balance. The big advantage of Stellenbosch is that work is done at a slower pace, so there is usually time to catch up with work if you fall behind, but you will experience at least two big periods during the semester when all modules’ assignments and tests happen at the same time.

I would be lying if I said that I did not shed a tear as I landed in South Africa at the end of my exchange. It was wonderful for me to experience the nature and warm weather of South Africa again after being stuck in the cold for so many months. I also loved being able to see my family and friends and enjoy a lekker braai again. Living on the other side of the world for an extended period of time really gave me some perspective on various aspects in South Africa. Firstly, I realized that I appreciate the people of South Africa a lot; South Africans are extremely friendly and helpful to others, even strangers, which is not very common everywhere in the world. I have also realized that South Africa has amazing meat quality and taste, which I would now always remember to appreciate.
However, the socio-economic challenges South Africa face has become more apparent to me after I have been living in a developed and high quality of life country for so long. It has reinforced my views that no-one should ever have to live in such poverty and violence that most South Africans must endure on a daily basis. Especially as a woman, I now find it extremely sad and unacceptable that every woman I know is scared to walk alone at night or travel into certain areas alone as result of South Africa’s high crime rate. Although South Africa, like every other country in the world, has its problems, there is no other place I would rather live for the long term. My study abroad experience has not only exposed me to many new and different places, people, customs, food, and cultures, but has also made me extremely proud to be a South African and to call this country my home. However, I did love the whole experience of studying abroad, thus I would like to sometime in the next 10 years go and live in a new country for an extended period to keep on broadening my horizons and experiencing new people and places.