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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

 

 

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!

Christmas in Utrecht: the most festive agenda!

Ahh, Christmas!! It’s that time of the year when you start looking forward to that warm feeling inside, to all the presents that you are going to offer and receive and to all that unbelievable amount of food made by your grandmother!!

Maybe you’ll go back to your home town, but before that you can enjoy some Christmas feeling here in Utrecht! Going around, you might have noticed the Christmas lights on the streets, some proudly announcing the neighbourhood at which you just arrived. If you are looking for some events, here are some awesome suggestions!

  • Knus.

This is the best Christmas event in town! For two full days, the city center becomes a winter wonderland. On Mariaplaats there is a traditional Christmas market, where you can find locally handmade gifts for you and your family, and on Streekmart you can eat like a local. Through the city there will be several street performances; maybe you will find yourself listening to a poetry reading! Come with your friends and join around the log fire, with a hot chocolate or a mulled wine to warm your cold hands. Pro tip: there will also be ice skating! Knus. 16 and 17 December, several locations in Utrecht , free.

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  • Country and Christmas Fair

If you feel like going to the beautiful Kasteel de Haar, I suggest that you go there around the time of their Christmas market. There you will be transported into a magical land of Christmas! Besides being able to visit the castle and its lovely gardens, you will find in the market exclusive homemade Christmas gifts, local products and home decorations. There will also be a lounge terrace and a choir singing, to help spread the Christmas cheer! Country & Christmas Fair 21 to 26 November, Kasteel de Haar (Haarzuilens), 16€ (online purchase)

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  • Fonteyn Festival

Are you fond of wine? In Janskerkhof you will come across this wine festival, with 60 different types of wine to choose from! Also several restaurants take part in the festival, providing food during the festival, so you can go on drinking! Good music, provided by live band shows and DJ’s, will guarantee that you will have a very Christmas-y evening! Fonteyn Festival 15 to 17 December, Janskerkhof, 4€ (mandatory wine glass purchase)

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  • Ice Skating

And for the star of this list… Ice skating!! If your Christmas doesn’t mean the same to you without it, you are in luck! In the Railway Museum, there will be a skating ring for you to enjoy, and you can rent your ice skates over there! To warm up in the end, you can also get hot chocolate and mulled wine. If you have some extra time, you can also take a tour in the museum. Winter Station 23 December to 7 January, Spoorweg Museum, 16€ (museum ticket)

2013-12-23 Winter Station (27)

  • Light seeing

If want to know what Utrecht looks like at night, you have a chance to do just that from the highest tower in Utrecht: the one and only Dom Tower! In December, you can buy a special guided tour, where you  will be treated to the breath-taking view of the Christmas street lights, shining brightly in the streets and canals of Utrecht! In the end, a warming cup of hot chocolate is included. The tours take 90 minutes and start at 20:30. Lichtjes Kijken 13 December to 5 January (scattered days in this period), Dom Toren, 12,5€ (reservation online)

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A bucketlist for international students in Utrecht

Utrecht is a beautiful city. It is cosy and lively at the same time. There is so much to see and do that even locals get overwhelmed sometimes. That’s why we decided to make it a little bit easier for you. We made you a bucket list with five things you should have done by the end of your abroad period!

 

  1. Enjoy the view from the Dom Tower

This first bucket list item is kind of an obvious one, we know. But it’s the proud of Utrecht, so it would be weird not to mention it in this list. The Dom Tower is several centuries old and 112 meters high. If you manage to climb the 465 stairs to the top, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful view over the city. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do it in one go. During the climb, your guide will take a break on several floors, to tell something about the history of the Dom Tower (and so you can catch your breath).

 

  1. Eat ‘Domtorentjes’

After the climb, you’ll probably think you deserve something sweet. Thankfully, you’re not the only one who thinks that. At Theo Blom’s bakery, you can buy chocolates that are named after the Dom Tower: Domtorentjes. They don’t exist as long as the Dom Tower itself, but they’re definitely legendary in Utrecht!

 

  1. Boat trip

The Netherlands is famous for its canals. Utrecht is one of the cities that’s characterized by them. The canals give the city a cosy look. Instead of looking at the city while you’re walking or riding your bike through it, you should definitely go and see what the city looks like from the canals. There are several places where you can rent a boat or book boat trip with a guide. Especially when the weather is good, it’s lovely to spend a few hours in a boat with your friends.

 

  1. ‘Broodje Ben’

There are a lot of nice places in Utrecht to get a good lunch, but there’s one place locals are particularly fond of: Broodje Ben. This is a stand at the Oudegracht where you can buy fresh, delicious buns with a range of several different fillings. Do you fancy a nice lunch but are you too lazy to get out of your house? No problem, Broodje Ben also delivers!

 

  1. The Black Slope

Last but not least, the Black Slope. This is a nickname for a pub crawl in the pubs along the Nobelstraat. In the Nobelstraat, there are a few pubs next to each other, which makes it a really fun place to go out. When you’re not really enjoying yourself in one bar, you can walk to the next one in less than a minute!

4 tips to avoid the winter blues

Winter is coming! And winter in the Netherlands is rainy, grey and a little cold. Some people love winter, while others (like me) are just waiting for the sun to come out again. If you’re one of the latter, it’s easy to catch the so called ‘winter blues’. To make sure the lack of vitamin D and the overload of rain won’t make you grouchy all winter, I looked up some tips to avoid the winter blues.

  1. Make your room cosy
    One thing I often miss the most about summer is being outside, chilling on my balcony or in an outdoor café. It’s boring to stay inside the whole day, but when you don’t like the rain and cold of winter either, you kind of have to. To make staying in your room more often a little less boring, you can make your room cosier. Winter is the perfect time for candles and fairy lights. So buy a warm, fuzzy blanket, light some candles and put on your best sweater. Besides, you don’t have to stay in alone! Invite your friends over for a movie night and enjoy the cosiness of winter together.
  2. Plan fun things
    During summer(break) everyone is always planning fun things to do. You go to a festival, organise a barbecue or maybe even enjoy a day at the beach. Then, the colder days come and people stay in and don’t plan as much fun activities anymore. It’s quite logical that you don’t go to the beach when it’s pouring outside, but you can still organise some exciting things. For instance, you can plan a big dinner with your friends, where everybody prepares their favourite dish. Or you can go ice skating or visit a Christmas fair, you name it. Just plan enjoyable things. It will be summer again before you know it!
  3. Make sure you get enough Vitamin D
    One of the biggest causes of the winter blues, is a lack of vitamin D. When the sun is shining, our body is able to make its own vitamin D. But when the sun is hidden behind big, grey clouds, our body has to get it somewhere else. Luckily, it’s quite easy to boost your vitamin D levels with certain types of food. Meat, eggs and oily fish are full of it. Are you a vegan? Then it might be necessary to take vitamin D supplements. They are available at most drugstores, so don’t worry!
  4. Focus on the nicer things in winter
    Off course Dutch winter is depressing when you’re only thinking about the rain and the cold! That’s why you should focus on the nicer things in winter. The holiday season is coming up: Christmas dinners, presents, tons of parties to celebrate the beginning of 2018 (or the end of 2017). Furthermore, the city centre of Utrecht never looks cosier than during winter!


How Utrecht became my city

People ask me sometimes what my connection is to the city I’m currently writing about. Not a totally weird question, since I don’t really live in Utrecht. But we do have history together. So, dear reader, let me tell you my story once and for all.

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The city of Utrecht came into my life when I was in the last year of my high school. Since I had to redo my last year, all my ‘old’ friends already flew the nest. I grew up in Leiden, and if you compare it to Utrecht it feels like a small village. For an teenager as myself Utrecht was the place to escape to in the weekends.

Hoog Catherijne was still under construction, but luckily my common end-station was the always picturesque Utrecht-Zuilen. Once in a few weeks, when the sun was shining and the wind was in the good direction, I made the trip over there on my bicycle. The first was, in every possible way, different from all the times that would follow. My main motivation to make the trip was to impress a girl. Furthermore I was convinced to do so because my dad said I could not make it. In exchange he offered me a crate of beer; which was the perfect way to get a 18-year old teenager sporting. Unfortunately the girl thought this was such a good idea that she offered me, instead of her unconditional love, the same reward. After eight hours of splattering through the snow on my granny bike, without a map and two broken spokes as collateral damage, I finally arrived at my studying friends in Utrecht. I can still remember the feeling of relief, when the Douwe Egberts factory at the edge of the city warmly welcomed me with the smell of roasted coffee beans.

After high school, during my bachelor-years in Amsterdam, I let the Domstad a bit down. For that reason, when my master-period was about to start,  I decided to give the city of Utrecht a chance again. Now, every day when I commute in a fully-packed bus 12 to the ghastly Uithof, I try to catch up with that first moment. The moment the city had taken me into her arms after my harsh bike ride. The moment that I gave the city a place in my heart. The moment that Utrecht became my city. 

How did Utrecht become your city?

No plans for Halloween? These are the best ideas for a spooky night

It’s that time of the year again when the leaves come off, the weather makes us want to hide under a blanket and all we want to eat is pumpkin-related. There’s this atmosphere outside and it can only mean that a certain holiday is coming closer. Yes, I’m talking about ghosts, vampires, zombie brides and a lot of cut out pumpkins – Halloween!

I must say, Halloween isn’t a common holiday in the Netherlands. Children don’t dress up and go out on the streets to collect loads of candy. But the holiday is becoming more popular every year. This year, the shops are full of Halloween stuff and there are more activities than ever before.

What to do on Halloween?

Feeling like celebrating this scary day but have no plans yet? I can help you out! Try one of these activities.

Where to party?

Halloween is all about dressing up. What are you going to be this year? A Game of Thrones character, an emoji (Modern Family’s Luke can give you the right example) or maybe a pregnant Kylie Jenner. Whatever you decide to go with, show your look at one of these amazing Halloween parties:

> Halloween Cantus

Want to show your creepy side and drink a lot of beer? Join the ESN Halloween Cantus at Club Poema on the 31th of October! Dress up as a clown, zombie or vampire (or just cut two holes in a sheet) because, on this night, a frightening outfit is a must.

> Red Cup Party

This party promises to be a crazy one! At Tivoli Vredenburg you can go to the Red Cup Party, which is full of freak shows, scarezones, horror movies and creepy tales. Do you dare?

> Utrecht Halloween Madness

Dress up for this crazy party at the legendary Winkel van Sinkel on the 28th of October. Dance to the best 90’s and 00’s hits, classics and R&B during the Utrecht Halloween Madness party and have the best fright night of your life.

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Where to get the real-life creeps?

If you want to have a fully Halloween experience, including a lot of creepy creatures, screaming your lungs out and scare yourself like crazy, choose one of these activities.

> Walibi Halloween Fright Nights

Feeling like riding a rollercoaster in the dark? Get ready for the Halloween Fright Nights at amusement park Walibi Holland. Everything seems normal during the day, but wait until it gets dark… The creepiest creatures will take over the park while you are enjoying all the attractions. There are even special haunted houses to creep the hell out of you. Goosebumps guaranteed! Note: get your tickets online in advance.

> Halloween Nightmares

If you’re in for a big scare, visit Halloween Nightmares at shopping mall The Wall in Utrecht. It’s the biggest haunted house of the Benelux with over 30 rooms full of creepy clowns, freaks, magicians and other crazy weirdo’s. It’s promising to be really exciting!

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What to watch?

And if you don’t feel like partying (or even leaving your house), there’s only one thing you need: Netflix. Gather with your friends, bring a lot of chocolate and candy, make yourself comfortable on the couch (or bed, we’re still students) and choose one of these scary titles, which are currently on Netflix:

> American Horror Story

If you can’t get enough of horror, this show is perfect for you. You’ll see everything that’s creepy: from haunted houses to ghosts and from circus artists to cults. Pick your favourite theme, because every season is a different story.

> Gerald’s Game

We all know that Stephen King is responsible for all of our nightmares with his creepy horror stories as Carrie, The Shining and It. Another story has been made into a movie: Gerald’s Game. It’s about a couple that wants to spice up their sex life by renting a cabin in the middle of nowhere. That can only lead to trouble.

> Little Evil

Are you a big fan of dark humor? Then this movie could be the perfect fit for you. Gary just married the woman of his dreams, but there’s one downside: her son is kind of the antichrist.

> Prom Night

If you think this movie sounds like a nice rom-com, you’re wrong. Prom Night is about a sadistic murderer that turns the perfect night for these teenagers in a nightmare.

> The Ouija Experiment

Did you ever play spin the bottle? Then you must know how creepy that can be (even though you don’t believe in ghosts, you still pee your pants). This movie took ‘spin the bottle’ to the next level. Can you still sleep tonight?

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