Where to go for five months and a final breath of freedom?
February 11, 2008 8:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about going on an exchange program, and am not sure how I should rank my choices. Should I spend January to June in Brisbane, Australia or Amsterdam?

I'm in my second year of law school, and applying this week for an exchange program for next year. I would be gone from January-June, 2009.

If I were able to do the exchange in the fall term, I would choose Amsterdam; the choice is more complicated because the weather would be so much better in Australia than Holland at that time of year. And while I love Amsterdam, I've never been to Australia and would love to visit that part of the world. But I think it's undeniable that Brisbane is not the centre of culture that Amsterdam is, and I do love the vibe of Europe.

What are the pros and cons of going to Brisbane in their summer over Amsterdam in their winter? In both places, the terms don't start until February, so I could spend a month bumming around between Christmas and the start of classes.
posted by Dasein to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you looking for a summer vacation or an education?
posted by Nelson at 8:50 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A vacation - it doesn't have to be a summer one; summer is just the biggest factor in Australia's favour. It's an exchange, so education is secondary.
posted by Dasein at 9:14 AM on February 11, 2008

You don't say where you are, but I'm going to be US-centric and assume you're here.

Go to Brisbane. There won't be many more times in your life that you'll be able to take off enough time from work/responsibilities to make a trip to Australia. You really need a good chunk of time to get there, recover from the travel, see that *huge* place, and then get back and recover from the travel again. That's not the kind of thing you can do with your standard week of vacation here and there from the working world.

You can go to Amsterdam from the U.S for a long weekend if you're really serious about it. And you can definitely make that trip comfortably with "regular" vacation time.
posted by mccxxiii at 10:24 AM on February 11, 2008

Response by poster: I'm in Eastern Canada - sorry, I should have put that into the question. I think you make a good point. It's really hard to get to Australia...
posted by Dasein at 10:42 AM on February 11, 2008

I have been to both places for vacation.

Brisbane has a surprising amount of city life. It's a lovely city that's well designed, with free culture built into the fabric of the city. It's also a lot easier to access the great outdoors in Brisbane. Check the weather reports, but Brisbane is nearly tropical. It might be too hot at the peak of summer to be really enjoyable. I was there in the spring (November) and it was very nice.

Amsterdam is terrific. One of my favourite cities in the world. Although it's going to be winter, it's much milder than winter in Eastern Canada. I don't think the weather will hamper your enjoyment of it. I was there in the winter (January and February). It was gray, but not worse than Eastern Canada, and we were still able to walk everywhere.

It depends on what you're into-- city life or natural wonders. There's lots of great outdoor activities around Brisbane, such as hiking, climbing, going the beach, scuba/snorkeling etc. If you're not going to take advantage of these opportunities, then choose this option. If you like sitting in cafes, going to museums, and the like, then choose Amsterdam, because there's so much variety that you won't run of things to do.
posted by mausburger at 11:01 AM on February 11, 2008

I'd vote Brisbane for sure. Not only will the weather be great there, but it will be terrible in Amsterdam. I enjoyed living in Amsterdam, but the winters aren't real fun. Also, you'll have a lot more to (potentially) do in Australia, like travel around, whereas in The Netherlands there isn't a lot going on outside of Amsterdam. The beach would definitely be out.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 11:13 AM on February 11, 2008

I second Brisbane for the reasons advanced by mxxcciii. But do bear in mind that while it's reasonably close to lots of amazing beaches, beautiful sub-tropical rainforest, etc, Brisbane itself does not *itself* have beaches - you'd need to travel 50 to 100kms to get to the good ones. Still, that's better than Amsterdam.
Brisbane can also be quite absurdly hot in Jan-Feb. But culturally it is not at all the desert you might be thinking of - in fact the arts scene has been really thriving there in the past 5-10 years, plus the food is just amazing, it has some of Australia's best bars, and the live music scene is great - particularly for rock, blues and underground electronica. It takes a little bit of time to dig under the surface to find the really good stuff, but you'll have enough of that.
posted by 8k at 11:24 AM on February 11, 2008

I'm going to be US-centric and assume you're here.

The US dollar will go much futher in Australia than Europe. This may not be the best reason to choose a place to travel, but it's something to consider.
posted by easy_being_green at 11:47 AM on February 11, 2008

Speaking as a Brisbanite, I'd say the best thing about this place as a vacation spot over summer is the fact that it's close to two of the worlds best beach locations, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. If you're a fan of beaches, this is a great thing.

But again, speaking as a Brisbanite, I'd rather go to Amsterdam, for the culture. So I'd say go there. But it just depends on what you want more. Great beaches or great culture. Up to you.
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:48 PM on February 11, 2008

Oh Lord... I am from Brisbane originally, and I say go to Amsterdam!

But really, what other people said: there's great beaches nearby if that's what you're into, but beware, it's pretty hot there in summer.

Also, it's not a bad place to hop off from, to see the rest of Australia - or the East Coast at any rate.

You can hop on a plane to Sydney and Melbourne pretty cheaply - or do a road trip for a week (Sydney) or two (Melbourne).

Doing the red centre and Uluru would cost more (it's a loooong way away), but you might be able to fit it in at the end of your semester.

And if you want to see the Great Barrier Reef, that's in Queensland too. Again, it's a mighty long way (about 3000km north) from Brisbane, but you can get fairly cheap flights from Brisbane to Cairns if you book in advance. Or if you have a couple of weeks break in the middle of semester, it'd be a fun road/bus trip up the north coast.
posted by t0astie at 3:49 PM on February 11, 2008

I live in Brisbane now, and I loved Amsterdam. So I feel your pain! haha.

That said, if weather is a consideration - it's raining heavily right now. And don't worry about the "center of culture" stuff. There's a lot of indie culture here that you can get involved with.
posted by divabat at 8:19 PM on February 11, 2008

Having visited both, I'd say Amsterdam, no contest.

Then again, I'm Australian, and the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence*. From your position, both places are on the other side, and you might get a kick out of beaches, rainforests & so on, which are just more of the same for us.

For what it's worth, I've experienced both Amsterdam winter & Brisbane summer, and prefer the winter. My general theory is that at least you can dress up warmly in the cold, but there's little you can do in extreme heat other than hide somewhere airconditioned. As a Canadian, you're probably more used to the cold, as well.

And I think Effigy's doing Brisbane a disservice by saying there's no culture up there. Brisbane's home to the Broncos rugby league team, for a start, and there's Fourex (XXXX) beer, too. Of course, you'd have to like either of those for that to be a benefit.

*fence = ocean, as opposed to state border.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:43 PM on February 11, 2008

UbuRoivas: "And I think Effigy's doing Brisbane a disservice by saying there's no culture up there. Brisbane's home to the Broncos rugby league team, for a start, and there's Fourex (XXXX) beer, too. Of course, you'd have to like either of those for that to be a benefit."

If yob culture is considered actual culture then I'll take that point, dear ol' Ubu. :)

In seriousness, I probably do understate Brisbane's cultural value. The Valley does have a thriving indie music scene. But compared to Amsterdam, the cultural value of Brissie is zero, no doubt.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:29 AM on February 12, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I'll post back here in a month or so when I know where I'm going.
posted by Dasein at 4:22 PM on February 12, 2008

Response by poster: I'm going to Brisbane!
posted by Dasein at 2:00 PM on March 3, 2008

« Older Your headlights are on   |   Best music editing program for Windows? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.