I always knew I wanted to study abroad, but before starting university, I had so many doubts and questions about leaving my home country and moving to Amsterdam. Would I feel welcomed in a new place? Would the language barrier be a problem? How was I going to make friends? Now that I have been studying at the University of Amsterdam for a whole semester, I want to reflect on these past four months as an international student and share my thoughts on feeling welcomed at UvA.
Honestly, I was very skeptical when people told me that UvA is a very international school. However, even after participating in Intreeweek, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the university does provide an incredible international environment. I never expected to meet so many people from such a diverse range of cultures and nations. Even though I’d never even visited Amsterdam before permanently moving, I weirdly never felt foreign as everyone is so welcoming and used to having internationals. As the courses started, I once again saw just how international the students and faculty are. This was especially helpful as it reassured me that we are all in the same position and after the first day I felt very relieved knowing that I was not alone in my experiences as an international student.
I know some might not agree, but from the perspective of a student from Turkey, generally, I feel heard and acknowledged by the UvA. The university provides many resources and creates a comfortable environment where students can get help and ask questions. More than that, the events, activities, student groups, and associations that are organized by students are incredibly impressive. I was so surprised to see that so many students are willing to organize events, parties, or other genuinely fun activities for each other, to help each other to adjust to university life and make the transition easier. I think this has helped me even more than the support provided directly by the university when making friends and feeling welcomed. Although, I want to add that even though it seems like a small gesture, the free coffee and ice cream the UvA provided in front of the ABC on the first day of university, made me feel immediately welcomed and I would love for it to happen more often!
Even after all this, I would be lying if I said I never feel homesick or lonely. Of course, I do but so does everyone else. I don’t want to sound like a self-help book, but I feel like this is a part of the experience that we must go through and something that we will remember about our first university years. I miss my family and friends back home and that can be hard, but I take comfort in knowing that I have made new friends here who have already become an important part of my life. The academic and cultural challenges of being an international student feel so much more manageable when there are people surrounding you who relate and understand. While I recognize that there is always room for improvement in the welcoming process, my own experience has been much smoother than expected and this has convinced me that I made the right choice for studying in Amsterdam.