Posted by: Students Worldwide
Published on: 25/09/2021Back to Blog
My life as an Erasmus student in Nijmegen, the Netherlands was incredibly exciting and fulfilling. I was a Geography student at the Radboud University. The transition from studying at the University of Exeter to a Dutch university was strange at first, largely because at Dutch universities work in a half term basis (with exams every 7/8 weeks or so).
In Nijmegen city centre there is a road full of clubs and bars which in pre-COVID times were great places to go for a social drink with friends outside and then go inside for a dance afterwards. On a Tuesday evening there was ‘International Tuesday’, where there was non-Dutch and Dutch music. This was a night out that I would really recommend as it was a fun way to meet other international students. In terms of societies, it was slightly more difficult to join without speaking fluent Dutch. I did go to a gymnastics taster session, where they were accommodating to my lack of Dutch language skills, but it is something to be aware of! The academic societies are very interested in international students becoming involved however, so definitely check those out. I was one of the first ever international members of MUNDUS (Geography amongst other subjects) society. Being a member meant that I could use the common room to make a cup of tea in lecture breaks and meet other students studying the same subject as me. The largest international society is ESN (Erasmus student network). I would really recommend joining! By being a member, you get discounts on flights, free drinks during International Tuesday nights and they organise lots of trips around Europe. When I was a member they organised trips to Prague, Gouda, Zaanse Schaans and lots more! ESN also organises an end of term ball for both the winter and summer term, which are a lot of fun to go to with your friends.
Nijmegen is ideally placed when it comes to travel. A 30-minute cycle ride from the city centre can find yourself into rural Germany. You can stand in two countries at once at one point on the cycle path! Nijmegen is also a stop on the Flixbus routes, so there are many places you can easily travel to by bus. I travelled to Brussels in Belgium and Bonn in Germany by bus, and it was really simple and cheap. The train is also pretty cheap and easy to get around on. I would really recommend giving cities such as Utrecht, Amsterdam, Arnhem and Maastricht a visit as they are very pretty and full of things to do. Giethoorn is also accessible by train and is nicknamed the Venice of the Netherlands! In the village there are no roads so everyone must get around by boats, which you can hire once you are there.
One really fun part of Dutch culture are their festivals. Two to mention are the tradition of Sinterklaus and Carnivaal. Sinterklaus is celebrated in the run up to Christmas and involves a sort of secret Santa where you have to write a poem for the person chosen for you. There is also a parade where Sinterklaus (Father Christmas) comes to visit the city by boat. Father Christmas’ helpers at this festival are a massively contentious issue in the Netherlands due to the racial connotations surrounding them, so just be aware of this before watching the parade! In pre-COVID times Carnivaal involves a day (or more if you can hack it!) of watching a parade of floats passing through a city whilst you are dressed in funny costumes and the city’s official Carnivaal scarf! After the parade there is lots of drinking and dancing to music in the streets of the city. Many cities across the Netherlands celebrate Carnivaal, but all in slightly different ways so make sure to ask your local international student network exactly how your Dutch city celebrates so that you can fit in with the locals.
My time in the Netherlands was truly a highlight of my University experience. Nijmegen in particular is a great city to be a student in. Especially with the cycling culture meaning that it is super easy to travel around the city, travel to University and visit friends. I couldn’t recommend being a student in Nijmegen enough!
Credit – Alice Dunsmore