The friend I miss the most

Door Jelle de Korte

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When I moved from Middelburg (A town in the provence of Zeeland) to Utrecht a couple of years ago, I was very excited. I just could not wait to have my own place and start a new life in a vibrant city like my beloved Utrecht. My mother asked me if I was going to miss her. Of course I was, but at the same time not really.
Back then, I used to go back home almost every week. I still played in a band in my hometown so I saw my parents a lot. When I quit the band a year later, I started going home less and less. Still I didn’t really miss my parents, because I could call them and every now and then they would come visit me in Utrecht or my brothers in Amsterdam and we’d go to a restaurant. So no I didn’t really miss my parents and I still don’t.

I also don’t really miss my friends. Most of my good friends live in Utrecht, Amsterdam or Rotterdam and we frequently visit each other. I am very lucky to say that there aren’t a lot of people I miss whilst living here in Utrecht. Some of you might really miss your friends and family, and you maybe wonder why I am writing this.
But there is something we might have in common when it comes to missing someone. Because even though I don’t miss any people, there is still someone I deeply miss, especially when it’s a nice day to go outside. I consider him as one of my best friends and the love of my life.

I am talking about my dog, Bram.

Bram is a moron. He doesn’t fetch any balls I throw and he always looks at me with a stupid look on his face. He is an idiot. But such a sweet, loving and happy idiot. He is always so happy when we finally see each other after weeks or months of me not being at home. There is no one in the entire world who is as happy to see me as Bram and I love him. Without a doubt there are some of you who feel the same way about your pet at home.

A couple of months ago I was really sad. It was such a beautiful day and all I wanted to do was have a long walk with Bram. But Bram wasn’t here. Bram was at my parents’ house, so I couldn’t walk with him. I looked outside the window and I saw some people heading over to the park with their dogs. I cried a little bit. I was so jealous of those people and if I couldn’t walk with Bram I wanted to walk their dogs. But you don’t really go out on the street and ask the first person you see with a dog if you can walk him. So I opened my laptop and tried to distract myself from all the sad feelings.

But then I saw it… I couldn’t believe the coincidence and looked around if Facebook wasn’t spying on me. I usually hate the suggested ads Facebook shows me on my timeline, but this sounded amazing: http://www.hondjeuitlaten.nl. A site where you can offer yourself to walk with dogs whose owners don’t have enough time. I cried again. Could I finally meet another best little friend here in Utrecht?

These days I occasionally walk with a dog from one of my neighbours and it is amazing. But if you don’t have a neighbour with a dog but you do feel the urge to walk with a dog, I suggest you go to this site. It really helps when you’re feeling a bit homesick.

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8 amazing facts about The Netherlands you probably haven’t heard of before

The Dutch culture could sometimes appear a bit strange to you, because you are probably not used to all the habits of the Dutchies. Don’t worry, because as soon as you recognize some of these habits, you will discover that they are actually fun (and sometimes make sense). In this article we have summed up the 8 most amazing facts for you.

  1.       Dutchies are the largest consumers of licorice in the world.

The whole population eats more than 32 million kilos per year of this chewy stuff called “drop”.

  1.       On the 5th of December the Dutch celebrate a winter holiday named “Sinterklaas”.

This holiday is centered around St. Nicholas, the same figure around whom the holiday of Christmas is based. Make sure to eat lots of “pepernoten” (small Speculoos bites), “chocolade letters” (letters made out of chocolate) and “gevuld speculaas” (speculoos filled with almond paste).

  1.       In Lisse you find the largest flower garden of the world called “De Keukenhof”.

In the gardens you can see more than 800 different tulips. A must visit in spring! When are you going to plan your visit to see all these tulips?

  1.       Spring officially has sprung when women can wear skirts again on Rokjesdag (skirt day).

Every year in the early spring, the Dutch decide when Rokjesdag will take place. This is always on one of the first days in spring when it actually feels warm outside (around 20 degrees). On this day, women will start showing off their bare legs by wearing skirts.

  1.       The Dutch say hello to each other with three kisses on the cheek.

This is an informal way of greeting each other. Friends mostly give a hug and/or one kiss on the cheek.

  1.       French fries are always served with mayonnaise.

The Dutch love to put a lot of sauce on their French fries, preferably a mix of different sauces. The most common mixes of sauces are mayonnaise, peanut sauce and onions (known as “patatje oorlog”) or mayonnaise, ketchup and onion (known as “patatje speciaal”).

  1.       Dutch men are the tallest men in the world.

Girls, do we need to say more?

  1.    The Dutch have the lowest incidence of lactose intolerance.

An actual reason why they eat lots and lots of cheese.

How fast will you be able to adjust to the Dutch culture? Let us know which of these facts are new to you!

“Autumn is a second Spring, just imagine every falling leaf is a growing flower”

Autumn has just started in the Netherlands, be prepared! Especially when you’re an exchange student from the more Southern parts of Europe, it’s probably getting a bit chilly for you already. It’s raining every day when you cycle to class, and your professor is getting a bit more grumpy in the morning. If you’re commuting from further away you’re getting to know our perfect railway system; run by a cooperation between two partners. The first is team NS, that mostly uses their excuse: “if you compare us to other countries’ railway operators we are almost always on time. Except if you look at Japan, South-Korea or Germany, but that’s different”.  The second party, Prorail, languishes in self-pity: “we can’t do anything about leaves on the rail, they’re just so slippery.” Instead of fixing problems together they mostly just blame each other all Autumn long. Unfortunately for you guys, who all came to this beautiful city, Utrecht Central station is the national hub of the Dutch railway network. Almost every train runs through it, and if something goes wrong in the nearby area, most of the power network has to be shut down. So even if there is nothing wrong with your train, it could be possible that it’s still delayed.

As you may have noticed I just spent the whole paragraph complaining about daily life miseries. That’s also Dutch culture. Get used to it, embrace it and participate. Complain ’till every other international student gets annoyed by you. That’s real Dutch integration, and it sometimes comes with a price. But stick to the weather and trains, otherwise you’re going to sound negative. Save your happy attitude for the start of the winter, because when the first frost prospects are starting to pop up in the weather report everybody expects you to be super enthusiastic about ice skating, making snow dolls and celebrating Sinterklaas.

Hang on this Autumn, take an extra hot chocolate and make sure you don’t get blown away!

My Erasmus adventure: how I experienced the greatest time of my life abroad

And how to make it yours, too!

When I heard for the first time I could go abroad during my studies, I was definitely not a big fan of living in another country for half a year. I thought it was a bit scary, a big responsibility and I had a boyfriend at the time, so it didn’t seem like a good idea. But there was one thing that totally convinced me: I could go on a real adventure! (And travel and party a lot, of course.)

And that’s why I went through with it. I chose the middle way and stayed within Europe. I had to be somewhat different, but not that different, so I went to… Vienna, Austria.

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The Hofburg Palace

Moving to Austria 

A classy, flourishing city with a very well recommended university – this had to be the perfect place! And I could work on my German (very important). Ok, but I had to pack for five months. Five months. That is: Winter, Spring and Summer. Normal people would pack one suitcase and that’s it. How many did I bring? Three.

Indecisiveness is a real pain in the, let’s say, behind.

Luckily, I wasn’t alone and my mom and sister travelled with me. Then, after a few days, they left and well, I was alone. Reeaally alone. That first weekend was confronting, but I got a real chance to discover the city on my own. (And to explore all the different take-out options. The sushi in Vienna is great, by the way.)

Then it was time for the notorious ESN introduction (did you know ESN has over 500 local sections within 40 countries?). I was lucky I already knew one girl from Utrecht, so we could do all the social stuff together. It was a hectic and fun week, but I have to admit that I was kind of tired of being socially active all the time. Sorry, I’m just a bit lazy sometimes. You’ll understand.

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Some friends and I at a concert at Schönbrunn Palace

My ‘second’ hometown

All of my hard work payed off, because I made friends easily from all over Europe. Before I knew it, I had this great group of friends who did everything together: we ate, travelled, shopped, partied and above all, just shared our happy moments. It sounds a bit cliché, but it just was.

It felt like I would never leave, but of course, that moment came way too soon. Nobody wanted to go and we felt really weird to say ‘farewell’. We had to go back to our normal lives and everything would be the same again – only with a ton of great memories in our (three) suitcases.

The Erasmus Experience

How I would describe my time abroad? The most relaxing, fun and energizing time of my life. I made some really good friends and really fell in love with the city. I could definitely live there, like, forever.

One of the things that made this experience so great was all the travelling. I went to Berlin, Budapest, Prague (two times), even Malta (to visit a good friend and actually one of our Board members, Beaudine) and went all across Austria (even skiing!). So don’t forget to go beyond the borders of our beautiful Utrecht, and pay a visit to Amsterdam/Rotterdam/The Hague/Groningen/Belgium/Germany as well! Luckily for you, ESN organizes a ton of great trips. Make sure you’ll go on one of them!

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Skiing in the Alps
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My friends and I in Prague

A crazy and fun Erasmus, that’s what I’ve had. And I hope yours will be too! Take chances and step out of your comfort zone – or you’ll regret it.

(And if you’re curious: I still meet up with some of my Erasmus friends, but it’s not always that easy with the… distance and stuff. However, it’s good that we can hop on a plane every now and then.)

10 things every international student can relate to

Being an international student is actually a really special time in your life. You go to another country, meet new people, experience all sorts of things and – most of all – you can enjoy every minute of it, because hey, this is not your normal day-to-day life. But being an international is also challenging, exhausting and well, not always that fun (I’m talking about 1 per cent of the time, of course). It’s that time of your life when every day is different – and it’s all part of the ride.

There are certain moments that every international student has experienced during his or her exchange and which you’ll completely understand. Maybe you have to laugh, cry or scream (internally), but you have to admit: these things are soooo relatable. Here they come:

1. Introducing yourself is not always that simple.

You introduced yourself to, like, 247897 people, and every single one of them just doesn’t get your name. You can’t help it that your name is so oddly specific for your country. Now, when you introduce yourself to new people, you just add an explanation already. Or use your nickname. Nobody cares.

2. Locals think that the only thing you’re here for is partying.

Which is not true, of course. You’re here to study and learn about different cultures. Think about all of the international connections and opportunities for your career, just because you went abroad!

But ok, maybe just a little bit.

3. Because you have to admit, this is the time of your life when you drink the most.

It’s a shame, but it’s true.

4. Eventually, you’re really tired of meeting new people.

So you hide in your room and decide to take a nap instead of going to another social activity. Don’t get me wrong, you like to meet people and stuff, but sometimes enough is enough.

5. But you’re never tired of hearing about another culture’s customs.

And comparing those with your own. “Wow, in Holland everyone is always on time? That’s so weird.”

6. You want to discover every delicious restaurant, great coffee bar and hot nightclub your new hometown has to offer.

You made a list of all the cool places you HAVE to visit before you leave. And then you realize that you’ve got no clue about the city you come from.

7. Sometimes, you get really annoyed by tourists, who are, just like you, international people.

Because you’re a local now, duh.

8. You can say ‘cheers’ in twelve languages by now.

You’re such a linguistic talent. Who would’ve thought that you would learn so much in such a short period of time? You can make your parents proud when you return home.

9. You learn to be completely fine on your own.

Hello, independency!

10. And last but not least, you think you can definitely live here.

You can’t imagine that you’ll go back in a few months/weeks/days, because this is your hometown as well. You can already see yourself living here, going to work, celebrate national holidays – you’re such an international person!

Discover the Utrecht nightlife!

The Utrecht nightlife is fun and exciting! Whether you want to go for drinks, do some dancing, sing (bad) karaoke songs or listen to some live music, there are many nice places where you can have a good time with your friends. This article will hopefully help you to explore and discover the diversity of the Utrecht nightlife.

Good food and drinks

Are you looking for a place where you can go for dinner and after hang out to drink some beers? Then you should definitely visit Bar Walden, Beers & Barrels or Mick O’ConnellsBar Walden offers students a nice three course menu for only 15 euros! At Beers & Barrels the food is delicious, especially the burgers and pulled pork are very tasty. Mick O’Connells is an Irish Pub where you can hang out and watch live football or other sports. On the 27th of October they even organize a Halloween party! Besides these bars, Kafé België and Café Olivier are two other bars where you can hang out and enjoy special beers. These bars usually stay open until 2 am, so their final rounds mostly happen around 1:30 am.  

Live music

‘t Oude Pothuys is the only bar in town where there is live music every night. Don’t miss out the rock and soul nights on Thursdays, these nights are always absolutely memorable. In the weekends you can go to Stathe where you can listen to live music of upcoming artists and singer/songwriters. If you’re a bit into alternative music, then you can enjoy small concerts of all kinds in ACU and EKKO.

Bars where you can stay for the party

Around de Neude, Janskerkhof and Nobelstraat there are many bars where you can go party after midnight. You don’t have to pay any entrance, so you can easily visit multiple bars in one night! The music in these bars is most of the time a mix between house, hiphop and pop hits. Nice places to go are for example: De Beurs, Hofman Café, ‘t Gras van de buren and Vrienden. Are you up for some karaoke? Then go to Café Ome Willem, the only karaoke bar in town.

Places to party

Tivoli, Stairway to Heaven, ACU and Ekko organize all different kinds of parties. Keep an eye on the Facebook event pages of these places to stay up to date when their parties will take place. For example, the famous straight friendly gay party PANN takes place in Tivoli. If you’re into techno music, you should definitely go to BASIS or WAS. And don’t forget about the ESN Student nights at Poema every Tuesday! With any student card you have free entrance and before midnight a beer only costs you €1,00.

So, what are your plans for next week? Let us know! We hopefully see you soon at the ESN student night!

Were you there? These were the greatest moments of the Mentor Week

What a week! From 11th to 14th of September, new internationals in Utrecht had a chance to participate in the Mentor Week, when they join two mentors and a group of other internationals to partake in several fun activities throughout the week. Since different groups did different things in different days, and the rain was a not welcomed guest, I will go through some of the highlights of the week. See if you can spot someone you know in the pictures!

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Unfortunately, the rain didn’t allow for a nice canoeing activity on Monday. But that didn’t stop anyone! Instead, internationals and mentors were able to still get on a boat and enjoy a few drinks on water.

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Bowling

Also due to the rain on Wednesday, some groups had to go play bowling, but that was far from boring!

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Pool

Everyone likes to play pool once in a while, and it makes you feel fancy! Some internationals went to poolcafé t’ Hart and experienced the competitive sides of their mentor group members, while enjoying a couple of drinks on the house.

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Lasergaming

In Lasergaming you have to shoot your opponent with – you guessed it – harmless lasers. At Ozebi the mentour groups could enjoy this activity, which helped with bonding, making  some sort of exercise and having loads of fun!

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International Kitchen

In this activity everyone brought some food from their own countries to share with fellow internationals, so people could taste a little of somewhere else. Take a look at how delicious all of this food looks!

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Karaoke

Personally, I find Karaoke one of the most fun, entertaining and ice-breaking activities, there is nothing like the impending public humiliation associated with it to make friends immediately! And I think internationals agree, because they seemed to have a great time, and didn’t have any voice left on the next day!

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Cantus

The Beer Cantus is a Dutch tradition that consists of making people drink and sing, and there is a series of rules that, if broken, have very special penalties. These penalties can be drinking more, or maybe go on stage and play a fun game (for the punishers, of course). It is one of the most expected activities. It took place in Club Poema, and it did not disappoint!

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Partyyyyy!!!

Reaching the end of the week and that heart breaking feeling that an amazing week is coming to an end, partying in Tivoli was the best way to let loose. People partied all night long, on the edge of starting what we hope will be a great semester!

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Welcome to Utrecht, everyone!

For some, it will be just one more year. For us and for you, it will be an extraordinary year.

I still remember trying my first stroopwafel, riding my first bike in the middle of the city, the first time I ran away from the rain when just five minutes before I was bathing in the sun; it was September of 2015 and it was the premonition of a great year, a complete contrast with what my life had been so far in Portugal. Now I am almost finished with my Master’s degree in Theoretical Physics. But as with you, the new international students starting right now, I am too just embarking in a new journey.

This year I am President of the Journalism Committee of ESN, responsible for bringing you great content in this blog! Last year I was also part of ESN, in the Pubquiz Committee, and was in the Project Committe the year before that. When I am not “sciencing”, I am a bookworm and you will always find me with my Kindle. Two of my favorite books are The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera, and Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brönte. I also love TV-shows, and this past year one of my favorites was This is Us (highly recommended if you are in need of a soul-cleaning roller-coaster of emotions).

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Me (left) in my UU Orientation Day in 2015, already totally Dutch!

In our committee we are excited to help make your life in the Low-Lands a little bit easier: we will give you tips, report on ESN events, tell you interesting facts from the city and the Netherlands, explore current themes in Dutch culture, and so much more!

Let us have a sneak peek at the other committee members:

Marjolein is the responsible for the Abroad Magazine, and what a job that is! She is always enthusiastic and ready to get the next great story, which is why she just started her Master’s degree in Journalism and New Media at Leiden University. She was in exchange in Viena in 2016 so she is excited to give back to the exchange community. She loves travelling, food (sushiiii), dancing, fashion, writing, Gossip Girl, James Bond and Phil Dunphy from Modern Family.

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Marjolein visiting a friend in Malta (2016).

Next we have Robin, the lively secretary of the committee! She is our student life expert. Born and raised in Rotterdam, she moved to Utrecht three years ago and has now completed her Bachelor’s in Information and Communication Studies. She also spent some time in exchange, more precisely in Belfast. She is a die-hard fan of Harry-Potter, and I’m not exaggerating: her room even has a secret closet under the stairs where she sometimes goes to and, she swears, closing her eyes hard enough, she is even able to do some magic!

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Robin (back, right) with friends in Scotland (2017).

Now we have Iris, the PR of our committee. She is sometimes a little shy, but she is fearless! She has been in Utrecht for three and a half years and just finished her Bachelor’s in Corporate Communication. She is now going to start a traineeship in Digital Content Creation, in Amsterdam. She attended a summer school “Cambridge English” in Manchester. Her guilty pleasure: 80’s music, because who can resist a good disco ball ? 

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Iris in the day of her Graduation (2017).

Uff, so many committee members! Let me have a little rest and let Lara describe herself:

Hello there! My name is Lara. I am 20 years old, which makes me the puppy of the Journalism Committee this year. I was born and raised in Frankfurt (Germany) and moved to Utrecht last year to study ‘International Communication and Media’ at the HU. Besides my studies I am working as a Content Marketer for a Start Up in Utrecht.
I am absolutely passionate about writing, photography, travelling and exploring new cultures. One of my favourite destinations, however, will remain Australia where I lived and worked for over 8 months, closely followed by New Zealand and Bali. I also consider myself as a serious foodie and coffee addict. Honestly, it feels like I am sponsoring half of the cafés in Utrecht. So stay tuned because I am going to share my secret spots and favourite recipes with you! I am mainly responsible for the layout and design of the Abroad Magazine but, on top of that, I will take you with me to all sorts of exhibitions throughout the Netherlands and show you Utrecht out of the eyes of an International on the ESN blog.

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Lara (back, left) hiking in New Zealand (2016).

Now for our boys. Jeroen is pursuing his Master’s degree in Economic Geography, and he is also pursuing the World! He just got back from a seven-month trip to the Asia-Pacific region (up until a week ago he was helping us out directly from the jungle) and previous that he did an internship in Australia. He did a semester abroad in Nebraska, USA, and he loves to meet people from various parts of the world to get inspired by the cultural differences and the (unexpected) similarities.

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Jeroen in Indonesia (2017).

Our second gentleman is Jelle, whose birthday is today! He studies Journalism in Utrecht, and, like myself, is not new to the backstage of ESN Utrecht, having been part of the Activities Committee last year. He is a virtuoso saxophone and piano player, and you might just find him at his favorite place, ‘t Oude Pothuys, where he likes to perform at the jam sessions. He enjoys the simple pleasures of life, and he can’t say no if you invite him for a beer (wink wink).

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Jelle playing his sax (2014).

I also want to mention our coordinating Board Member, Beaudine, who came back as well from a long South-Asia trip, with an enviable amount of tan and fun stories to tell. She won’t be writing with us, but without her none of this would be possible.

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Beaudine (left) leaving for her two-month trip (2017).

Our most heartfelt hope is that you make the best out of your time abroad in Utrecht and we wish you all of the luck.

Do you have suggestions for the Blog or the Abroad? Please let us know in the comments, we are always receptive to your ideas!

Like our page on Facebook and don’t miss an article: ESN Utrecht Blog FB

See you soon!

PS: We have a challenge for you: if you spot us on the street, we will feature you in one of our blog articles. Keep your eyes open!

 

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