So I only have until 23rd January in The Netherlands, and with exams and other trips, I think I will have to choose between Rotterdam or Maastricht! Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated, for those who have been to both cities, or even one of the cities.I think it would also be a crime not to visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam before I leave too. I believe I have done pretty well in the time I have had so far in the country, especially seeing as though I am meant to be studying too. Also, I have visited Germany & will have visited Belgium in that time. Hard to believe its all coming to an end in The Netherlands 😥
So I have now been in the Netherlands for 15 weeks and counting, so naturally I have had the opportunity to explore what the country has to offer. It has also made me think about Nijmegen as a representation of a ‘Dutch City’, and I have come to the conclusion that it’s not your average Joe (so the Americans say).
I started to think about this when I traveled to Leiden at the weekend to see one of my friends from my university in Sheffield. I felt like I had lost the excitement I had for living in the Netherlands- however it only took one trip to get rid of this feeling. I was taken away with how beautiful Leiden was- this may be because the sun decided to show its face at last! Nevertheless, it was characterised by many typical Dutch traits, which one often associates with a city in the Netherlands. Take, for example, the horizon long view of the cannel, which stretches across streets and streets. You see this when you go to Amsterdam, or Utrecht– but in Nijmegen this doesn’t exist in the same way. This is also the image which every tourist coming to the Netherlands for a holiday has. Leiden itself is in close proximity to Amsterdam, and Den Haag is only about 15 minutes away by the train. I really liked Den Haag– being the main city for Business and Government matters; you truly felt that you were in a city like London or Berlin. The shopping, a top priority of mine, was perfect in terms of a Dutch perspective- since nothing could every compare to my beloved UK high street. Therefore, if you get bored in Leiden, the other big cities are very close- by. This fact made me a little bit jealous to be honest.
Comparing this to Nijmegen, I personally don’t think it reflects the true ‘Dutchness’ of the country. As a location it’s great if you want to be close to Germany seeing as its very close to the border. However, although the transport links are second to none, it is still the other end of the country to the bigger and more ‘bustling’ cities such as Amsterdam and Den Haag. This does not mean that I don’t like being in Nijmegen, it is just something I have noticed since being here. It is only natural to compare each city your visit to the one which you live in. I think Nijmegen is great as a student city, seeing as the university here is meant to be one of the best in the country and in Europe. Plus, you are surrounded by other students which is always a good thing! Also, there are also many international students at the university which means I don’t ever feel out of place. So I guess you could say I have a love- hate relationship with Nijmegen!
This leads me on to 10 things which I have learnt about my time in the Netherlands so far:
- If you see a cash point, even if you don’t need money, I would advise you to withdraw some. This is because trying to find a cash point in the Netherlands, well in Nijmegen, is like trying to find a needle in a hay-stack.
- Make sure you have enough food in the house for Sunday, because if you have a hangover- there is no possibility to buy anything to cure it, unless you wait until 4pm.
- The Netherlands fails to understand that you might want only one potato, not 30.
- The cashiers scan the food items faster than your eyes can blink; leaving you wishing you had some kind of super power to pack your bags.
- They do not see the importance of Starbucks.
- Some Dutch manners are definitely borderline illegal in the UK.
- The Dutch do not know how to place a light in the middle of the room- well this is the case in my student complex, and makes me feel like I am living in the dark ages as soon as it gets dark.
- The public in the Netherlands like to stare a lot when you compare it to other countries. For example, the moment I stepped in to Germany I felt like I was invisible- (I’m not being paranoid, other people have noticed this too.)
- Dutch people also find it hard how to say my name correctly (curse of the Irish spelling continues to haunt me).
- Last but not least, is to make sure you persist in your attempt to speak Dutch. It may be frustrating at times- but you really have to go the extra mile if you want to speak it!
I think that is it for this week. I have another fun weekend planned, involving a trip to Den Bosch with one of my Dutch class friends, and may even go out on Saturday. I haven’t properly been out for a while- so it’s on the cards 🙂 it is also only a week and a half until my weekend in Belgium!
This leads on to one final note, and that is: make the most of travelling and exploring other places whilst you are abroad. For me it has been the most valuable part of being in another country and has made it possible to be able to explore the culture. Before I know it the YA will all be over and I will be back home doing all the serious final year stuff! But it’s not over just yet and there are plenty more fun and no doubt stressful things to come.
Hoi my dear readers, a little update on my Year Abroad , in case you want to know how I am getting on! Once again the last two weeks have been very up and down. For me I can have really good days and then suddenly it all comes crashing down, no middle ground! Nobody said living abroad was easy but I am getting much better at dealing with these Year Abroad situations by remembering the well known saying: ‘it’s much better to laugh rather than to cry’- it actually works!
Anyway, the week before last was definitely one of my most favourite weeks of the year abroad so far. I think that’s because I went and explored some more,and got to see some familiar faces from back home. I think this is what the Year Abroad should be about- although we are meant to be here to study, we really need to make the most of the opportunity to see other cities and countries! On the Wednesday I finally went back to Amsterdam- it’s so strange that I haven’t really been there as much as I thought I would, and it’s so easy to get there too. I went there to meet up with some friends coming from the UK, who came over for the Ajax vs Celtic game in the Champions League. I’ll say it was definitely a new experience for me, I literally thought I had been somehow transported to Scotland- soo many Celtic fans! We walked through the streets of Amsterdam- took a quick wonder down to the Red Light district as you do there, and went to a few pubs before the game started. Typical of the Netherlands, it rained most of the night (why is the UK known for its rain?)…. And the rest of the night was filled with lots of alcohol and yesss….
So on the Thursday Morning I woke up feeling not too fresh, it was good that we had breakfast included- that was definitely needed! SO after that we left for the train station and before I knew it I was on my way back to Nijmegen. I really wasn’t looking forward to having to go to my evening class, but I thought I better keep up appearances and at least be there in person- if not in mind! I had Friday to semi- recover before Germany, with only one class at uni.
This leads me on to my visit to Bonn. I had been looking forward to this ever since I booked my train ticket weeks ago. Finally I could see two of my good friends from Sheffield, I seriously can’t believe that the last time I saw them was June- how did that even happen?! I got on the train at 8:00 AM in Nijmegen- I certainly wasn’t looking forward to my changes. Knowing my luck I would miss the change over’s or end up in some unknown place. However, it all went smoothly, with a stop in Venlo and Dusseldorf on the way. I arrived in Bonn about 11 and was greeted with a massive hug by Maisie at the Platform. She took me to a Coffee shop, I mean café, where Jack was. So I walk into the café and Jack is soo excited to see me that he nearly knocks himself out on the lampshade and I almost trip over the chair- however we both recovered well and I don’t think anybody noticed this! We had a well needed catch up about our year abroads and chatted for a while, like we had never been apart! After a while we went back to Maisie’s place, it was nice to meet some of her flatmates who were also from the UK on their Year Abroads. And …..it was very strange how one of the girls actually went to my secondary school before she moved to Scotland, and is also friends with some of my friends from back home- small world. We had a nice dinner before our night out in Bonn- which was very enjoyable!
We all woke up pretty early on the Sunday morning, not feeling too bad actually and headed towards town and the train station! I had arranged to meet an old friend, who I went to sixthform with and she now lives in Cologne- not too far from Bonn! After a little catch up, I made my journey back to Nijmegen via Cologne and that was that! That week has made me want to go to another places, so I have organised a weekend in Belgium (I have never been there before), we are staying in both Brussels and Antwerp! Also, this weekend I shall be going to visit another Uni friend who is teaching in Leiden so I have plenty to look forward to 🙂
As far as University is concerned, I don’t really have much to say to be honest. It’s also been good and bad. The good thing is that I have picked another module ‘City culture’ – which is far more interesting than Dutch Literature, and also had the chance to meet some more Dutch students, which is perfect for my Dutch 🙂 However the midterm exam results were pretty mixed, and all I can say is I hope I scrap through the last two months. Going to a different university makes me realise how much I enjoy being at Sheffield. But I know being here is a great experience and I will realise that when I have finished here. Plus. I have had the chance to meet some great people!
I have also started to miss all things British this week (its heading towards 4 months its only natural!) , for example Crumpets, Starbucks in walking distance, the UK Highstreet.. well the list goes on. I think being abroad makes you appreciate your own country so much more and you see all the good things rather than the bad things. So I think people should stop moaning about the UK, because it is actually pretty great, and I’m looking forward to raiding M&S, feasting on Yorkshires and buying out Top-shop when I return back to the homeland in a month’s time!
That was the latest episode, until next time!