Author: Victoria Ercolao
Program: Public Relations – Corporate Communications
Study Abroad Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands
Prior to my exchange, my knowledge of the Netherlands consisted of three things: the land of wooden shoes, open-minded views and delicious cheeses. But, it’s so much more dynamic than that and is truly a fascinating culture that I have grown to love. The Dutch have a word, gezellig, which has no direct English translation, yet perfectly sums up their culture. The closest English translation is cozy, but it can also be used to describe enjoying great times in the company of great people. Rain or shine (but mostly rain!), you’ll find people enjoying drinks in the park, eating out with friends, riding their bikes or just genuinely enjoying life. Also, Dutch students really have mastered the art of school/work-life balance. The kind,yet friendly nature of the Dutch makes living and studying in the Netherlands very enjoyable. Even my description doesn’t give an accurate picture of what this really means – you’ll just have to experience it for yourself!
If you do decide to study in the Netherlands, I’d suggest you do the following:
- Buy a bike – everyone cycles everywhere (even to go home after a night out!)
- Try traditional Dutch snacks – frites (french fries) , bitterballen (Dutch Meatballs) and stroopwafels (Caramel filled waffles) are my favourites!
- Explore as much of the country as you can – the history in Amsterdam, architecture in Rotterdam, beaches in the Hague and beauty in Maastricht are all a short train ride away.
- Try to learn the language – it’s difficult, but so rewarding when you can have a small conversation with the locals!
- Always have an umbrella handy – it rains A LOT.
I’m in no way exaggerating when I say my time spent in the Netherlands were some of the best months of my entire life. Studying abroad is a learning experience in every sense of the word; not just learning for the sake of academics, but learning about myself and everyone I met along the way. I was privileged enough to travel to many other countries during my time in Europe – France, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Ukraine, Scotland, England, Italy, Croatia and Greece. No matter where I was, I found myself stepping outside of my comfort zone and immersing myself into a completely different culture has made me more independent, social and confident . I returned back to Toronto about a month ago, and not a day goes by where I don’t think about my time spent in Holland. The hardest part about going on exchange is readjusting back to your normal life!