At the start of their abroad experience in Utrecht, while trying to sort out where to find the cheapest 3rd hand bike or extricating themselves in the perilous world of housing in the smallest Dutch province, many internationals have taken part in the introduction days organised by ESN Utrecht for the kick-off of the academic year 2015/16. So between August 29th and September 5th more than 700 internationals, whether Erasmus, Globus, Exchange students or either veterans from the previous years who managed to disguised as such convincingly!, have participated in the introductive city tours led by 50 amazing volunteer guides.
As I was an exchange student myself no longer than a year ago, it gave me great joy to switch roles and guide a group of them, collecting their feedbacks and stories.
Some Internationals have come quite a long way to arrive here and live the Dutch life: this is the case of Fernanda from Chile, who can’t help but noticing how people on this side of the world are more distant than Latinos – well no one is perfect – but then again they are taller! Oceane comes from the quite closer France, but even if she finds the Dutchies gentle, she notes how it can be tough to befriend them. Hup Holland Hup, don’t’ be so closed to Internationals!
After all, the Internationals are more than glad to chitchat about the favourite topic in the country: the weather. If Sofia from Portugal is here since two weeks, and only now recovering from the initial trauma of how cold the Dutch summer can be – it is ok guys, it will just get worse! – Gandharv remarks how in the end it is not that bad: it is still warmer than Finland. Now this is what I call looking on the bright side of life!
Another crucial aspect of an international life in Utrecht is his or her relationship with bikes. Celia from Madrid is already delighted that she can cycle pretty much everywhere in this country, Barış got immediately a faithful velocipede, and had to wait a mere five days to witness a bike accident! Maria from Porto is still without one, but she is already looking forward to cycle her way back from a disco night under the influence: yes fellows, it is legal in this country, but as my grandma would tell you, always mind the traffic lights.
To conclude on a merrier note, a very recurring expectation in almost the entirety of the internationals is the certainty that this experience will make them grow as persons and will help them to strike up friendships with people from all around the world. I cannot wish anything but this to all of you fellows!
By Claudio Agnesa