A Taste of Utrecht

Getting to Europe… well that’s another thing but oh the experiences you have when you’re here!

I’m spending my semester abroad at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Utrecht is the perfect student town and here’s why:

  1. Though the Netherlands is notorious for using bicycles as its chosen mode of transport, Utrecht is especially good at this. With the world’s biggest bike parking that shelters almost 13 000 bicycles, moving around the city as a student is a breeze as there’s no need to wait for buses or pay for a vehicle – our bicycles are the perfect trick.
  2. Utrecht University is festive with most students’ social lives revolving around clubs and societies. A major one with exchange students is ESN (Erasmus Student Network), a continent-wide organisation that connects international and exchange students together in almost every major student city.
  3. Classes are structured in a unique way: instead of maintaining 4 or 5 classes per semester, UU breaks each semester down into 2 blocks (halves). For every block, you only take 2 classes, making it much easier to keep up with readings and focus on each course better. When the semester ends, you’ve still completed 4 courses.

This block I have the standard two courses, however, I’m excited about the next block when I will have only 1! This sounds great however it takes a lot of planning. When on exchange, organising your to-do list for your degree in advance is a must. Find classes for your course approval sheet that will best-fit courses that still need to be taken back home. Last semester, I took one additional course back at the University of Auckland in order to only take 3 while here. Hence, degree planning when considering exchange is vital.

Here in Utrecht, I live in private housing that is in partnership with UU (universities do not own student housing in the Netherlands). There are 11 of us in a flat and though it sounds overwhelming, it’s heaps of fun! This isn’t everyone’s taste but, thankfully, this organisation has everything from private studio apartments to 3-man flats to our 11-room house to shared dorm rooms, all for exchange students. I share a house with people from all over the world and every day there is something fun happening.

Travelling from New Zealand to Europe, moving into a flat and starting university a few days later while trying to cope with jet lag was not ideal. I would recommend arriving a few days before the assigned move-in day and staying in a hostel or something similar to rest off travel exhaustion, adapt to jet lag and gain some energy before the next wave of change begins.

Though the last two weeks have been full of change it’s all been wonderful! I’m excited to see how the semester and the seasons unfold in my time here and explore more of this lovely little country!

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