Thoughts of AUC and life in the dorms

Hello again!

First of all, since I’ve been asked many times on why I chose Amsterdam and Amsterdam University college in particular for exchange, I thought I’d address that here! To put it simply, my main reasons were:

  • AUC offered Spanish (and decent subjects in general). Having been scarred by Chinese school and its competitiveness during VCE (Final high school exams), I associated this dislike towards languages in general, rather than the restricted academia focused environment I was in. But after realising this in my 2/3rd year of my Bachelor’s degree, it was already too late to begin. Hence being criteria #1. I also don’t know how my fixation for learning Spanish arose - possibly from practicalities sake (with English and Chinese under my belt, Spanish would be the next logical step).

    But also… I like talking + there’s a lot of Spanish speakers = I can talk to a heckin lot of people 🙂

    AND before you ask why I didn’t just go to Spain or Latin America for exchange… BELIEVE ME I TRIED. But that needed 2 years of language proficiency, which I sadly did not have.

  • The Netherlands is close (and easily accessible) to many other places in Europe. I am not joking when I said I nearly chose Malta for my exchange destination. I was often met with confused looks from the people I told, and would repeatedly zoom in on maps to show this random, tiny country/island underneath Italy. And why was that?

    BECAUSE THEY OFFERED SPANISH (of course), and was warm. I’m very glad I talked to someone who went there for exchange last year, who even recommended against for me to go. And boy am I happy I chose Amsterdam. It’s so easy to get anywhere, whether that be via bus or plane – ridiculously accessible!

  • I hadn’t heard anything negative about Amsterdam. For my friends who went, or what I heard on the internet, Amsterdam had always seemed like a cosy, lively city. Another tick.
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Little Malta Bean

Choosing AUC

When considering this university college, I was particularly turned off by the fact that academic standards were high, and classes were mandatory (if you skip more than 5, you fail the subject). So despite wanting the freedom to travel whenever, I also wanted to take on that challenge. In big universities like Melbourne, lectures are non-compulsory and often recorded, meaning you can save yourself time on the road and watch them at home. In the physical lectures, I would often zone out, miss a good chunk of what the lecturer was saying, realise that education was futile and leave feeling more confused.  

Besides this, other disadvantages of big lectures I noticed were:

  • Its purely consumption based learning. I realised I cannot concentrate or conceptualise the content when I’m constantly being talked at. Moreover, when you are in a big lecture theatre, discussions between lecturers and students are limited, and questions are quite uncommon. Besides decreasing the 50 minutes a lecturer can lecture, asking a question would also invite 400 eyes to burn into every angle of your face. 
  • Also, with the lecturer so far away, it makes it incredibly easy to slack off, so being engaged in a small class setting was something I wanted to experience again.

I can confidently say that I am more engaged in a smaller class setting. With classes no more than 25 students, and teachers who know who I am, it makes me obligated to stay on top of my work. How different to my usual procrastination, panic, and inner turmoil right before an assessment 🙂 Also, the small weighted assessments throughout the semester have helped immensely. Again, so different to cramming for a >30% test and forgetting the content 2 days after – ah the beauty of rote memorisation. Additionally, my experiences here have reinforced that I learn best through discussion and asking questions – examples of active learning. 

Amsterdam University College

AUC itself is an interesting university. First of all, their higher academic standards and fixation on grades were particularly striking. The majority of students have a strong desire to receive an A, which is quite different to what I’ve experienced in Melbourne. Moreover, teachers will often discuss grades extensively. Whilst I don’t necessarily have a problem with this, it really does remind me of high school where a letter grade or number defines who you are. But also as it is an honours college, the academic standard makes sense, with many students already knowing the masters they want to pursue (definitely cannot relate). Also, because AUC is ridiculously tiny, not noticing students stress about their grades is impossible, especially with third years worrying about their capstone. Yet, I’ve noticed how hardworking the students are here, and admire their passion for their studies.


Side note: I didn’t realise that capstones were a thing until coming here. It’s essentially writing a thesis at the Bachelor’s level, that for AUC is compulsory for your final year – never have been so thankful for studying in Australia.

Also, you don’t go to AUC if you actually want to get work done. By stepping foot into the building, you sign a mental contract that you are going to see people you recognise (can’t avoid them), socialise, get distracted, do no work, and feel unaccomplished as a result. It also claims to have a ‘library’ – which is around 5 square meters and contains books I will never have the need to borrow. Though, they do have relatively comfortable bench chairs. I can confirm as I had a particularly bad headache from lack of sleep and alcohol (of course), and decided that a nap would do me good before my next class. 

However when attempting to sleep, I was walked in on by a random AUC orientation tour… out of all of the days?! 

I‘m very glad I could represent AUC in the most fashionable way 🙂 

The Dorms

Additionally, when choosing AUC for exchange, I was drawn to the fact that all students had to live on campus. With no real idea of life in the dorms apart from high school boarding and American movies, I wanted to find out for myself what it was actually like – after all this would be my last chance to before graduating.

Living at college has been an interesting experience. Things I particularly like include the ease of catching up with people. If you spontaneously message someone, it’s no effort at all to see them in the next second. And rather than going out, a ‘catch up’ may simply be watching Netflix, a small dorm dinner or just enjoying each other’s company. But then again, it’s surprisingly hard to find a time to meet especially if both schedules clash – no matter the distance (especially if that involves more than 2 people). Also, when you live in such a dense community, suddenly you become 100% lazier, and a room 2 buildings down seems infinitely further that just one.

Also, living in the dorms has introduced me to the concept of pot luck dinners. This is essentially a group of people coming together, each with a dish they’ve prepared and socialising over dinner. It’s just good food (often a surprise with what’s on the menu) and friends – what more could you want? In Melbourne, when living so far away from friends, it’s quite impossible to do such things. Instead, this would involve going out to eat or cooking all together in one kitchen – still very enjoyable though 🙂 

There are also events that are held in the dorm common rooms, such as ‘Dorm sessions’ (where external bands come and play – gets pretty hectic near the end) and Down to Earth Dinners (an event that provides very impressive 3 course vegan dinners). 

All in all, living in the dorms is not an extraordinarily different or life-changing experience. After reflecting on it, it could be due to my familiarity with living in hostels, since both involve living in close proximity to others and forming their own community. Though, college also feels like a very extended sleepover at a school – just with more drinking and smoking. 

So far, I’ve had a great experience here and hope to share more soon. 

Until next time!


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