Meet our Ambassadors

Their experiences
Get to know our students ambassadors! We have VU Amsterdam Summer School alumni from all over the world who will be able to answers questions that you have about our programme. They can give advice about the courses, excursions, social programme, accommodation, and living in Amsterdam from their own perspective. If you have any other questions about the programme that they cannot answer you can also contact us.

North America

Angelo Abis - U.S.A

Angelo Abis

Hey, I'm Angelo Abis and I am currently a senior kinesiology student at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA! I participated in the VU Summer School during the Summer of 2017 and I took the courses Hands-On Cultural Anthropology and Collaborative Storytelling and Human Movement Analysis! I had a really great time here in Amsterdam with VU and I want to make sure other people know about this great experience! I work as the head sports medicine undergraduate assistant for the Temple University Football Team and I feel that VU has greatly helped my development as a young professional through these courses! Feel free to contact me if you want any more information about the program!

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Lindsay Balezantis - Canada

Lindsay Balezantis

Hello, my name is Lindsay Balezantis and I am studying biomedical sciences at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. I am passionate about pursuing a degree in medicine. I took the course “Neurodegenerative Diseases: From Lab to Patient and Back.” It was an extremely interesting course. A variety of guest lecturers came and presented their groundbreaking research. The course also included many field trips and hands-on activities which gave me a well rounded experience and education on the topic. Participating in summer school at VU Amsterdam was an invaluable experience. I met so many different people from all over the world with a variety of educational backgrounds and life experiences. Amsterdam is a culturally diverse, historically rich, and incredibly fun city to explore and live in. I made friends and memories to last a life time and left with so much more knowledge than I had before. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions you have about the program!

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South America

Saskia Aufenacker - Argentina


I am a licensed psychologist and work as a university tutor and professor at the university of Salvador in Pilar Buenos Aires. I was born in the USA but i am currently living in Buenos Aires Argentina. I chose to do the Brain and mind course as well as the Nature vs Nurture course. I found the courses challenging but intellectually stimulating. The VU has state of the art technology and a very unique view. It was very interesting to see how university life is abroad and also how the research and health fields work abroad.

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Carlos Henrique Freitas - Brazil

Carlos Freitas

Hi, I’m Carlos, from Brazil. I’m a master candidate in Business Administration & Management and a CAPES scholar at Universidade Federal de Uberlandia. I also hold a BSc in Naval Sciences & Electronics from the Brazilian Navy Academy, and an MA with Distinction in Applied Linguistics from Cardiff University. Currently, I do research on organization & cultural studies, more specifically on migrant workers in haute cuisine restaurants in Sao Paulo. Last July, I did a summer programme on “Doing Research with Discourse Analysis” at VU (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) to help me with my dissertation research. I have almost no words to describe it. Summer in Amsterdam is a unique thing by itself. Being able live it while attending a world class university made it even better. I met people from all over the world, and had sessions with experts from VU and other major European universities. It was an academic challenge and a rewarding personal experience in a highly interactive and friendly environment. It’s difficult not to wish to go back and I recommend it to everybody who wants to get some international experience, to grow academically and make some amazing new friends.    

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Laura Villamil - Colombia

Laura Villamil

I hold a degree in Political Science, with emphasis in International Relations and Compared Politics, from Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia). I also have an option in business management of the same university. Right now, I am working in FTI Consulting, a global business consulting firm that provides business solutions, as Junior Consultant. In 2017, I joined the summer course Governing Climate Change in which I had the opportunity not only to learn about the last policies in the world about a topic a like so much, but also, I had the chance to meet people from all around the world that enhance the experience with knowledge and become an important network. The length of the course allows to address the most relevant content of the topic, encourages debate and allows a construction of knowledge.

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Francesco Cavinato - Italy


I am attending my last year as LL.M student at the University of Bologna, School of Law. At the same time, I am studying in depth Philosophy for my next M.A. degree. Setting up my curriculum on Legal Method and Culture founded on Greek and Roman Law and Ancient Philosophy, I am continuing my studies in General Theory of Law and Legal Hermeneutics, Legal Analytic Methodology and Deontic Logic, Legal Anthropology, Ontology and Metaphysics, Legal Language and its formalization, Legal Reasoning (IBE) and post-Perelmanian Argumentation, Cognitive Psychology and Neurolaw. Following these topics, I attended many summer schools focused on Philosophy of Law and Legal Logic (EUI-Harvard), Logic and Epistemology (Padua-Florence), Legal Comparative Methodology (Bologna) and Law and Literature (Wake Forest). Italian is my mother tongue, as well as I am proficient in English and I have a basic knowledge of French and Spanish. I am also improving my German skills.

In 2017, I had had the opportunity to spend two weeks as VU student joining  the summer course “ Doing Research with Discourse Analysis”: there I found not only a vibrant and dynamic environment where strengthening my academic skills, but a true international scholars’ community with different background and mindset that enforced its identity by discussing and reflecting on multi-disciplinary issues. This is not so extra-ordinary in a top-ranked research university…but simply its daily mission, even in summer.

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Iryna Zhyrun - Russia


I am starting my Ph.D. studies in Political Science and Regional Studies at Higher School of Economics, Moscow, where I was offered a full scholarship. My first education was in linguistics, foreign languages, translation, and literature, which I obtained from V.N. Karazin National Kharkov University in Ukraine. After graduation, I moved to Colombia as an exchange student through AIESEC internship program and then stayed teaching English and Literature at Universidad del Norte on the Caribbean coast, in Barranquilla. 

Having completed my Master degree more than 10 years ago, VU Amsterdam Summer School served as an excellent transition between my work in Colombia and PhD in Russia. I took the course “Doing research with Discourse analysis”, M.A. level in July of 2017. I appreciate a warm and welcoming atmosphere of the Vrije University, a personal involvement of the instructors, and a diverse in all respects group. Additionally, a full access to the library was given, which I used extensively. 

It is a great pleasure to be a VU Ambassador in Russia. You may contact me in English, Spanish, Russian or Ukrainian. 

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Middle East

Tamam Habib - Syria

Tamam Habib

Hey! I’m Tamam from Syria and glad to tell you a little about my experience at VU Amsterdam Summer School! I’m doing a master in Health Social Work in Hungary so I started learning a lot about health and social policy, public health, disability and rehabilitation. When I realized that I need to learn something broader than public health, I applied to the Global Health program here in Amsterdam, which it turns out was the right choice! At VU Amsterdam Summer School I found openness, passionate teachers, interesting materials and of course a lot of cool students from all over the globe! Visiting Amsterdam in the summer is a really good time when you can join other students in boat trips on the magnificent canals, or maybe you ride the bike to explore the charms of the city. Aren’t you interested? Send me an email whenever you feel like you have more questions!

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Ghazale Hashemii - Iran


Hello, I am an electrical engineer graduated from the Islamic Azad University of Tehran, Iran. When I came across this modeling course at Vrije University Amsterdam Summer School called "Operations Research: A Mathematical Way to Optimize Your World", I was very excited to have the opportunity to enrich my performance as an engineer and experience the Dutch educational system as well as the city of Amsterdam.
The program was inspiring and I especially appreciated the modules including Linear and Dynamic Programming, Coding in Phyton and lectures based on Operations Research written by H.A. Taha. After most of the lectures, we had assignment sessions under the supervision of our professors which I found certainly helpful and engaging.
Apart from the high academic level of the program, the diverse environment of the school was delightful. Making new friends and enjoying one of the most iconic cities in the world in the summertime was as well a fantastic experience.

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Natali Frenz - South Africa


I am Natali Frenz. I specialize in composition at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, my birthplace. The VU summer school was one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences in my life. Decolonizing Europe was a super challenging course, academically and emotionally. It was truly a life-changing experience! This course showed me how to critically engage with the stories and spaces of history. It helped me understand how to instigate positive change in all the realms that I can reach.

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Oluwaniyi Ajiteru - Nigeria


Hi there, my name is Oluwaniyi Ajiteru. I am from Nigeria and on the verge of completing my Master's degree in Engineering at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa where I am a Graduate Teaching Assistant and also the Secretary General of the Society for International Students. In addition, I am a certified Project Management Profesional, PMP.  I was fortunate to be a participant in the 2018 VU Amsterdam Summer School where I learned the fundamentals of Data Analysis in R. The professor was highly knowledgeable with top-notch teaching skills. The learning environments are very neat and conducive with high-speed free wifi to help you research anything that can make solving your assignments easier. There are also many interesting social activities to help spice up your stay at VU Amsterdam and make you feel more relaxed. In addition, the summer school staff is super friendly and make us feel at home - they are the best!

At the end of the programme, I was able to gain competencies in data analysis using R, make new friends and have a memorable experience that I'll forever cherish. Amsterdam as a whole is a magical city with beautiful sceneries and good public transport coupled with people from diverse cultural background. If you're looking for a world class summer school programme where you'll learn new things, make new friends and discover yourself, VU Amsterdam Summer School is the place to be!

In case you have any further enquiries, kindly contact and I'd be glad to respond to you. I wish you massive success in all your endeavours, cheers!

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Zhongyi Zhang - China


Hi, I am Zhongyi from China, at VU Amsterdam Summer School, I took three sessions: big data in society, anthropology storytelling and big ideas in computer science.  I just finished my bachelor from Shandong University and decided to start my master study about data science in UK the next year. Before coming to Amsterdam, I was a little worried about my oral English for daily conversations. I never took classes and comprehended theories in English. This is one of the reasons I came to VU Summer School to practice my oral English and cultivate my English mind. However, after spending three sessions here, it turns out I learned so much more than expected. The teachers from VU are so inspiring and passionate that I fell in love with the country. I am even considering taking a post master at VU to improve my interests for my major. This experience is so amazing, right? Are you interested? Please feel free to ask me any questions you want!

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Chen (Alison) Jiaxin - Hong Kong

Alison Jiaxin

I am a graduate from Hong Kong Baptist University. I finished my postgraduate study in Business Management in May 2017 and decided to give myself an opportunity to explore more of the world before looking for a job. The summer school of VU became my choice in the end. I took the course Creativity and Innovation, which was lectured by a group of erudite instructors from both VU and Cardiff University. They were willing to answer every question that is related to their professions. The most exciting part of the course was the Bootcamp at KPN, a national telecom company. Our group enjoyed a lot working together, giving a solution to a real-life case on the basis of what we learned from the lectures. Generally, it was a fruitful experience to study in VU not only because I gained new knowledge in class but also because I got the chance to communicate with people from different social and cultural backgrounds.

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Novri Yeni - Indonesia

Novri Yeni

Taking the Summer School at VU Amsterdam is one of my best experiences this year! It was also kind of a refreshment for coming back to university after 5 years out of school. I got a scholarship through Stuned and was participating in the New Venture Creation and Entrepreneurship course. The course was small, effective and fun with a very multi cultural group of students (18 students from 12 countries). I met many nice people from many different countries. The teaching method was dynamic. We had indoor and outdoors classes, company visits and guest lectures from experienced entrepreneurs. Most importantly we had our own assignment to think and work on a business plan that we presented at the end of the course. I can say that it is a very comprehensive course for people who want to start new entrepreneurial adventures.

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Thirumurugan Elango - India


I am Thirumurugan Elango from India. I am an Integrated M.Sc. Physics Student from Pondicherry University. My experience as a summer school student in Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam was astounding. It is an intensive learning experience which was taught by top researchers and professors in VU. The practical session in the Brain and Mind courses is the best experience, that I was able to relate the concepts taught in theory class every day. It served as a good platform to share and exchange our thoughts and experience with our fellow international students. The Social Programmes were really helpful to connect with the fellow students from other courses, So please don't miss it. Apart from studies, the Dutch weather is really awesome that I never really wanted to leave the Netherlands.

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Harsh Ranawat - India


I am a biotechnology major from Manipal University, India, and was at VU Amsterdam for courses on Buddhism & Psychology and Human Movement Analysis. It was a lot of fun and very resourceful. The professors are great and the excursions are really cool. Amsterdam is a wonderful city and biking here is the way to go! I also love photography and Amsterdam is one of the better places for it. The international community of students at the Vu Amsterdam Summer School is very strong. All in all, a full packed month!

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