Posted by: Students Worldwide
Published on: 08/09/2021Back to Blog
From August 2019 – June 2020 I was an Erasmus exchange student at Radboud University in Nijmegen, a small city in the south-east of the Netherlands. The whole experience was amazing, I made some great friends and it was by far my most positive experience throughout university – despite it being somewhat curtailed by COVID.
Living in Nijmegen
For the uninitiated, living in the Netherlands is very unique. To begin with everyone cycles everywhere – and I do mean everywhere. You will see teachers cycling entire nursery classes around on specialist bus-bikes, and at Christmas time you will need to watch out for people with literal trees on the backs of their bikes.
This cycling culture will extend to you. From cycling to classes and other cities; going shopping and trying to balance 24-bottle crates of beer on the back of your bike; to going on (and coming back from) nights out – a potentially hazardous but great fun expedition. You will fall off, crash into someone, and get a puncture throughout the year – but everyone does and it is part of the life.
[as a tip buy a bike on Marketplatz.nl, you can get a great one for less than €40, the shops around the uni are shockingly overpriced]
Additionally the city is great fun to be a student in because it has a young vibe, plenty of good nightlife and lots of great places to eat and relax. Nijmegen is the ideal student city!
Radboud is a campus university which is slightly out the city – maybe a 20 minute cycle – and is entirely contained on one large leafy campus. They place a big emphasis on sport and societies so it is the perfect place to try out new sports or get competitive at ones you already do. I played badminton and ultimate frisbee while also trying out BOM – an exhausting Zumba-style exercise class which is great with a group of mates, but be prepared to be completely shown up by a pack of zealous 80 year olds in lycra!
The uni is clearly well funded and when I was there they were building lots of new buildings, but the School of Law building, the Psychology one and the Sports building were all beautiful to be in – and more is being done. There was a great cafeteria for the students with loads of options and a good library to study in all on campus.
All the teachers and course options I took I really enjoyed, and they offer Dutch language courses which I would recommend taking to immerse yourself – although everyone speaks and teaches in flawless English.
There are loads of different options for student accommodation – from halls to private flats, and each has its ups and downs. Having talked to people in all the options, I would strongly recommend staying in one of the halls complexes if you’re an exchange student. Everyone in them was an exchange student and the atmosphere was so fun! There was always something going on and never a dearth of parties or film nights etc.
Hoogeveld is the biggest halls, and the closest to the university, and has the reputation as the block-party halls. Great fun for that and fine if you don’t mind lots of flatmates and shared facilities. It also has a shop and late-night takeaway on site which is great.
Other halls like St Canissiussingel – my personal favourite – are great as they are a little smaller and less hectic while still being fun and lively. St Cani is also in the city centre which is ideal, and only a 30 minute bike ride from Germany which is nice. The only downside is the amount of people sharing the kitchens which don’t have freezers, but you get used to it!
Vossenveld is miles out the way, so would not recommend, although the washing machines are free – a major plus – and Talia has a club underneath it (admittedly not a great one) but is also in a good location and is a little more intimate with only four people sharing a kitchen and bathroom.
The activities, intro-week and trips
Nijmegen is a phenomenal place to spend a year abroad. On top of the opportunity for foreign trips, from Nord-Este to Istanbul, Brussles to Beers (real place look it up); the Netherlands is a beautiful country to explore.
Well connected by rail you can get to ‘s Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) for a day at Carnival in a 8ft T-rex costume (optional) [see photo] – an unmissable party held all over the South of the Netherlands in February (Den Bosch is the best one though) – or to Amsterdam for concerts and other cute places in the Netherlands. You can even get a train or bus to Copenhagen, Paris or Berlin directly from Nijmegen – but be prepared to spend a long time on said train (sorry Tom).
You can cycle to Germany – via a beautiful lake for swimming in; or to cool museums; Arnhem (for some larger shops) or even Rotterdam if you are feeling up for the 130km bike trip (it is doable – trust me). In the city there are cinemas, ice-cream places, great restaurants – Mr Jacks is an affordable favourite – and a boat which sails on the Waal and serves pancakes. You can swim in the river, go to the Old Cathedral, walk in the woods or even cycle to some castles along the river.
Intro Week – Freshers
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when you first arrive the Uni will put on a week of intro activities – a full on but fun week.
We did city tours, campus tours, sports days, a major water fight (battle?) and some intro lectures, quizzes and games. This was all well-and-good, but when you take into account the parties which ran until 5am every night it was certainly intense – though a must for any exchange student. The week culminated in a 2 day festival where the activities – like go-carting and archery-tag – continued alongside some interesting Dutch dance music and plenty of partying where an entire festival tent will suddenly link arms and jump to the left, then to the right, then the left again chanting demonically – just go with it. Admittedly the accommodation and food options resembled something more out of a 18th century army base than a festival, but such complaints are trivial when at such a fun festival.
Block out three days to lie in bed afterwards, but one of the years unmissable highlights which starts off an unforgettable year abroad.
To sum it up, if you get the opportunity it is one you will not regret taking, and your friends and memories will last a life time!
Credit – Michael Elliot