I have now been travelling and living abroad for 5 and a half months and I am having an incredible experience full of high moments and some low moments too but overall I am incredibly happy to be having this experience. Since my last post, I have finished backpacking around 18 countries in Europe and I am now settled down with a daily routine at my house on Kanaalstraat in Utrecht.
Utrecht is an amazing city in The Netherlands, with a laid back vibe that is perfect for international students who are adjusting into a new society. Utrecht is full of students and it’s easy to make friends, whether it’s the people you live with or people in your classes. I live in a building with 28 people and the majority of us are all friends so our house is very social on weekends and even on week nights. It feels like we are one big family, as we call it Kanaal Klub. My street is very multicultural and there are small green grocers and supermarkets everywhere and I have joined a gym on the end of my street which is great to go to every afternoon.
The lifestyle is very different to that of Australia as everyone rides bikes here and when you got to class you go by bike and park at these massive bike parking stations, just imagine the Flinders car park but for bikes. I’m finding the university structure and classes also notably different. The semester is divided into two blocks so for the first 2.5 months you study two topics, then for the following 2.5 months you swap to another two. There is also a lot of reading of book chapters and articles to do for the classes when compared to Flinders which I personally find quite challenging as I’m not good at reading, taking away notes and then talking about it in class. I definitely miss the Flinders university structure but it is a good learning experience seeing what it is like to study at another university on the other side of the world.
With the class and study life aside, the social life is great and there are lots of activities to do, places to explore on your bike, nice cafes, groovy bars and good clubs and nightlife. It is also a quick train ride to Amsterdam and other Dutch cities which is something I have been doing quite regularly as there are always events happening in Amsterdam. I have also visited other cities such as Rotterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven, and to a theme park near Tilburg called Efteling which was loads of fun and a great way to spend a Monday when you don’t have a class.
I have also been able to manage my time to fit in trips outside of the Netherlands, during weekends or during long class breaks. In October I went to Brugge in Belgium with some friends who I live with and in November I did a solo trip to a variety of places in Morocco for some warmer weather which was amazing. On that trip I also managed to stop in Lisbon, Portugal, and finish off in Milan, Italy, with some family friends. Lastly, the end of November and start of December I went with a group of 20 international exchange students to the Balearic Island of Mallorca, Spain, for 5 fun days of exploring and adventures.
Overall, I am so thankful to be having this overseas study experience at such a young age. I am learning so much about the world, myself, ways of life, learning styles, and the list goes on from there. This is the most challenging thing I have ever done that is way out of my comfort zone that has been testing my mental health greatly, but luckily I have a support network back in Australia as well as here in the Netherlands which has helped me to get through it and make the most of each day and all the opportunities. I am developing so much personally and I am excited to see what my final 2 months abroad have in store for me before I head back home to Australia in the middle of February. I don’t want this experience to end just yet, time needs to slow down, but I have some great things lined up for the end of the year as I am going to Italy for Christmas and spending New Year’s Eve in Scotland with some international friends from Utrecht. The end of 2016 and start of 2017 is shaping up to be a great finish to my 8 months of living and studying abroad.
Patrick Marshall, a Bachelor of International Tourism/Diploma in Language student, Semester 2 2016 exchange at Utrecht University, the Netherlands
- Read Patrick’s 1st post here