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Student Health, Safety and Wellbeing

This platform has been developed and will be updated to offer you a clear overview of all supportive programmes VU Amsterdam and its community is offering to benefit your health, safety and wellbeing.

Stay in touch with your fellow students or make new connections

We are aware that many of you have found the isolation tough at times, missing out on your daily routines and not being able to see each other on campus. That is why we launched a web page with an overview of ideas and initiatives for staying in touch with each other, which you can find here.

(Mental) health care

  • Counselling and Psychological Support

    It is important to be registered at a General Practitioner, or Huisarts, so that you can be referred to the right care. As an international student at VU Amsterdam, you can register at the University General Practice (UGP). In this video you can find more information about the UGP and how you can register. Please make sure to register at a General Practitioner as soon as you arrive in the Netherlands.

    Most GP practices also offer guidance by a Praktijkondersteuner Huisartsen Geestelijke Gezondheidszorg (better known as POH-GGZ). This is a mental healthcare assistant practitioner (often a nurse or psychologist) who knows a lot about mental health issues. The POH-GGZ can either offer you direct guidance to overcome your problems, or can assist you when you are in need of a referral for more specialized mental health care.

    Appointments with the POH-GGZ are covered by your health insurance and no additional payment is required. Also, the POH-GGZ often have short waiting lists, meaning that an appointment could be scheduled on (relatively) short notice.

    For personal problems (e.g. feelings of depression, anxiety, problems with eating or sleeping)  you can best contact your GP to request an appointment with the POH-GGZ. The student psychological counsellors’ main focus is on study-related problems ( e.g. performance anxiety, lack of motivation or procrastination).

    Student psychological counsellor

    During your studies at VU Amsterdam it is possible that you’ll experience study-related personal problems, such as performance anxiety, study stress, lack of discipline and/or motivation or feelings of loneliness. The student psychological counsellors offer individual counselling, workshops and study groups, or professional advice on a referral for more extensive mental health care. Are you in need of support? You can book an intake appointment.

    The student psychological counsellors are employees of VU Amsterdam, which means you do not need health insurance or a referral from your GP to talk to them. All staff are bound by a strict code of confidentiality. They will never discuss the reasons for your consultation with anyone else without your permission.

    Courses student counselling services

    The Student Counselling Services department organizes courses by professionals for reduced rates. A number of courses are offered (both online and on campus). More information can be found here.

    Caring Universities

    VU Amsterdam is part of the Caring Universities project, an initiative aimed at improving the psychological wellbeing of students. An anonymous online questionnaire can provide insight into your own mental health by offering personalised feedback about your mood, stress and anxiety based on your answers. Whatever you decide to do next is up to you, but if you experience complaints like stress or low mood, we offer you the chance to work on these in a free online programme, completely anonymously and with a free online coach to guide you through the process.  

    113 Suicide prevention

    113 Suicide Prevention is the national Dutch suicide prevention centre. They offer several mental health services, such as crisis chat / telephone, chat therapy, self-help course and self-tests.

    Frisse gedachtes

    Do you sometimes feel lonely, do you find it difficult to study and/or motivate yourself, or do you just need someone who listens to you? Your student days are not always fun. Frisse Gedachtes is a free platform where you can contact psychology students or experience experts anonymously. You choose the student you want to chat with anonymously and for free.

  • Tips and tricks for taking care of yourself

    In these uncertain and isolating times, taking care of your mental health is more important than ever. Check our tips and tricks on how to deal with stress, fear and feelings of loneliness.

    If you would like to have concrete tools to help you deal with the difficult thoughts and feelings that you may struggle with due to the presence of the coronavirus, you can also take part in a self-help programme. These tools can help you to relax and to pay more attention to the things that are important to you. Dealing with corona stress (a self-help program in English)

  • Health App

    Do you want a healthier lifestyle? Are you curious about the possibilities to take your health to a new level? Or do you want to quit smoking now that the VU Campus is completely smoke-free? Download the application. Two students from the faculty of Human Movement Sciences have developed a health application called NewU. The NewU app helps to create healthy habits in a fun, easy, and effective way. Get started with healthy food, more exercise, better sleep, less stress and quitting smoking! The app will not only help you improve your nutrition/diet, help you exercise and sleep better, but also help you reduce stress and even helps you quit smoking! As a VU student or employee, you can use the app for free! Sign up at https://www.newu-app.io/vu.

  • Health care for internationals

    General practitioner (GP)

    The Dutch health care system and how to get access to health care services might be different than what you’re used to. A General Practitioner (GP) is your first point of contact for health care in the Netherlands, as they provide referrals to all specialists and, if necessary, to a hospital. Registering with a local practice is one of the first things you need to do.

    As an international student at VU Amsterdam, you can register at the University General Practice. In this video we will explain how you can register and we will also go over what you need to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms. The Public Health Service of Amsterdam also offers specific information for students regarding the coronavirus.

    The Dutch College of GP's and H4i (Healthcare for internationals) recently introduced a new online service GPinfo.nl. GPinfo provides online information in English, such as:

    • Information about the most common health complaints
    • Tips on what you can do yourself if you feel unwell
    • What to expect from your GP
    • How to prepare for your GP visit
    • How the Dutch healthcare system works
    • What to do if you need other medical expertise

    Insurance

    Dutch law requires all international students to be properly insured by an internationally recognised insurance agency for the duration of your stay. It is mandatory to have a valid health insurance that covers all of the Dutch health care costs.

    European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

    Please first check carefully whether you already have a valid health insurance that will cover your stay in the Netherlands. If you are an EU student, you can apply for a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from your own insurance company. Click here to find out more about your country’s EHIC application process. Here you can find more information about what EHIC does and does not cover.

    AON Insurance

    You still might need to take out an extra insurance to cover your stay abroad. For international students we offer an exclusive premium package at AON Insurance. This package is especially designed for and recommended by VU Amsterdam. If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) you can opt for the additional insurance package AON ICS Start+. If you are a non-EU student, you can apply for the AON ICS Complete+ package, which offers an extensive health package. Please find extensive information on this subject here and have a look at the Nuffic website. More information about AON Student Insurance can also be found in this flyer, and more information on AON's coverage can be found here.

    Job or internship next to your studies

    It’s important to note that if you are planning to have a job next to your studies, or do an internship where you earn more than a minimum wage, you need to take out a Dutch health insurance, even if you are covered elsewhere. More information about AON's offer for international students who are also working in the Netherlands can be found here.

Academic confidence and study success

  • General information

    During your time at VU Amsterdam you might need some extra support, on an academic or personal level. VU Amsterdam offers several student counselling services. In this video we will tell you more about some of the services offered. Please never hesitate to reach out to us and note that all conversations with academic advisors, student psychological counsellors and student general counsellors are strictly confidential.

  • Counselling and support

    Academic advisors

    Each faculty has at least one academic advisor who can help you plan your studies, choose any extra courses that may be useful, discuss personal matters which may affect your studies and who can advise you on career choices. The academic advisor can also offer help to students with a disability or chronic illness. It is advised to discuss the possibilities before your arrival. Read more about studying with a disability. In some cases, the academic advisor may refer you to someone else if he/she thinks they are better suited to help you. The best way to reach the academic advisors is via VUweb. You can book an (online) appointment through the online calendar, or ask a question by filling in the contact form.

    Student psychological counsellors

    If you are experiencing study related personal problems during your time at VU Amsterdam, like lack of discipline or motivation, performance anxiety, procrastination, planning difficulties or a lack of self-confidence, the student psychological counsellors can help you if you want to work on these problems with a professional. They provide short-term counseling and they can also give you advice if you are concerned about your emotional wellbeing. You can book an intake appointment on VUweb.

    Student general counsellors

    The student general counsellors provide support, advice and information about matters not directly related to the content of your degree programme. You can make an appointment with a student counsellor if you are experiencing financial problems, if you have questions about student finance and regulations or if you would like to have a confidential discussion about issues you are experiencing at the university, for example if you have a conflict with a staff member or disagreement about grades. You can book an appointment on VUweb or ask general questions at studentcounsellor@vu.nl.

    Student Desk / International Service Desk

    If you ever find yourself lost or if you have any questions about where to find a lecture hall, you can always approach a hostess on campus. You will ‘meet’ one of our hostesses in this video. We cannot meet you in person yet, but by watching this video you will also get an impression of our International Service Desk and the Student Desk and the various administrative and academic matters we can assist you with. All contact details of International Office teams can be found here

    Helpmatrix

    We created an overview of persons and institutions to turn to in quest for help.

  • Study & Corona

    Corona news at VU Amsterdam

    With new developments in the international COVID-19 health crisis occurring each day, we want to make sure we can keep you informed and provide you with as much clarity and assistance as possible. Our main aim is to offer answers to the most frequently asked questions per target group and to make it clear to which department and services you can turn. We will regularly update this website.

    Studying & corona

    To give you some general guidance on how to manage your studies in corona times, we have set up a special VUweb page dedicated to study & corona. This page contains an FAQ, tips on studying from home, rules and regulations regarding for example finances and housing, tips and tricks for mental and physical health, and information regarding VU communities, services and facilities. Some coping tips for studying at VU Amsterdam during this challenging time can be found in this video.

    Study delay & corona

    If you experience study delay because of the corona measures, you may be eligible for one of the financial grants from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) or the VU Profile fund. Please check VUweb to see what your options are.

    FAQ corona

    Please take a look at our FAQ if you have specific questions.

  • Courses to optimise studying

    Do you want to get more out of your studies or can you use additional support? Student Counselling Services organises courses by professionals. A large part of the courses are offered in both Dutch and English and are open to all VU Amsterdam students. An overview of courses offered can be found here.

  • Academic differences in the Netherlands

    You may have experienced – or will soon – that Dutch culture may be quite different from what you are accustomed to in your home country. Most students will experience culture shock to some degree, but what most do not anticipate, is that this phenomenon does not only impact the cultural and social, but also the educational setting. The way of learning and teaching in the Netherlands is – quite understandably – impacted by the cultural and social components of Dutch culture. This means that at times, it might be a challenge to study and perform effectively while studying at VU Amsterdam.

    Contrary to other cultures, the level of hierarchy in the Dutch classroom is relatively low. Lecturers and students are considered equal; the only relevant differences relate to their respective roles as lecturer or student and to expertise, which the lecturer already has and the student does not. It’s not uncommon to call lecturers by their first name.

    Moreover, Dutch society runs on rules. Exceptions to the rules, particularly for individuals, are very rare. For the Dutch, rules are there to guarantee fair and equal treatment for all. Since everyone has the same rights and equal chances, including access to higher education, the level of competition between students is low.

    Procedures are  important and putting pressure on people to get them to do something for you will not be appreciated (or effective for that matter). On the other hand, saying what you really think is highly valued. Being able to accept the ‘honest’ opinions and criticism of others is something that children start to learn at an early age in the Netherlands. Expressing your opinion in the classroom is considered important, on the condition that you provide (rational) arguments for your point of view – even if it’s different from that of your classmates or even the lecturer.

    The Dutch believe that active learning is the best. Selective and critical reading is stimulated, as is active participation in class. Students are expected to study rather independently. In this process, the lecturer plays the role of facilitator, supervising your course of study rather than dictating it. Should you have difficulties getting used to this high level of independence, please do not hesitate to reach out and to ask your lecturer for help.

    Dutch Grading table

    Dutch grades range from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest). Grades of 5.5 and higher are passing grades. The highest grade, 10, is very rarely awarded. An 8 is considered a high mark and a 7 is more common. Grades from 1 to 3 are also quite rare. The grading system often raises many questions, as does the definition of notions such as plagiarism. With this video, we hope to inform you about what you can expect from the Dutch educational system. The video includes experiences told by students, who will share their stories about how they perceived the Dutch classroom when they first came to study at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and what struck them as ‘odd’ or ‘different’ about the Dutch.

Campus Safety and Community

  • Safety at VU Amsterdam

    VU Amsterdam is an open and welcoming place to study and to work. Appropriate conduct is integral to the safe and positive environment we create and take active measures to maintain. Social safety is a prerequisite for being able to study or work effectively. VU Amsterdam does not tolerate any form of discrimination, intimidation, bullying, sexual harassment or other behaviours that violate our values.

    Yet, despite our best efforts, students, PhDs and staff at our university can find themselves confronted with these problems. If you have experienced or witnessed any such behaviour, you can report it to the Social Safety Hotline. This hotline is an accessible way to find the help, guidance and support you need to resolve the situation. Read on for more information on these worrying and inappropriate forms of behaviour and how to report them.

    Any behaviour that is perceived as unsafe can be reported. That includes bullying, discrimination, inappropriate conduct, domestic or honour-related violence, stalking, prolonged persistent expression of grievances (this is a form of stalking), disturbed behaviour that leads others to feel unsafe, intimidation, sexual harassment, sexual violence, physical or verbal abuse, threats, or suicidal behaviour. More information can be found on this dedicated web page.

    Confidential counsellors

    VU Amsterdam has appointed two Confidential Counsellors for students. They can be contacted via the email address vertrouwenspersonen-studenten@vu.nl. More information can be found here.

    VU Security Desk

    We also respect other people’s belongings, as well as university property. You can always reach out to one of the security officers at the VU Security desk in the Main Building (location KC04) or call 020 59 85854. More general information about security risks and campus safety can be found here, including information about what to do in the event of loss or theft.

    Student Ombudsman

    The Student Ombudsman helps students with problems or complaints that cannot be resolved by any other body within the university. The Student Ombudsman is Ms. drs. E.J. (Lies) Poesiat. She acts independently, is impartial, and will deal with all complaints in the strictest confidence. She can investigate, give advice and mediate but also assess a complaint. More information can be found here.

  • Study and student associations

    We want you to feel part of the VU Amsterdam community, especially in these isolating times. At VU Amsterdam you’ll find several social initiatives (online or in person while still social distancing), for example via student associations. You can find an overview of all study and student organisations here.

    International student association ESN VU Amsterdam

    ESN VU Amsterdam is a student organisation that aims to be a platform for intercultural awareness and learning. It enables international students to meet each other as well as local students. They organise many different social and cultural activities to establish links between internationally-minded students. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, ESN VU Amsterdam has reaffirmed its commitment to provide the best possible student experience in Amsterdam. 

    Students-4-Students

    Students-4-Students@VU helps to connect you with a study partner - a fellow student who can support you if you are finding it hard to settle in at VU Amsterdam or if you need advice from someone with a little more experience. To register, you can schedule an (online) appointment yourself using the online calendar. If you have any further questions, please send an email to peer.support.soz@vu.nl.

    You can also join the Peer Support Canvas group to find other students who you can meet to study together. Take a look on Canvas to see how it works! If you have any questions, please send an email to students4students@vu.nl.

    Sportcentrum VU

    Sportcentrum VU offers a broad variety of sports. Enjoy your favorite sport or group classes while maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.

    3D@VU

    3D (Diversity, Debate & Dialogue) is a great opportunity to discuss diversity on many axes, on an academic or personal level, in a living room atmosphere. Events highlighting diversity at VU, brought to you by 3D and our partners.

    VU Pride

    VU Pride is the network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and asexual (LGBTIQA) students and employees of VU. Do you have any questions about VU Pride’s activities? Please send an email to pride@vu.nl or take a look at vu.nl/pride. You can also follow them on Instagram.

    NEWConnective

    NEWConnective is there to help you as a student to slow down in the sometimes hectic student life, to create and experience meaningful moments and to get back in touch with yourself. You can find their events here.

    Family of Academic Minds (FAM)

    FAM aims to serve as a community for students from different backgrounds. In an informal setting, students with comparable interests will get to know each other and form a ''family’’ group, that they can fall back on during their entire time at VU Amsterdam. The cohesion is stimulated by various activities that strengthen the sense of belonging of our students on campus and stimulate personal growth through academic workshops, lectures on topics of social justice issues and giving-back activities. FAM is one of the granted students-4-students projects by the Ministry of Education in the Netherlands. Contact: marketing@befam.nl. Follow FAM on Facebook or Instagram.

  • Life in Amsterdam

    Essential information regarding life in Amsterdam can be found on the I Amsterdam website. It's an official website where you can learn more about settling into life in the Amsterdam Area and read the latest news, whether you're moving to the city region, newly arrived or an established citizen.

    Financial matters

    Experience shows that living and studying in the Netherlands for one year costs a student between €1000 and €1,100 per month. Some students manage to spend less, but this of course depends on your own lifestyle.

    If you have any questions about financial matters, including student loans and grants (such as problems with DUO), insurance or social benefits, or you are in need of Financial aid, for example in cases of illness or exceptional family matters, contact our student general counsellors for help (studentendecanen@vu.nl). For more information regarding financial regulations during the COVID-19 crisis, please consult our Study & Corona page on VUweb. EU students may have the opportunity to get a tuition fee loan from the Dutch government. For more information, please consult the website of DUO.

    Are you looking for some tips for working and living in the region? Check out the I Amsterdam website as well.

    Are you an international student from EU?
    If you hold a passport from a country that belongs to the European Union (EU) (with the exception of Croatia), the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, then you are permitted to work in the Netherlands without limitation. If this is not the case, then you are only permitted to work a maximum of 16 hours per week averaged over the year or full-time during the summer months (June, July, August). Your employer will also be required to apply for a work permit. More information can be found on the Nuffic website Working while studying.

    Bike safety

    Although public transport in Amsterdam is efficient, for most students biking is the best and quickest way to get around. With an extensive network of cycle lanes, bicycle parking everywhere and even traffic lights specifically for bicycles, there is no safer or easier place to cycle than here. We also have an excellent public transport system that makes it easy to travel longer distances. However, it can also be quite challenging for those who are used to biking in a more quiet area or who haven’t done city biking before. In order to prepare you for the hustle and bustle that is Amsterdam bike life, former VU Amsterdam students Thijs and Rendel have created a video to prepare you how to navigate the streets of this city, for example how to cross the tramrails, and how to blend in with the locals cycling-wise – safety first!

    Drugs and alcohol

    New experiences are part of your student life. For some, this will include the use of alcohol or other drugs. How do alcohol and other drugs work? And what are the effects of them on your brain, memory and study performance? How do you get through your student days without a hangover? What is the Dutch Drug Policy? Where can you test your drugs? And if you're worried about your own or your friend’s alcohol or drug use, where can you go to? Find this and other information on the Jellinek website. Jellinek has amassed a wealth of knowledge about recreational substances and addiction and is offers reliable and non-judgmental information about the risks of alcohol and other drugs. This way, you and your (new) friends can make well-informed choices and get the most out of your student days. Be Smart. Be Safe.

    Accommodation for internationals

    The International Office offers accommodation to our international students. There are furnished and unfurnished rooms with private or shared facilities. The number of rooms available is limited so we cannot guarantee accommodation for every student, but the International Office will do its utmost best to find suitable accommodation for everyone. If you have rented (or would like to rent) a room via the International Office and you have any questions or concerns, please contact the International Office: studentaccomodation@vu.nl

    VU Amsterdam also offers a Residence Life Programme for those students living in the VU residences of Uilenstede Green Tower, Hoogbouw 1, Hoogbouw 2. The Residence Life Programme has been set up to create a safe, healthy, inclusive environment for international students. Our Resident Assistants are international students living in dorms of VU Amsterdam. They organize activities to help new international students to settle in, to get to know each other and to learn more about Amsterdam and student life. They also offer support in practical and personal matters and can refer to professional support staff of VU Amsterdam and DUWO if required. But they will also be there to just have a nice talk. They will present themselves as soon as you arrive.

    Are you looking for a checklist for your first days and weeks in Amsterdam? Check the website for new international students here.

    Report Unsafe Housing
    The ASVA Student Union believes that every student deserves to feel safe at home. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. All too often, we hear stories of students who don’t feel safe in their own home. Burglaries, assaults, strangers wandering around  and poorly-lit streets are often heard complaints.

    The ASVA Student Union believes it’s important that these issues are taken seriously by landlords, the municipality and the police. To be able to respond properly and take these issues seriously, we have launched this website where you can report unsafe housing.

    All reports we receive will be handled with the utmost care. If you wish, you can report an incident anonymously. Then we will discuss with involved parties such as your landlord and the police to see how we can prevent these incidents in the future.

    However, if you fill in your name and contact details, we can also keep you updated about what we do with your report, and we might be able to offer you support if you wish. You may also think with us about possible solutions.

    >> IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY, ALWAYS CALL THE POLICE AT 112 <<
    In case of a criminal offence, please also contact the police to report it.