Having arrived exactly two weeks ago I thought it was about time to write my first post from Utrecht! Arriving on Sunday both physically and emotionally exhausted seemed to signal much of what the week ahead would be like. The international meet and greet was first on the agenda and was sold as a way to meet other internationals studying in Utrecht (either on exchange, a bachelors, or a masters course) however in reality it became a game of “how many people can we find from the same country as ours and squeeze into a circle?” while I’m happy to have met other people from the UK I’m glad that I have now also met a lot of other internationals from all over the world as well as many Dutch students too.
The first few days felt mostly like a weird holiday, many Skype and phone calls were made but as the introduction week began to take shape and the city became slightly more familiar, Utrecht began to feel less like a holiday destination and more like a place that could be my second home. I encountered the inevitable homesickness for the first week but I’m beginning to feel much more settled.
The first big thing on my to-do list was to buy a bike. Having been told by a number of bike shops that most second hand bikes had already been taken by students and that it would be best to wait for more stock I proceeded to spend the rest of the week sitting on the back of other peoples bikes. Finally getting a bike on the Friday after I arrived made me feel, in a weird way, more like a proper Dutch resident and less like a clueless tourist. I’m sure you will have heard that you cannot forget how to ride a bike, this is true, however having not owned one for nearly ten years, I did feel a little nervous. Bike paths here are amazing (as long as you remember to keep to the right!) and much to the dismay of my mother, riding your bike home after a night out is a common practice amongst students, along with a general lack of helmet ownership.
The economics introduction weekend away was a great opportunity to meet other people on my course, the Dutch rainy weather was out in full force but it didn’t stop a great weekend with the highlight being something called a Beer Cantus. A Beer Cantus is a traditional Dutch social event which essentially consists of drinking (a LOT of) beer, and getting drenched in the stuff whilst belting out cheesy and classic songs (some of which were dutch). Being in the middle of nowhere in a place called Zevenaar weirdly made me feel like I was back home in the peak district, as did the weather.
Lectures started on Monday with an introduction to our maths course followed by some other priorities on my list including finding a good supermarket and a nice place to have coffee. Sadly freshers flu hit shortly after and tuesday and wednesday were spent in bed with tonsillitis, turns out a diet of mainly stroopwaffels is not good for your immune system.
One of the best ways to get to know the city is just by strolling around the centre near the main canals. If you ever get lost there is free city wifi throughout the centre so google maps is always helpful. Failing that look for the Dom Tower- the tallest church tower in the Netherlands at 112m.
If you find your way back to this fella you’re sure to get your bearings soon enough.
Until next time, tot ziens!