Vrije Universiteit


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) was founded in 1880 and is one of the top research universities in the Netherlands. There are over 23,000 students at VU and hundreds of courses are taught entirely in English. There are many international students and faculty, creating a diverse and globally-minded learning environment. VU was the first university in the Netherlands to be established without ties to the church or the state. This legacy is maintained as it still operates unconventionally, determining its own areas of research as well as creating unique study programs and specialized pedagogical models.

Quick Facts

Partner Program Type – International Studies Abroad (ISA)

ISA by WorldStrides is an organization that UCSC has partnered with to provide students with this opportunity. ISA stands for International Studies Abroad which is an organization that was founded in 1987 to connect US college students to the world. ISA has staff in the United States and abroad in each location to support students with every step of their journey.

Minimum GPA – 3.0

Eligibility – Good academic and disciplinary standing, Min Age: 18, Open to All Majors, Sophomore, Junior, or Senior Standing by the time of departure

Term Options

Fall Semester:  mid-August – mid-December

Spring Semester:  early February – early June

  • students must miss both winter and spring quarters at UCSC to participate in this session

Academic Year: mid-August – early June

Partner Program deadlines



City & University

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and is ideal if you’re looking for a unique yet highly European study location. Founded in the 12th century as a fishing village, Amsterdam became an important trading port during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century, creating the iconic canals and low-laying brick buildings that are quintessential to the city today. Though a large city of over 850,000 inhabitants, Amsterdam is relatively compact and you’ll find that it is very accessible. This highly diverse cultural hub is known for its renowned museums and art, all with an undeniably cozy and laid-back atmosphere.

All academic programs are housed at VU’s main campus in the Zuid district, Amsterdam’s business center. It is a beautiful, modern campus with student housing and many facilities including computer labs, fitness centers, a green office, and even a bike repair shop. The VU campus is well-connected to public transportation; it is only a 15-minute train ride downtown and an eight-minute train ride to Schiphol Airport.

Housing is coordinated by ISA and all students will stay at a student residence. 

While in Amsterdam you’ll be housed at a student residence. The location may vary but students will typically be placed in the OurDomain – Diemien Zuid student village, which is located 35 to 50 minutes by public transportation away from the host university. You will have a single room with an en-suite bathroom and kitchenette alongside other ISA students and international students. Meal service is not included but you will have a kitchenette to prepare meals as well as access to the on-campus dining options. Laundry facilities are available for an additional cost. 

You will pay a $500 refundable security deposit for this housing option. ISA may retain some, or all, of this deposit in the event of damage to property, or if utility usage exceeds the allotted monthly amount. 


Included excursions for this program are:

  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Utrecht
  • Zaanse Schans

VU also includes one other domestic excursion which changes each semester. And ISA will include cultural activities in Amsterdam throughout the semester.

If you would like more detailed information about the excursions, please reach out to globallearning@ucsc.edu.

Student Support

The ISA team works with you from start to finish through the study abroad process. ISA staff will help guide you through the final phases of the application process after you have been nominated by UCSC, then upon arrival in the Netherlands, you will meet the ISA team who will provide assistance during your time in-country. Throughout your semester you will meet with the Amsterdam team for informal discussions and excursions. ISA staff is readily available and able to assist you with any academic, social, or cultural questions or issues that you may face during your time abroad.

Country Information Resources

Students with Disabilities

If you need support services abroad, notify your UCSC Disability Resource Center (DRC) Coordinator

Students can work with their ISA program manager or directly contact accessibilityteam@worldstrides.org once they have narrowed down where they’d like to go.

Identities Abroad and Away

UC Santa Cruz Global Learning is committed to inclusion and equity in our various program options as well as striving to make everyone’s experiences abroad enriching, positive, and safe.

Learn more on our Identities Abroad and Away webpage.


Host University Courses

As a Vrije Universiteit exchange student, enroll full-time in courses alongside other local and international students.

  • Language of Instruction: English, Dutch language courses are available.
  • The academic structure at VU is different than in the US with exams totaling up to 100% of final grade. Please consider each course assessment technique as you make your course selection. 
  • Courses at VU Amsterdam are offered in “periods.” You will take 1-3 courses per period (so only 1-3 courses at a time) for half of the semester. For the second half of the semester, you will take a different set of 1-3 courses (totaling 4-5 courses for the semester).
  • If you have not taken a Dutch language course before or do not have experience in the Dutch language, it is highly recommended for you to take the course Discover the Dutch.

Course Search

Satisfying Requirements
It may be possible to satisfy major, minor, GE, and/or electives on this program.

Learn more about:

Course Load Requirements

You are required to enroll in a full-time course load while abroad as defined by your host institution:

  • 4-5 courses (18-22 quarter units) is a typical course load. NOTE: The academic structure at VU is different than in the US with exams totaling up to 100% of final grade. Please consider each course assessment techniques as you make your course selection. 

As a UCSC student, you must also continue to meet UCSC Satisfactory Academic Progress, which requires students to enroll in a minimum of 12 UCSC quarter credits per quarter. At Vrije, you are required to ensure you meet this requirement by enrolling in the equivalent of at least 12 UCSC quarter credits in fall semester and at least 24 UCSC quarter credits in spring semester after conversion (see below).

If you are not enrolled in the minimum number of quarter credits required, then you will fall out of Satisfactory Academic Progress. This could lead to financial aid and academic repercussions

If you are unable to enroll in the minimum number of quarter credits through courses at your host university, you may be able to fill in the gap by enrolling in one remote course through UCSC or UC online.

Credit Conversion

Vrije uses ECTS credits. These will be converted to UCSC quarter credits when added to your UC transcript.

  • 5 ECTS credits = 4 quarter credits at UCSC
  • 10 ECTS credits = 8 quarter credits at UCSC
  • 15 ECTS credits = 12 quarter credits at UCSC
  • 20 ECTS credits = 15 quarter credits at UCSC

Academic Restrictions

Note that some courses may require prerequisites. In rare cases, some courses abroad may have enrollment limitations and/or restrictions, and there may also be courses that are not available for study abroad students. Your ISA program advisor will be able to help you determine whether any such restrictions apply.

If you are unsure about your eligibility to enroll, please contact UCSC Global Learning at globallearning@ucsc.edu before applying to this program.

Academic Differences

Please note that the academic system, such as assignments, exams, course structure, grading system, etc., at your host institution may be different from what you are used to at UCSC. We highly recommend researching the academic system at your host university in advance to best prepare for your experience abroad.

Academic Calendar

We recommend comparing the host university academic calendar to the UCSC academic calendar to see how the academic calendars, holidays, and breaks differ.

Last modified: Feb 27, 2024