Thursday, 9 July 2015

WHY I TOOK A YEAR OUT FROM UNIVERSITY & MOVING TO AMSTERDAM


I recently received some interest in writing a blogpost about why and how I moved to Amsterdam so I thought I would go ahead and crack on with it whilst it was fresh in the brain! So hopefully this post will be helpful to any of you that are thinking of following the same path as I am on or planning to move to the wonderful city of Amsterdam!

Why I took a year out from University

I think it's an appropriate place to begin with telling you a little bit about my University background. When I first applied for University, I was super focused in gaining a career in Radio. Specifically Radio presenting. Looking back, I have no idea where this urge came from. Perhaps it's due to the fact I can talk for England or perhaps it was to do with my teenage obsession with Greg James... 

Moving on. 

Once I received a place at Leeds University to undertake a BA Hons degree in Broadcast Journalism, I knew I wanted to get involved with Student Radio. I highly recommend anyone to join their student radio if they have one at their university, especially if you are wanting to go into this area. I had so many great memories from being part of LSR (Leeds Student Radio) from presenting two shows with my friends to interviewing George Ezra, Dan Croll and other artists (as well as getting to see many free gigs!).

After starting my blog in my first year after umming and erring about it for a while, I knew (as cringe as it may sound) my heart was in the fashion industry. Since then, I have been focused in gaining as much experience in this area as I can, particularly editorial and fashion journalism.

Coming from a media background, from the very beginning you have it drummed into you that "experience is key" and pretty much your degree is overlooked by many media employers (can you imagine how depressing that was to hear after committing to pay £9000 a year?). So taking a year out to develop my CV was a no brainer.

In all honesty, I also kinda felt I needed a break from working towards a degree that my heart isn't fully committed to. Degrees are important; granted, but for me, I continually felt demotivated as my teachers were only willing to support those who were wanting to follow the career path most suited to the degree. God forbid I choose to do fashion journalism rather than investigative journalism?! Nope. That just ain't for me. I'm just saying, going to University (specifically for media courses) isn't the be all and end all. There are other ways of making your own career path with out going to University (and without a shit-loada debt). However, this topic could be a future blogpost (watch this space)..

Whilst the majority of people on my course are choosing to gain experience in the industry after they finish their degree, I knew that there would be no-frickin-way I could support myself to work for free after completing a 3 year course which will leave me riddled with debt and no loan to fall back on. The sad truth is that internships rarely pay you/ or are extremely low paid and tend to compensate with the idea that you're getting 'invaluable experience' or (if you're lucky) they will cover your travel expenses (but don't get too excited, this will only be from 'zones 1-4'. You lucky devils). 

I'm not here to talk about unfair labour, cause it's really not all bad. It is invaluable experience just like it says on the packet. This is why I took the opportunity to do a sandwich course of taking a year out to work in the industry whilst having a loan to cover my back (huzzah, light at the end of the tunnel!). After many painstaking evenings of writing cover letter after cover letter and receiving many no's mainly for the reason of not coming from a 'fashion' background, I received an email from a company called Fashiolista in Amsterdam asking for an interview. Which leads me nicely into my next section.

Moving to Amsterdam   


When I applied for this position at Fashiolista, I knew 100% this was the placement for me. The internship ticked all the boxes and the thought of moving to a different country, let alone a beautiful and exciting city like Amsterdam, drove me to land an interview. The hard worked paid off as I received a call for an interview 3 days later! After 2 Skype calls and an assignment task, they offered me a 5 month placement that would start in a month (and the day after my last hand in), so as you can imagine, trying to sort moving your whole life to a new country whilst juggling 3 final University hand ins was a pretty stressful time.

1. Finding a place to stay in Amsterdam

This wasn't easy, I have to say. After spending a month of continuously scouring the internet to find a place to stay, I still arrived in Amsterdam with no permanent housing. This is because Amsterdam has more people looking for housing than it has to offer. However, the best websites I used to look for a places were Kamernet.com and Craigslist. Word of warning though; BEWARE OF SCAMMERS. More often than not (especially free websites likes Craigslist) you'll be dealing with scammers when trying to find a place in Amsterdam. I would say about 80% of the people I messaged about housing (and I sent a LOT of messages) were scam artists. You just have to be super on the ball and notice repeat patterns because they tend to use the same structured emails. Here's a list of warning signs to look for when looking for a place to rent. Another good place to look for housing are Facebook groups. I would perhaps recommend these most (more specifically for short term rentals) because a you can have a nose at the renters Facebook page to see if they are legit or a person you feel you could live with. In this situation, I think it's okay to judge a person by their Facebook page.

All in all, you can find pretty cheap rentals in a really good location in Amsterdam, especially when you compare them to other cities like London. I'm living 5 minutes from Centraal and renting a room for 450 euros (equivalent to £324 a month) bills all included. A side note to why it could be so cheap is the fact that I'm living with ten boys....yes TEN. While you might be sitting there, praying for me and my hygiene, I love living with these guys and will be sad to say goodbye once I have to leave (cue family portrait).

It's like 'Where's Bryony?' amongst the sea of boys.

That being said, you can still find some very good deals in housing if you're willing put the time into looking. 

2. Registering
A thing to also note is that you want to be able to find a place you can register with if you're staying for longer than 3 months. This will allow you to get a BSN number from the City Hall which enables you to get a Dutch bank account!

3. Living in Amsterdam
I am truly and utterly head over heels with living in Amsterdam. There is such a chilled yet inspiring atmosphere here unlike any other city I have been to before. Genuinely, nothing makes me happier than getting up at early hours of the morning and biking over the beautiful canals that make up Amsterdam on my way to work. Already it is my home from home.

I hope this blogpost is helpful to anyone considering moving to Amsterdam or taking a year out as part of their University course. I'm looking to continue documenting my time here and my favourite hotspots as well as my next placements when I return from Amsterdam! If you have any other suggestions for blogposts or could tell me about your experiences moving away to another country, I would love to hear them! :).