Recipe: comforting lentil soup

During these freezing cold winter times, you preferably want to eat warm, comforting and filling meals. This healthy, delicious and vegan (say what!) lentil soup is easy to make and consists out of  lots of pantry ingredients. A perfect winter meal that fits every student budget!

Ingredients (for 2 portions)

  • A bit of olive oil
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Gloves of garlic
  • 1 cube of stock
  • 6 tomatoes
  • 200 grams of red lentils
  • 200 ml of water
  • 1 can of Coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons of Kurkuma
  • 2 tablespoons of Chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  1. Cut the onion, garlic and tomatoes in small cubes
  2. Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the cutted onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is turning a bit transparent and then put in the tomato cubes.
  3. Add the kurkuma, chili powder and ground cumin. Let this together cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour in the lentils, together with 200 ml of water and stock.
  5. Cook for 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape. Stir in a bit of coconut milk at the end.
  6. Now you can transfer the soup optionally into a blender, to mash all ingredients together.

You can serve this soup together with some Turkish bread (which you can buy in every supermarket around). Bon appétit!

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The best study spots in Utrecht

During the holidays, studying is probably one of the last things you want to think of. Unfortunately, the upcoming Christmas break won’t last forever, and you have to go back to your books sometime. Besides the sad prospect of reading all day, you’re probably not looking forward to getting up early for a spot in the University Library. Especially during exam time, the library is packed with busy students. To make your hard study days a little easier, I made a list of alternative study spots. Hopefully, now you can sleep in a little bit before you start.

Café de Zaak
You can find Café de Zaak at the Korte Minrebroerstraat. If you’re someone who has to study in complete silence, this place won’t be perfect for you. However, if you don’t mind a little bit of background noise while you plough through your books, you should definitely check it out! What makes this café so great? You can eat your own food there! You don’t have to spend your money on way too expensive sandwiches to be allowed to stay there for a few hours. Maybe this is my Dutch state of mind, but I love this concept!

Openbare Bibliotheek Utrecht
If you prefer a more quiet environment the Openbare Bibliotheek (Public Library) might be a good spot for you. It’s not as popular as the University Library, which means there are more spots available. There is free WiFi and if you’re a member, you can use one of the library computers.

Het Gegeven Paard
Het Gegeven Paard is a café in TivoliVredenburg. It is a great place to meet up with some study buddies. The tables, especially the long one in the middle, are suitable for meetings. Especially, when you have to work on a group project. There are enough power sockets and the WiFi is free (and pretty fast). Also, it’s open until midnight or later, so you can stay and work for a long time.

Studyspot
As I said earlier, the University Library is often packed with students. However, there are a lot of other study spots in university buildings throughout the city. With ‘Studyspot’ you can check which places are free. In addition, it’s possible to rent a study room for you and your study buddies. Most rooms are available for four hours.

5 TIPS TO CURE HOMESICKNESS

Moving anywhere on your own is always daunting, especially if it’s your first time. If this is you, you probably have many unanswered questions. Can I live on microwave meals? Will I make friends in my new town? Will I survive on the roads between the cars and bleeping cyclists? The answer is yes! If you’ve just moved to Utrecht, you’ll soon find it is an amazing place to live, study and play. Just take a walk along canals, check out international student nights at Club Poema or tuck into a fresh stroopwafel- you’ll see what I mean. But there’s a chance you won’t be immune to homesickness and you won’t be alone. Luckily, there are multiple ways to cure the home blues.

TIP #1- Make your place your own

room deco

Now that you’ve arrived at your dorm, you’re probably wishing you were back in the comfort of your own home. Oh, how I miss not having to line up for the shower in the morning. Never take small luxuries for granted! Anyway, the good news is you can bring home to your new home. Hang photos, posters or art of your liking on your wall or anything reminding you that you are indeed still you, no matter where you live. Buy some cheap supermarket flowers to brighten your room, some candles of familiar scent and a bed cover that will make you jump on it after a long day. Make it YOUR space. After all, it is yours for a few months at least. Write yourself corny self-love letters and stick them on your mirror so you wake up to some lovin’ every morning (this sounds crazy but don’t diss it until you try it). Not only will this little enterprise keep you busy but by the end of it, you’ll have a nice slice of home in your new home.

TIP#2- Stay in touch

social media

There’s no denying it- we live in a tech world and in your case, that’s good news! You can keep in touch with your friends and family virtually for free. There are several apps you can download so you can make calls and send messages free of charge. Whatsapp, Viber, Skype and Messenger are most popular. Keeping in touch with everyone can be time consuming and tricky if you come from a far-flung place with a different zone, but luckily social media keeps people around the world connected 24/7. Tag your friends in memes, posts and old photos just as you did back home and keep the banter alive. When it comes to keeping in touch with family, nothing replaces a good old-fashioned phone call or facetime with your mum, dad, sister or brother. Hey, even your dog might get in on it! Whichever way you want to do it is up to you, but remember that consistency is key when keeping in touch.

TIP#3- Join local social clubs

social club

It sounds corny, but you’ll feel less homesick if you surround yourself with good, fun and interesting people. And there’s no better way to do that than by joining local social clubs. ESN (Erasmus Student Network Utrecht) is obviously the best in town! Call it what you want, shameless self-promotion or genuine advice, but ESN does hold various student open days, events, day trips and social gatherings for international students all year round. Signing up is free and super easy. If you came here for the real Dutch experience, then BuddyGoDutch is for you. At the beginning of each semester you will be matched with an international or Dutch student with similar interests and hobbies. Think of it as speed dating for friends without the awkward small talk about what you like to do in your spare time. Yarn! In no time, you’ll have a new friend to run amuck with and who knows where this friendship will take you! Your university probably also has several student committees and groups that are worth checking out.

TIP#4- Keep busy

keep busy

I’m not going to lie; the weather in Utrecht can be woeful. There will be days you’ll be tempted to hibernate and binge watch series on Netflix all day, and there’s nothing wrong in indulging in a little guilty pleasure. Shout out to fellow Games of Thrones fans! But there’s a fine line between enjoying some “me time” and avoiding reality. After all, you came here to live the Dutch experience and for that, you’ll need to actually go out of the house. If you have a day off, read a book at a café, go to a museum, take a walk by the canals or take a quick train to Amsterdam for the day. If you can afford it, go out to eat once a week even if it’s just you. There’s something therapeutic about enjoying a nice meal out and food always tastes better when someone else makes it. Whatever you do, don’t self loathe and keep busy, homesickness is always temporary.

TIP#5- Talk to someone

talk

You must think well duh?! But the best medicine for homesickness is simply to talk about it. Honesty is the best policy here- with yourself and others. If you’re at university, talk about it with other students in your class, at your social club, with your roommates. Most likely, you’ll find you are not alone and that many other international students miss home as much as you do. They also moved to Utrecht, they have family and friends back home just like you and just like you, they at times feel nostalgic. These are the commonalities people really bond over and in time, real friendships blossom. You’re probably wondering how will this cure homesickness? It won’t. But it will help you manage it, knowing that what you are feeling is utterly natural and that at the end of the day- we’re all on this crazy journey together!

By Megan

Mysteries of Utrecht #2: who is graffiti hero KBTR?

When I’m leaving Utrecht by train I always look around (well, only when I’m not looking at my phone) and I notice the graffiti on the walls. Every time, there is one image that caught my eye and I always wonder what it means – an image of a sort of gnome. And it’s not just one artwork, there are a lot more of them. I found out that this ‘graffiti hero’ is called KBTR and that it’s part of Utrecht, just like the Dom.

Schermafbeelding 2017-11-29 om 10.57.18
KBTR in the streets of Utrecht. Photo: Instagram @dekbtr

Who is KBTR?

Ok, maybe a bit different than the Dom, but it seems like KBTR is an initiative of an artist from Utrecht and that there’s a whole history to it. The name of the cartoon is KBTR, which stands for the Dutch word ‘kabouter’, but then only the consonants. On the website of KBTR (yes, there’s a whole website!) they explain the name: “KBTR is based on a type of gnome typical for the Netherlands that looks like garden gnomes.” Just a typical gnome, but then, eh, a bit different.

It was around 2004 when KBTR appeared on the streets of Utrecht. First, the gnome was only part of graffiti artworks, but later he also appeared solo. That didn’t go unnoticed. People took pictures of the graffiti hero and posted them on the internet. His appearance has also changed through the years. In the beginning, it was just a simple drawing, but the gnome became more complex and also expresses a certain thought or message.

Now, KBTR has its own Facebook page and Instagram account where you can see all sorts of artworks of the gnome: from artistic to political, and from a bit weird (sorry, my opinion) to really explicit and sexual.

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KBTR as Donald Trump. Photo: Facebook KBTR

Not only in Utrecht

KBTR became so famous that he didn’t stay within the borders of our beautiful Utrecht. You can also spot him in different cities, such as Rotterdam, The Hague and Leiden. In 2012, there even appeared a book about the graffiti gnome, a collaboration between the anonymous artist of KBTR and Dutch visual artist Remko Koopman.

Did you already spotted one of the graffiti gnomes?

 

The Ultimate Christmas Playlist

I don’t want a lot for Christmas. There is just one thing I need…Christmas songs! Let’s be honest, we all hate and love them at the same time. But Christmas would simply not be the same without them! That’s why I came up with an ultimate Christmas playlist, including some all-time favourites but also some fresh tunes. So, turn up the volume and make sure you have enough space to dance because it’s time for some JINGLE BELL ROCK!

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Fun Facts about Christmas Songs

Before I give away the playlist, I need to tell you about some hidden, fun facts concerning you favourite Christmas songs. Believe us, you would have never, NEVER imagined what we are about to share with you…

  1. “Jingle Bells” was the first song to be broadcast from space, as Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra sang the song as a Christmas prank in December of 1965 after they told NASA, “We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit… I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit….”
    True (Christmas) legends!
  2. ‘White Christmas’ is the best-selling single of all time. Yes, you read it right. Not Micheal Jackson, not Justin Bieber, NO it is Bing Crosby’s version of “White Christmas”, which is  with over 100 million sold copies the highest-selling single of all time.
  3. During the WWI Christmas Truce of 1914, German, English and French troops sang “Silent Night” together because it was the only carol that everyone on the front lines knew the lyrics to. The song has been translated in about 140 languages!
  4. “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” is one of the oldest Christmas songs, originating in 16th century England.
  5. In Britain, the best-selling festive single is Band Aid’s 1984 track ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, which sold 3.5million copies. Wham! is next in the same year with Last Christmas, selling 1.4million.

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The Playlist

The list of Christmas carols is endless. Here are our Top 24 (see what we are doing here?!):

  1. All I want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey
  2. Last Christmas – Wham!
  3. Hallelujah – Pentatonix (Their Christmas album is insane!)
  4. Santa bring My Baby Back (To Me) – Elvis Presley
  5. It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas – Michael Buble (also known as ‘The King of Christmas’)
  6. Santa’s Coming For Us – Sia
  7. You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch – Thurl Ravenscroft
  8. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid 30
  9. Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen
  10. Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano
  11. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Sam Smith
  12. A New York Christmas – Rob Thomas
  13. Man With the Bag – Jessy J
  14. Jingle Bells – Michael Buble
  15. Mistletoe – Justin Bieber
  16. Jingle Bell Rock – Daryl Hall & John Oates
  17. Shake Up Christmas – Train
  18. Christmas Lights – Coldplay
  19. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Dean Martin
  20. Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town – Frank Sinatra
  21. Driving Home for Christmas – Chris Rea
  22. White Christmas – Bing Crosby
  23. Happy Xmas (War is Over) – John Lennon
  24. Baby It’s Cold Outside – Idina Menzel & Michael Buble

You can find the whole playlist with many more songs here

Obviously, there are many many more Christmas songs out there. So, if your favourite songs isn’t on our list yet please let us know in the comments! There are never enough Christmas songs.

Utrecht has a lot to offer during December, including Christmas markets, ice-skating and many more festive things. For more details have a look at our festive agenda.

Sinterklaas has something to say to all the internationals!!

Sinterklaas

My lovely internationals, great to meet all you guys.
listen to me closely, for I am old and very wise

Last Saturday I once again stepped foot on Dutch ground
I am very famous in the Netherlands, heroic and profound

My name is Sinterklaas aka the good Saint.
I’ve came with a steamboat from the country called Spain
To spend three weeks in the land of cheese, grass and rain

You might have already seen me, in the stores or on the street
Probably with my helpers, they are all called “Pete”

At night we roam the rooftops, and go down every chimney
and bring presents and sweets, I’ll have all those with me

Now don’t mistake me for that amateur Santa Claus
Just so you know it: I am the real boss

If you haven’t behaved, you better do it quick
Or else you won’t get any presents and Pete will beat you with a stick

And when you’ve been really bad, Pete will put you in his bag.
We’ll take you back to Spain, and it won’t be relaxed

Cause Spain is very nice but you will never see
You’ll be stuck in a factory, wrapping gifts for me

Besides sweets & presents, I’m the bearer of gossip
The next three weeks, You’re all the hottest topic

I know all you’re secrets and if you’re naughty or nice
I know if you’ve been studying or have been drunk during the nights

I know who is dating and I know who hustles
I have my eye out on you, even when you’re in Brussels.

I have done this for centuries, and am still going strong
Believe me when I say that I know what is going on

We are everywhere and we’ll definitely take notes
And share it with the public, all your secrets and quotes

Now go live your life but be sure to remember
That the secrets will come out on the 5th of December!!

Sint en piet

 

 

How to save money during your exchange period

How to save money during your exchange period
Even though a lot of people say “traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”, you’ll probably spend more money abroad than you expected. On top of all the parties, trips and other fun activities, life in The Netherlands might be more expensive than what you’re used to from back home. In this blog we will give you some tips and tricks to save some money while living in Utrecht, so you don’t have to end your time abroad with an empty wallet.

Groceries
It’s convenient to do your groceries at the nearest supermarket. However, it might not be the cheapest place to go. Different supermarkets in The Netherlands can differ a lot in price. Therefore, it can make a big difference when you take the time to do your groceries in another supermarket. You can go to the Lidl or Aldi for instance, two of the cheapest supermarkets we have. In addition, you can try to only shop in the sale. Adjust your dinner plans to the cheap offers of the day or week.

Another place to get cheap food, is the market at Vredenburg. You can go there every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Especially for fruit and vegetables, the Vredenburg market is the place to be!

Parties
Know where and how to party low budget! First of all, you should bring your student card and ESN card. Some places have entrance fees for non-students, but are free for students. Furthermore, make sure you go to the places with the cheapest (but the best) drinks. Some clubs or bars are pretty expensive, while other places sell cheap drinks or have a lot of student discount promotions. Naturally, the best example for good student discounts, is the ESN Student Night in the Poema every Tuesday!

Traveling
If you’re staying here for a longer time, it’s highly recommended to buy a bike! It’s an investment that saves you a lot of public transport costs. You can buy a second hand bike with 10% discount at Celil CityBike. All the Dutchies are travelling by bike already, so you’ll fit right in! Make sure you lock your bike (with a chainlock) every time you park it, though. There are a lot of bikes in Utrecht, and as a result also a lot of bike thieves!

If you only stay in The Netherlands for a short period or when you just don’t want to ride a bike, it’s smart to buy an OV Chipcard. This is a card you can use for most of the public transport services in The Netherlands. You can top it up with a debit card at one of the yellow vending machines at Utrecht Central Station. This is much cheaper than buying a bus or train ticket every time you’re using the public transport.

6 Dutch foods you need to try during your stay

We all know that the Dutch cuisine isn’t as famous as the French or Spanish cuisines, but there are many Dutch foods which are absolutely delicious! During your stay in The Netherlands, you need to try the following foods at least once. You will be surprised about how tasteful everything is!

  1. Poffertjes

Poffertjes are small, fluffy pancakes which are typically served with powdered sugar and butter. Most Dutchies eat this tasteful treat in fall and winter at outdoor markets. Here several stands usually serve poffertjes on a little paper plate with a tiny fork. Sometimes you also find a poffertjes stand at the market on Vredenburg square on Saturdays!

  1. Stamppot

Stamppot is a savory Dutch winter meal. Traditionally it’s made out of mashed potatoes and vegetables like kale or carrots, served with smoked sausage (‘ rookworst’). The kale version (‘ boerenkool’) is the most popular version of this filling meal. Other versions of stamppot are with onions and carrots (‘hutspot’) and raw endive (‘rauwe andijvie’). Do you don’t know any Dutchie who wants to cook this tasty meal for you? Then try out this following boerenkool recipe, it’s very easy to make stamppot!

  1. Saucijzenbroodje

This very tasty snack is made out of puff pastry and has a filling of spiced minced meat. Most Dutchies eat this snack on the go, because you can buy it at several places (Kiosk, Broodzaak and Albert Heijn) around central stations.

  1. Limburgse vlaai

This is a delicious pie with a light crust, often filled with fruits like cherries or apricots. This type of pie is originally from Limburg, in the south of the Netherlands. In this area you can taste the best Limburgse vlaai, especially in Maastricht. Are you not planning on going there any time soon? Then go visit Multivlaai in Hoogcatharijne. Here they serve also all different types of vlaai.

  1. Bitterballen

Bitterballen are small crunchy snacks, with a savory filling. The filling is a gooey mixture of chopped beef broth, flour, butter and herbs (‘ragout’). Order this typical Dutch snack during a round of beers at Bar Walden or Café Hofman, or any other café in Utrecht. Be careful when you bite through the crust, because the ragout filling is often very hot!

  1. Kibbeling

Kibbeling is the Dutch version of English fish and chips, but without chips and vinegar. The white fish has a fried crust made out of flour, eggs and milk. Usually kibbeling is served with ravigotte sauce. This sauce is also a must try, because it’s a perfect companion for kibbeling! You can buy kibbeling in any fish shop or fish stand at markets.

Which of these foods are you going to try first? Let us know in the comments below!

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