Jessica Pena - 2015 Program Participant

What attracted you to study abroad? 

I wanted to have experience studying in Europe.

Why did you decide to attend the VU University Amsterdam Summer School? 

I was told that Amsterdam was a beautiful and friendly city and that the previous year’s students loved the program.

What surprised you most about Amsterdam?

I knew very little about Amsterdam before I decided to study there. What surprised me the most was how shockingly diverse Amsterdam is. I met people from all around the world and learned so much about the Netherlands history and colonial past.

What made your program experience unique? 

The Amsterdam Summer School has some of the best staff and VU has some of the best professors.

How did local staff support you throughout your program? 

The staff accompanied us on excursions and were always on call if we needed something.

Self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

Van Gogh Museum

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Amsterdam?

Summers can get pretty cold. I really wish I would have brought jeans and a jacket.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

Almost everyone speaks English perfectly in Amsterdam. The people are also very friendly and open. It’s really easy to make friends and build relationships.

What did a typical day look like for you as an international student in Amsterdam?

We had classes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then afterwards I would visit a museum or spend time with friends.

What was your favorite part about Amsterdam? 

Amsterdam is full of history and has beautiful canals throughout the city.

What did you enjoy doing on your free time most?

I went to a lot of the museums, and some days I would just walk around the city center.

What type of accommodation did you have?

The Student Hotel. It was amazing; it’s like a dorm, but better. You have a kitchen, private bathroom, and even a TV. The beds are also very comfortable.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Amsterdam?

Again, I recommend bringing warmer clothing. Bring jeans and a jacket. Possibly a raincoat.

Would you recommend VU University Amsterdam to other students?

Yes! The staff at the Amsterdam Summer School were amazing. They were always there to help us if we had any issues and they organized so many fun events and activities. Also, the professors at VU are caring and friendly, and I felt put our best interests at heart. I am truly grateful for my experience.

Inside the Rembrandt House in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Rembrandt House

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part about studying abroad is having to start over a build a new social group. I went to Amsterdam by myself and didn't know any of the other students from my university who joined me. However, I was able to meet so many amazing people and developed friendships that I know will last a lifetime.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?

Studying abroad teaches you even more about yourself than it does about the country you’re traveling to. I became a stronger and more independent person through my experience with study abroad. I also met so many people from around the world and its given me a new perspective.

Now that you're home, how has studying abroad impacted your life? 

Now that I'm home, all I want to do is go back to Amsterdam. This program reminded me about how important it is to enjoy life and see the world. I know now more than ever that working in international education is what I want to do.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

Honestly, my dream is to study or work in Amsterdam again! However, I still want to travel all across the world. There were many places in Europe I didn't get to visit, such as Italy, but I would also love to visit places such as India, Morocco, or South Africa.