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Unpack Your Study Abroad

Last updated on 31 May 2023
Have you been selected for an exchange semester abroad? Then you will take part in our Unpack Your Study Abroad programme, which will prepare you and guide you through your exchange. On this page, you will find more information on what this programme entails exactly.

The Unpack Your Study Abroad online programme has been designed and developed by VU Amsterdam’s International Office, in collaboration with the LEARN! Academy of VU Amsterdam. The programme is part of your exchange semester, and it was designed according to VU Amsterdam’s Mixed Classroom principles. This means that it was developed to support and enhance your ability to make successful cultural adjustments and to optimize your preparations for your semester abroad. 

The programme is divided in three phases: before, during and after exchange. You will become acquainted with the theoretical concept of culture, while also experiencing a new country first-hand during your exchange. By completing the assignments for each phase of your exchange in your e-Portfolio on Canvas, you will learn how to reflect upon your experiences and how you can use the competences obtained abroad upon your return and in your future career.  

You will be added to the UYSA Canvas page after you have been selected for exchange. You can then also get in touch with other students selected for your destination. 

Unpack Your Study Abroad - Phases and Events

  • Before exchange

    The assignments of the ‘before exchange’ phase will help prepare you to adapt to a new culture. Because what is culture actually? And how does culture influence your own perspective of the world? The first four assignments of this trajectory will help you reflect on your own intercultural competences, as well as prepare yourself for the culture of your host country with help of the cultural iceberg. Furthermore, you will contemplate on three goals that you want to achieve during your exchange to make the most out of your time there.   

  • Exchange event (live)

    VU International Office will organize the Exchange Event on campus around April/May to help prepare you further for your exchange semester. There will be an interactive presentation by an expert who will give you more insight into the intercultural competences you will develop abroad and what kind of culture shock and rollercoaster of emotions you can expect and how to prepare for this. This is followed by a Meet & Greet: you can meet outgoing exchange students who have just returned from your exchange region, fellow outgoing exchange students going to the same country/university as you and incoming exchange students from our partner universities.  

  • During exchange

    The wait is finally over, it is time to go on exchange! You will meet a lot of new people from various cultures, live in a new environment and study at another university. It will probably be a lot of fun but can also be quite challenging at times. During the three assignments that you will make during your exchange you will reflect on the differences in the academic styles between VU Amsterdam and your host university. As an optional assignment, you can send in a video of your time during your exchange for our video contest. As a first prize you can win a 250-euro interrail ticket, which will help you visit some of the friends you made during your exchange after you have returned! 

  • After exchange

    Welcome back to the Netherlands! Returning home from an exchange semester can be a challenging and difficult time. For some, readjusting to life at home can be as difficult as adjusting to life in your host country and you might experience a reverse culture shock. These assignments will help you readjust and reflect on the intercultural skills you have learned during your exchange and on the goals, you set out for yourself before your exchange. You will also write your student experience report to help make future VU outgoing exchange students an informed choice about where they want to go on an exchange.  

  • Welcome back event (live)

    To help you battle the reverse culture shock after returning to the Netherlands, we organise the Welcome Back event in February. There will be a workshop by the Career Services Office about how you can use the competences obtained abroad upon your return and in your future career. We will also organize a social gathering where you can talk about your exchange with fellow students and the three winners of the video contest will be announced!