“I have successfully almost finished the first year of university in a different country, after having lived with my parents for the first 18 years of my life; I can say with complete certainty that I have never learnt more things than I did these last 11 months. I can quite accurately compared my experience to being thrown in the deep end of the pool, without knowing how to swim. At home, I never paid any bills, went to the bank by myself or even cooked my own food, all it took was one month of living alone to learn all these things. Since most Dutch people speak English, it most definitely made things much easier.
Getting to know other people in the university wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be, since a large majority of the students are internationals, it was very easy to blend in with everyone. Learning how to bake from my German friends, how to make perfect Sangrias from the Spanish, how to have a gezellig evening from the Dutch and how to say ‘cheers’ in more than seven languages, being among different people from different nationalities made all experiences very unique. Although, there are times when I just really want to return to the comfort of home, my old friends, familiar people and familiar situations; I usually do what I do best and distract myself, and the amount of activities that go on in the city all the time doesn’t give me enough room to feel homesick either. Plus, there are certain things that always make me love the Dutch, like Stroopwaffles, the most random things that can be found at hema, chocolate sprinkles on toast being a perfectly acceptable breakfast, the fact that whenever its sunny outside you can find everyone in the park barbecuing and chilling, and also that everyone bikes, students, teachers and even old people. It is not an understatement when I say that we bike in every situation: windy, rainy, with a broken bike or drunk. Besides the appreciable things, there are some not so good things as well, and the most significant one is the weather, every Dutch person complains about weather all the time, and its true, it could be sunny and hot in the morning, heavily raining in a couple of hours and then very windy after. Another thing that I dislike is that Dutch people always prefer to talk in Dutch among themselves, which is very understandable, but it might sometimes lead to feeling left out, and excluded. But, as I said, since there are more international students here, it isn’t a huge challenge.
Although, the city is sort of in the middle of nowhere and isn’t a big city either, it has its own charm, whenever I get back from trips and see the familiar scenery and the train station again, I get the same feeling as getting home after a long day. When I say the city is in the middle of nowhere, keep in mind that the Netherlands is a very small country and travelling more than 3 hours without being in another country rarely happens, this makes travelling very easy, although I didn’t travel this year outside of Netherlands as much as I would have liked to, I definitely hope to travel more next year.
Even though I just spent under one year in the Netherlands, it has been the most exciting year of my life, and I wish the next few years I get to say the same.”