Amsterdam

University

When does the program start?

Lectures start the first week of September or first week of February

What do I need to study before the start of the program?

Definately study some neuroanatomy beforehand so that you can make the most out of the lectures. Also, if you come from a non-biological background you should keep up with the reading of the first two weeks: they will really help you out for the Neurogenomics course, later on.
The first course is really intense and you really have to keep up the study on a daily basis if you want to get the most out of it.

Which books do you recommend me and for which classes?

Discovering Statistic by Andy Field is the one we used for the statistics bit of From Molecules to Mind (it walks you through the basic statistics, skip the author's personal bits for when you have extra time).
Essencial Cell Biology by Alberts et al. is the one we used for the first two weeks, if you don't come from a Biology background you should read it all or most before you start since you will have to do so in the first two weeks anyway.
Neuroscience by Purves is the one we used for the neuroanatomy bit.

Are there any libraries? How can I get access?

There is a library in the university main building with free access. To borrow books you will need to make a card which is free since you are a student in the university.
There is also a book store in the main building in case you have/need to buy any book. Being member of the student association will get you a discount.

What courses are available?

The courses you will follow are: From Molecule to Mind (12 credits), Clinical Neuroscience (6 credits), Behavioral Genetics (6 credits), Scientific Writting in English (3 credits but not graded) and Neurogenomics (6 credits)
You also have to follow an intensive Dutch course that I recommend you do at the start so you can get an idea about the language for your shopping etc.

How many courses can I choose (minimum/maximum)? Do I have a choice?

You have to follow them all. Nevertheless, it is possible to take extra courses. It is also possible to take courses at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) but I personally advice against it because you will have to work a lot for the courses in during the first year BUT it is an interesting option especially for the second year students in Amsterdam.

What is the schedule of the classes?

In general, you will be at the university from 9:00 to 17:00 with a lunch break + additional breaks. Bear in mind that you will most likely attend the Dutch language course which is another 2x3 hours per week during the first two months in the evening (please correct me if this is wrong)
It varies, some days you might have conferences all day (specially in the first 2 weeks)

Where is the university located?

In the south of Amsterdam. Metro station 'De Boelelaan/VU', close by Amsterdam Zuid. Take the Tram 5 or Metro 51 Westwijk from the center.

What about the exams?

Most are short answer question exams. Its practically impossible to resit if you get a low grade, it has to be the only one and the resit would be at the end of the Master. If you fail, though, you can resit in the coming months and it won't appear in your transcript that it was a resit, and you can still get a good grade.

For First-Years: After the first two weeks (the "brush-up course") you will have a progress exam. The mark you get for it will account for 10% of your final grade in From Molecule to Mind.

Do we have language courses?

Yes, it's included in the Neurasmus programme. The course takes place twice a week for two months. At the start you can choose to do a test exam to assess your level or to go directly to beginners level. The course is organized by the university itself and oriented to new Erasmus students. The Neuramus programme will pay for the course costs. However, they don't pay for the books (which are mandatory in the course) nor for the internet license needed to do exercises online. We have reported about it to the coordinators, and hope it will change for the future Neurasmus.

Do I have to do lab rotations? How many?

In the first year there is a internship during the whole second semester, so you will not do it if you are moving to Bordeaux.
In the second year there is also an internship (master thesis) during the fourth semester. You can do the internship in the VU or VU Medical Center (considered as internal internship) or outside (considered as external internship). In any case you will need a supervisor belonging to the VU apart from your on-site supervisor.
Also during the S4 you need to do a Literature Research, which consist in writing a review-like report on a subject of your choice. Same as with the thesis, it can be internal (within the VU) or external (outside the VU). You need to find a professor willing to guide and supervise you and, if external, a second supervisor belonging to the VU.

Where can I find labs?

During the lectures, you can get to know and approach lecturers you liked. Throughout the From Molecule to Mind course you will have Keynote Lectures during lunch time (yes, on those days there is no lunch break). They are not exam material, but are an excellent way to know what kind of research is being done at the VU, and you can approach the lecturers at the end to ask about internships.
During the second year (S3) there are several hands-on courses which give you the chance to know several labs and many people from your area of interest.

You can also try these websites :
Centre for Neurosciences and Cognitive Research The CNCR belongs and is located inside the sciences faculty of the VU.
Netherlands Institute of Neurosciences. The NIN does not belong to the VU (it's an independent institute) and thus it will be considered as an external internship, which only means that you will need to find a second supervisor of your thesis within the VU.
Department of Anatomy and Neurosciences

Research is also done at the 2 main academic hospitals:
VU Medical Centre. The Academic Hospital of the VU, located right next to the university. Ideal if you are interested in Clinical Neurosciences.
Academic Medical Centre. This is the Academic Hospital of the University of Amsterdam (the other main university in the city). You can do internships there and they will be consider as external.

Are there any scholarships available?

If I am right you can apply for an additional scholarship if you do a semester in Bordeaux and then write your thesis in Amsterdam. It is a France-Netherlands scholarship. If you are interested you should write to the Neurasmus coordinator.

Life in Amsterdam

- relative expensive city but very international + almost all locals speak English to some degree. Uilenstede student city (DUWO housing) is very social with many student house parties at the weekends. A nice place to meet new people

Is there university housing provided? How much does it cost? Details?

The university housing is with DUWO, an apartment with shared bathroom and kitchen (with 12 other people) can be around 325 Euros and its furnished. If you want your own bathroom its around 400 Euros. Sharing a bathroom with 12 people was never a problem. Cleaning arrangements will depend on all the flatmates and whether they are carried out or not varies.

What about the private market? Is it worth it?

Housing is hard to find in Amsterdam and in quite expensive. Expect to look for housing for at least several weeks and then it will be most likely around 500+ euros.

Where can I find an apartment/flatshare?

www.marktplaats.nl
www.kamernet.nl
www.craigslist.com
For all websites: Be aware of scammers. DO NOT upload your passport or pay any money before you have seen the room or are quite sure that this is legit!!! DO NOT fall for the trick that they will send you a key once you paid a deposit. If the room/price looks to good to be true it is most likely scam!
- look for advertisement in the university buildings.

Hostels/Hotels?

There is a holiday Inn Hotel close to Uilenstede. It has a very helpful personnel.

Which neighborhood/areas are better for students?

De Pijp is a hip neighbourhood but expensive
The city is relatively safe so anywhere should be fine. Interestingly, Slotervaart (outskirt in the west) has a great population of Middle Eastern people while De Bijlmer (outskirt - South-East) has a great Suriname/African population. Both outskirts are quite different in atmosphere and life as the typical quarters in Amsterdam. Nevertheless, they are interesting options.

What about the transportation (public transport cards, tickets, bikes etc)?

Bike! Amsterdam is made for bikes, besides the public transport is rather expensive. Used bikes can be found for between 50 and 100 Euros.
Paper tickets cost 2,80€ and are valid for an hour, but are not worth it: buy a rechargeable card (an OV-chipkaart) for 7 Euros at the train station when you arrive in Amsterdam. You can also buy a student card if you expect to ride more often. I think you will need a copy of your passport, the VU student registration form and maybe the housing registration form from the "Stadthaus".
Beware of the difference between trams and metro: they may look similar and ride on the same tracks, but for the first you need to check in and out (by touching your card/ticket on the yellow machine) *inside* the carriage, whereas for the latter you need to touch in and out at the platform. That means once you're inside the metro, you can't check in anymore. Also, don't forget to touch out every time: it will invalidate your paper ticket or charge 4 euros from your OV-chipkaart even if it was a short trip!

Are there any useful websites (buy/sell, cultural events etc, cheap mobile phones)?

ESN VUniverse E-buy. Facebook group used by students for students. You can find cheap bikes (specially at the end and beginning of each academic year/semester), house stuff, rooms to rent, books, etc.
www.marktplaats.nl

Where can I buy stuff for my new home?

ESN VUniverse E-buy. Facebook group used by students for students. You can find cheap bikes (specially at the end and beginning of each academic year/semester), house stuff, rooms to rent, books, etc.
www.marktplaats.nl
Ikea by the metro station Bullewijk.

Are there any flea markets?

Yes! The most popular one is in the De Pijp neighbourhood and is called "Albert Kuip Markt". Also, on the first weekend of each month there's IJ Hallen: Europe's biggest flea market (http://www.ijhallen.nl/en/index.php). There are also other ones. Talk with some locals.

What about grocery stores?

Jumbo is really close to Uilenstede but also you have an Albert Heijn not so far off which is bigger and has more variety. In both you can usually find inexpensive brands.
The cheapest supermarkets are Lidl, Aldi, Voordeelmaarkt and Jumbo. Then there are the more expensive ones like Albert Heijn and Dirk.

Can I eat at the university? Are there other places you recommend?

Yes, there is a restaurant in the main building and another one in the science faculty, that belong to the university and are slightly cheaper than elsewhere. You can usually buy sandwiches for 3€ and meals from 3,30€ (drinks or desert not included). Most students bring their own food. There is also a bar/restaurant in the middle of the campus with nice atmosphere and more expensive meals and beers. Many pubs are located in the different faculties that organize drinking evenings (borrels).

Where can I get extra language courses?

You can continue the language courses offered by the university. You will have to pay for it yourself, though.

What about entertainment (theater/cinema/bars/clubs)?

There is a theater/cinema in Uilenstede that is half price if you show your student card and enrollment paper. There is also the Tuschinski cinema in the center which is worth for the nostalgic people. A modern cinema in an old theater.
There are a lot of house parties in Uilenstede (do some networking and join the Uilenstede group on facebook to hear about them).

What about sports (in the university and outside)?

There is a sports center also at Uilenstede which has pretty good price for students (120€ for one semester or 200€ for the whole year). However, in the first semester time is tight both at the beginning and the end…
You can also take your bike to the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam forest park) or to Amstel Park. It s super pretty and a lot of people go there to run.

Which banks do you recommend? Any traps I should be aware of?

Upon arriving you will be given the chance to open an account with ING, which has good conditions for students. Having a dutch bank account is very useful, since you will get a pincard with which you can pay in the canteen, or buy online your transport tickets. And shockingly, in most places in the Netherlands they only accept dutch Maestro cards, so you won't be able to use international credit cards anyway.
At ING if you open a student account you should not be charged a monthly fee, if you are you can kindly write in English to their costumer service explaining you are a student. Their personnel is usually helpful. ABN you have to go through a bit more trouble (they will explain) but their site is in English.
One student went to ABN AMRO at Leidseplein and everything was done after 5 min. You will need to ask for a student account for no monthly charges. And bring your ID, student registration, and housing registration form with you (as always).

Where can I go out of the city for an excursion?

beach: Zuid Kennemerland National Park close by Haarlem (e.g. one-day bike tour in summer)
airport: ryanair, easyjet…
very dutch stuff: volendam, zaanse schans, keukenhof (from mid march to mid may).

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