Here we are at the 3rd post already! The time is absolutely flying by. It’s kind of crazy looking back over my year, it feels so much like there are two distinct lives, my old life in Australia and my new one in Utrecht. That being said I am very much looking forward to getting home and enjoying the sunshine.
A lot has changed in the 2 months since my last update. The new block of subjects has started which means finding new locations, new teachers and new friends. The seasons have changed, it was cool seeing all the autumn colours but I feel they disappeared so quickly in the face of winter. It’s starting to get cold here (think 3/-6 degrees) and the waterways are freezing over. I would advise anyone thinking of wintering in Europe to get a big warm jacket as soon as it starts getting cold, don’t wait until you can’t feel your fingers any more!
In the Netherlands at the start of December, everyone gets very excited as it is time for the arrival of Sinterklaas, the original Santa Claus. Their tradition is reasonably similar to our Santa Claus, Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands and travels around the country giving presents to children. then everyone gets together on December 6th with their family to celebrate. There are however, a few marked differences between their tradition and ours; Sinterklaas arrives by boat, no reindeer and obviously, the date is different. One big difference however is the addition of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), Zwart Piet is a mischievous character who Sinterklaas rescued from a chimney and now works for Sinterklaas, stealing naughty children and taking them to Spain for some reason. Due to his origin Piet is depicted as covered in soot, unfortunately the Dutch use this as an excuse to dress up in ‘black-face’ costume and they are very defensive of this tradition.
I feel I have used my spare time here wisely, I have travelled a fair bit when possible. In the last couple of months, I have been to Ireland, Bulgaria and Romania. This might seem like a weird mix but given how cheap flights can be if you book them at the right time, I tend to jump on what looks good. I have met some truly awesome people in all these countries and have had a blast doing things I never imagined I would do; such as hiring a car and driving across Transylvania to visit the castle that inspired the legends of Count Dracula.
During my time, here I have mingled with lots of different people from different backgrounds, with different dreams and studying different degrees. Due to this exposure and a growing thirst to become more of a world citizen, I have decided to change the course of my studies back home. I am no longer doing a Bachelor of Education/Arts, I have elected to enrol in a Bachelor of International Relations starting next year.
Well, next week is Christmas and then in a week and a bit we start a new year! There is a slight negative to this time of the year, unfortunately all the international students whom are taking the early exit option (mainly those from the US and Canada) will be leaving before the new year, it will be sad to say goodbye.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Nathan Wilson a Bachelor of Education (Middle and Secondary Schooling)/Bachelor of Arts student, Semester 2 2016 exchange at Utrecht University, the Netherlands