21 November 2018
John Ellis is a third year student on our LLB Law (Study Abroad) degree. He is spending his year studying at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands. This is his second blog about his experiences on the study abroad programme.

Over the last few weeks, I have become quite adept at stealing bikes. I probably ought to add some context here. Since I don't have my own bike, I've been using my friends' bikes to get out and explore the sights of Amsterdam (or even sometimes just to nip out to the shops!). In-keeping with the spirit of trying new things, this is the first time that I have ridden a bike in about 8 years and I am proud to say that I have not yet ended-up on the pavement or on somebody’s bumper, so all is going well so far ...

With this new-found talent for staying upright, I have been able to get out and explore the local area. While some might plan their day to ensure they see certain sights, I decided the best thing for me to do was to just get out and start exploring. I am quite fortunate in that my accommodation is situated very close to three fairly impressive parks: Vondel Park, Erasmus Park, and Rembrandt Park. Each one is very different in its own way, but all have one thing in common – they are places of such unique hidden beauty in a part of Amsterdam which is far more industrialised. If you know where to go, there are places of great serenity – the perfect place to relax or just get away from the hustle and bustle of life.

Similarly, just a ten-minute walk away there is a localised shopping district called Mercatorplein. This square is situated on the Jan van Evertsenstraat, which, if you a little digging, you’ll find that many of the streets in that area are named after famous cartographers and explorers. Mercatorplein itself is named after the famous Dutch cartographer Gerardus Mercator, while some of the back streets have the more internationally recognisable names of Marcopolostraat and Jamescookstraat. Not the most exciting information you’ve ever read, but it certainly offers an insight into the area where I live.

Returning to university, I am now mid-way through my first period of study at VU Amsterdam. I have settled into the courses well and I am finding them to be great for strengthening my understanding of the law in the more niche areas they cover. I have recently been tasked with drafting an essay describing the current issues concerning asylum-seekers and their arbitrary detention in some states. This study has allowed me to get an in-depth understanding of one aspect of EU law that I had never really looked at before. For a law student, it is quite interesting to see how some migration laws have taken on a very similar complexion to criminal law, with the issue of asylum-seekers – innocent people fleeing for their lives – having almost become criminalised in the eyes of the law in certain states. This is something that has really interested me since I began the course and I am thriving in this new environment.

The hustle and bustle of city life certainly keeps you on your toes if you’re not used to it. Coming from a small town at home, and studying at Lancaster on a campus outside the city, I am about as unprepared for this as can be. However, this is something that I am becoming accustomed to quickly and I am excited to explore new places this year.

As I move further into my studies, I will keep you all up to date on the latest challenges on my course, while also updating you on the exploration of the local area and the sights that Amsterdam has to offer. I look forward to sharing more of my story with you.