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 the 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


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


Interview to Yola Chue, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong

This is Yola Chue, 20 years old Politics exchange student from “The Chinese University” of Hong Kong and special guest of the ESN Blog semester’s first interview. She has been so kind to release us this interview and we are really glad to discover through her words something new about Hong Kong and everything that surrounds it, as every day curiosity brings ESN to enjoy the multicultural environment of our lovely Utrecht:

1- Why did you choose the Netherlands and in particular Utrecht ?

I had been to the Netherlands before as a kid and had a really good memory of it. I would say it is this nice impression that draws me back to the Netherlands again! Talking about Utrecht, I was determined to choose this place right at the instant I googled it; the canals and tranquility of Utrecht simply captivated me.

2- What is the thing you miss the most and the one you miss the less about Hong Kong?

What I miss the most about Hong Kong is its food, such as the egg waffle which is a common street food in Hong Kong, as well as the diverse range of exotic cuisine from all over the world. On the other hand, I miss the busy and crowded streets in Hong Kong less for I do enjoy a less intense pace of life here in the Netherlands.

3- Tell me something that in your opinion makes the Netherlands and Hong kong similar and something else that makes them different

Hong Kong is a rather tiny place which is similar to the Netherlands in a sense that both of them have relatively small land area. Yet Hong Kong is a much more hilly place than the flat Netherlands thus it may be a little bit tougher to ride a bike so often there (although you can also find flat lands in Hong Kong).

4- What do you think about the blonde, tall and blue eyed Dutch guys comparing them with Hong Kong guys?

The height of the Dutch guys is probably what strikes me most. In Hong Kong it is rare that I have to physically look up to someone when I talk, but in the Netherlands I am doing that a lot, which is also an interesting thing for me.

5- What do you think about the Dutch university system? Was it easy to get used on it?

In my view studying in the Netherlands requires much self-initiatives in learning. At the same time the classes are also very interactive and engaging. Nevertheless, I feel pretty comfortable to study in here, probably due to the fact that I used to have much interactive discussion for my study in Hong Kong as well.

6- How did you know about the ESN world? Is it somehow helping you to get inside the international environment of the city?

I learnt about the ESN through information from the Utrecht University. I do appreciate all the activities the board held for us, the international students. Personally I have participated in the Introduction Day and Dutch courses and I enjoy them a lot!

7- Tell us a typical nice Hong Kong proverb and say bye to all the ESN blog followers 🙂

Wish everyone ’Siu hao seung hoi,’ which blesses one happiness and laughter always. Its nice to share with all of you and see you!


By Teo Potenza


Erna 1

“Eeer.. Guys..? I would really like to get SocialErasmus..!” It was last June or July and I was with my new board (the board of ESN the Netherlands) in a student’s living room in Tuinwijk. Scattered on the coffee table were a couple dozen post-its and half finished cups of tea. That weekend we had all gotten together to – among other things – distribute responsibilities and on one of the many notes that represented a project it said SocialErasmus and I had my eye set on it.

“Scattered on the coffee table were a couple dozen post-its and half finished cups of tea.”

SocialErasmus is a project in ESN which I first encountered when I became a board member last year at ESN Utrecht. Milou was also on my board back then and she explained the bottom line to me: that international students get the opportunity to reciprocate to the society they are a guest in during their exchange, by making a positive contribution and by interacting with people from the society. ‘The international bubble’ is the term used to refer to the tendency of international students to hang out with, well…. other international students, and SocialErasmus activities actually do a fabulous job at that!

Throughout the year I kept on nagging Milou whenever the projects committee organized one of them, but there was usually a very limited number of participants to join. They’d gone to accompany elderly people during a show in the elderly home, they had joined the Smulhuis (a facility for homeless people), etc.

Erna 2

 ““YES!” I said excitedly!”

Finally, during the spring SocialErasmus week (keep in mind, I had been whining about it since September!) she came up to me and said: “Listen, I’d like someone to attend the activity to take pictures. Would you…” “YES!” I said excitedly! And so I came to join the first – what she would call – quality SocialErasmus activity; together with local kids from Kanaleneiland the international students would cook at Resto VanHarte.

Erna 3
I absolutely loved every single moment in it, which brings me back to that afternoon with the post-its. Yes, I got my ever-so-desired SocialErasmus post-it and Milou actually became the National SocialErasmus Coordinator, which means that we are now working together on this beautiful project. Our main focus is currently on the fall SocialErasmus week that takes place from November 16th to 22nd. Throughout the entire 37 countries of the Erasmus Student Network SocialErasmus activities are organized and in Utrecht there will be an auction! Care to join?

By Erna van Burik

Guest writer Mehreen Becker about the ESN Dutch Course

I have been living in Utrecht for the past two years now, and not once did I ever feel like I needed to learn Dutch to survive here. I think that stems from the fact that everyone here, old and young alike, all speak English. Since Dutch does sound quite similar to German, I was able to deceive people into believing that I spoke a bit of Dutch, or at least understood it, for quite some time. I never thought I’d learn the language until the day that I found myself sitting in one of the classes with Emmelie and Lara standing in front of the room welcoming us to the Dutch course that ESN was now offering. I think my main motivation to learn Dutch came from the fact that whenever someone asked me if I had picked up any Dutch during the year and a half that I had been here, I would always reply with a no and then feel quite embarrassed at the fact that I had been in the Netherlands for so long and managed to only know how to say thank you. However, the look that I got wasn’t worth the cost of going to an actual institute to learn the language, which is probably why I jumped at the opportunity to learn the language when ESN offered it for just 15 Euros for the whole course.

My initial thought was that even if I don’t learn the language, at least I’d get to meet my friends at the course, get a good cup of coffee and the delicious stroopwafel! In my books, that sounded a lot better than what I had planned on my Wednesdays which included me probably sitting at home either working on an assignment or watching a mind numbing tv show. From the first lesson already I was hooked. They managed to make it so much fun that I was genuinely looking forward to the next class. After each lesson, we’d get to hear a Dutch song, which everyone would try to sing along to because we’d get the lyrics. Though we probably butchered the pronunciations, we would sing it with so much confidence that no one dared to correct us. My personal favorite things about the course were possibly the sayings and how peculiar they were. So, before I end this I would like to share some of my personal favorites that really resonated with me.

  1. Helaas, pindakaas! Literally translated: ‘unfortunately peanut butter’. However, what it really means is, ‘too bad/a missed chance’. It’s usually used to show regret.
  2. Oude koeien uit de sloot halen. Literally translated: ‘taking the old cows out of the canals’. However, what it really means is, ‘to bring up old stories’. It’s usually used to say someone’s being a nag.

Of course I had to use the sayings that were stereotypically Dutch, one that involved the mention of peanut butter and the canals!

By Mehreen Becker

Guestwriter James Cantwell about the intro-week

Why did you become a Mentor for this Erasmus Week?

I think I miss my Erasmus life

“It can be intimidating when you come to a new country to study. Even though I’m usually not shy or nervous around new people – I was worried. This ESN introduction took my worry, my nervousness, and replaced it with cool new friends, awesome parties and an egg and spoon race!”

Supporting the integration of Erasmus students in Utrecht, the ESN Intro week has been awesome. Evening activities Monday to Thursday have been consistently cool and fun, all to help settle students into socializing while studying in Utrecht.

Keeping it varied throughout the week with a nice mix of chill activities, interesting party games and  group challenges everyone can enjoy, ESN Utrecht has overachieved massively with the success of their Intro Week. President and keen karaoke singer Aniek Luyt caught up with me on the night of the International Meal to reflect on the week. Without hesitation, when asked what her highlight of the week was, she spoke of the night of the Beer Cantus. “I loved seeing everyone so united, laughing together, singing karaoke songs!” That’s ESN for you. Surrounded by new people, having the time of your Erasmus life singing Barbie Girl in club Poema!

Not alone in the process, the ESN committee was supported by an amazing network of ESN Mentors who have volunteered throughout the week to support the erasmus students. From Monday to Thursday they’ve been fantastic. Always friendly and considerate, appreciating the new student situation. With a group of mentors spread across 16 groups of different Erasmus students, the support and care that all have shown is amazing. For me, Suzanne, Des and Luuk were fantastic. I’m a simple person, so if you cook me good food just after meeting me for the first time – you’re already a friend for life. But to have made great friends with 15 group members who are all different types of people is super special. Love for all of you mentors out there.

post james 2

The highlight for me?

post james

Other than getting a picture with the ESN President… I think the Crazy 88 group challenge on the first night was the best. Though the Poema night out, the pub quiz and the international evening with the games were awesome, the group challenges were a great combination between fun, exploring Utrecht and competition between the groups. Though my group didn’t win, despite my teammate Zack jumping in the canal (which earned a brave 100 points), it was really fun achieving the challenges with my new Erasmus-friends.

Sometimes when I meet new friends for the first time, I’m wary not to get too emotionally invested in them because they may not stick around for as long as I’d like. With this group of friends it’s different. Maybe because it’s ESN, maybe because I’m living in a new place. But I know that for the time I’m on Erasmus – there will always be these people to hang out with.

To group 16.


group james

By James Cantwell

Guest writer: back to the Netherlands

10505403_728309073885244_4875066939872901563_nIlse Wijnands has been living in the UK for the last couple of months. For ESN, she wrote a column about going back to the Netherlands after all this time.







‘London is a bad habit one hates to lose.’ – Anonymous, and a very popular saying in the city.

For the past couple of months, I’ve traded the countryside of the Netherlands for a little bit more adventurous place: London. Occasionally, I could be found studying in the university, but if you were really looking for me, you had more chance to find me in a beautiful museum, a lovely park or at one of the many vintage markets. And then I haven’t even mentioned that I became more familiar with the pubs in London than with my own temporary bedroom.

In those months, I had the constant feeling that I was so lucky to get this kind of life. It felt like an upgrade: there were still the normal everyday things, but because you live in a different and vibrant city such as London, everything feels new and exciting. Meeting new people from all over the world gives you a new perspective on their or your own culture. Studying at a different university gives you a new perspective on the education of your home university. Exploring a new city changes your mind about your hometown. You are completely away from you’re life at home and you start building a new one. You learn, see, understand, and explore new experiences with new people. Without even realising it, two important things happen. One: you have the absolute time of your life. Two: This will change you forever.

hardest goodbyes I ever had to say. Don’t get me wrong; I have amazing friends and family that I really wanted to see. There was nothing wrong with the life I had before I went to London. It was just that I never had to say goodbye to a life I’ve loved to live, and would never have the chance to experience again. Sure, I could go back to London. And of course, I will try to see the friends I’ve made. But I will never go back to the amazing time I had in London.

Since I’ve been back home, I start to notice how much it has changed me. And then I realised something: even though I’ve been away from London, London would always be inside of me.


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