Name: Ioana
Occupation: Student at the University of Amsterdam, studying Economics/Business
Nationality: Romanian
Length of time in Amsterdam: 4 months

How do you balance your studies with life in Amsterdam?

I spend most of my time studying because my degree programme is so intensive. And I’m so caught up in daily issues because this is my first year being independent from my parents. It was a big change for me. I came here on my own and I try to manage my day-to-day problems. Luckily I live in the city centre and all of the things I have to do are nearby.

What is your impression of Dutch higher education so far?

The Dutch school system is very different from any other system, I think. On the very first day that we arrived at the university and had our introduction, they told us that we would be taught how to think, not what to think. And not just how to memorise things. They’ve really kept to their promise. I’ve learned how to critically think and how to apply theory to the real world.

Are there any stereotypes of Amsterdam that youve found to be not true?

Every person I talk to tells me the same thing, that they expected Amsterdam to be a party city. But when I arrived, I realised how quiet it is, how much it has to offer and how peaceful it is.

Close your eyes and picture home. Where is that for you?

Home is really where you can be yourself. For me, Amsterdam is that place. I’ve changed since I’ve been here. I’ve become more open minded and sincere, and not ashamed of anything. I miss my country, of course, but here home means something very different. It’s something I would definitely miss if I left the city now.

How do you stay connected to Romania?

I still speak with my family and friends almost every day. But I’m focusing on my life here. I’ve accepted the fact that I committed to living here for three years. I’m trying to gather as much culture as I can from here before I leave. It’s my goal to live in at least five different countries in my life. It’s a goal, because after that I will be able to shape my personality in a beautiful way. I think I will be able to say that I’ve discovered the truth after living in so many places.

On a weekend night, where would we find you?

Honestly, studying. It’s a very good programme… in the top 50, I believe. And they aim to be in the top 20 by 2020. So you can imagine that we can sometimes feel the pressure. After exams, though, we party Thursday through Saturday, sleep Sunday and Monday, and begin our studies again.

How is your relationship with the Dutch weather?

I was scared of it in the beginning. But now that I’m here, I’ve accepted the grey shade of the city. I think that when it’s sunny, the city is very beautiful. But it feels more like Amsterdam when it’s grey. It’s part of the charm of the city.

"Go with the flow but certainly ask advice from someone who’s been living here for at least a year. Especially from an international, because going through it as a non-native is very different to a Dutch student going off to a Dutch university."

Is there a place in the city youd consider undiscovered by the masses?

Amsterdam Noord.

What do you like most about Amsterdam?

I love that I can ride a bike anywhere and that it’s such a safe city. They’re basic things, but very necessary to daily life. And the government is supportive of the young student population here; it’s a very good pace to be a student.

Are you learning Dutch?

No, but I plan on it. I already speak German, which helps me a lot. I think it will mostly just come to me because of this. If I were going to stay, I would have to be fluent in Dutch to be integrated into society. It’s so important.

Amsterdam is a city of characters. Who is the quirkiest person youve met here?

I was at the EYE café and a man came to my table and took my hand. He started a speech about breathing and how it keeps us alive. He squeezed my hand and told me I need to release pain. It was so weird and funny.

What was the most challenging thing about moving here?

I arrived alone. Most of the kids come with their parents but I came alone. And I had never been here before. It was very interesting for me to explore Amsterdam on my own; I was forced to go through the city and find everything on my own – a home, a bank account, a bike, enrol at school and register with the city. I had to carry out all of these formal parts of the move at the same time as maths and marketing courses. It was a little scary.

What is something about Amsterdam that you never want to change?

I hope they never remove the bike lanes and that the Dutch will protect their buildings. The architecture is so beautiful and amazing.

Do you have any advice for newly-arrived international students?

Yes… go with the flow but ask advice from someone who’s been living here for at least a year. The process is different everywhere. And be sure to ask advice from an international, because going through it as a non-native is very different to a Dutch student going off to a Dutch university. I’ve learned more about so many other cultures of the world by living here; it’s such an international community.