Just over a month ago I packed up my bags and moved to Utrecht, Netherlands to start my university studies. In the weeks leading up, a lot of things were up in the air, due to corona and flights being cancelled and I wasn’t exactly sure if I was ever going to be able to leave. My flight was therefore quite sudden, giving me little time to analyze, plan and overthink (my speciality) the move. Even without any preconceived ideas of what this change would bring, living alone as a student has proven to be full of both surprises and a number of life lessons.
What I can say from my experience so far, is that the student lifestyle here is different to any I’ve seen or heard of before. Independence is huge in the Netherlands; with safety like I’ve never imagined. Being able to cycle anywhere and everywhere, at all times (including late at night) is so foreign to me, and I’m loving it. Cycling is such a popular mode of transport, that there are even specific cycle lanes and traffic lights just for us! This form of transport is actually really fun, allowing me to pop in my earphones in and jam to some music while I cycle, and at the same time getting huge amounts of exercise done without having to drag myself to the gym!
On the rainy days (which are quite often), you can choose to brave the weather, which is quite exhilarating, to be honest; or you can take the bus. The public transport in the Netherlands is fantastic, with buses and trains running all day, all over the cities. With access from one simple card, you can go anywhere you desire.
Another great thing I’ve realized about the Netherlands is the huge amount of student discounts. The government knows that living and studying is expensive, so wherever they can, they help out. Various restaurants offer student meals, apps offer discounts on everything from movie theatres to pints of beer, and you can even get a discount card for public transport. I really do feel looked after while studying here.
With regards to the actual studying… unfortunately, all my classes are online at the moment due to the pandemic, but I cannot wait to be able to go to class and meet new people! For now, I only know most of them over a screen, having to stay in my apartment for the lectures. Luckily my apartment is super comfortable and ideal for home classes, although speaking in an online class is still just as stressful! All things considered, it is quite cool that I can eat breakfast in my pyjamas and be “in class” at the same time!
Lastly, what I’ve noticed is that the people here are really welcoming and helpful, always ready to lend a cheerful hand. Even though it is a Dutch country, everyone knows at least a little bit of English which makes things so much easier!
So far, it’s been a unique experience, teaching me something new and interesting every day, whether it be how to do my laundry correctly, or where to get the best coffee in town! I cannot wait for my future here in Utrecht.
By Hannah Altmann