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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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

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

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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

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

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.

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)

country-christmas-fair-20ste-editie-12

  • 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)

utrecht

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?

Mysteries of Utrecht #1: The Letters of Utrecht

Once I was making my way down through the Oudegracht in direction to Ledig Erf and I you found some peculiar letters written on the stones of the sidewalk. I was so intrigued that I decided to solve this mistery! Follow me on this journey through The Letters of Utrecht!

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What are The Letters of Utrecht?

These letters on the side walk are part of a project called “De Letters Van Utrecht“, where the goal is to write the longest outdoor poetry piece in the world.

There is a new letter added every Saturday, so the poem grows around the city and with the city. The form of the poem itself is supposed to write the word “Utrecht” across the city as you can see in the map, and, since it takes about three years to publish an average sentence, and every year the poem grows approximately 5 meters, only the collocation of the cobblestones that comprehend the letters “U” and “T” are planned – and that is already until the year 2350! Can you imagine how long it will take to finish?!

map
Planned route for the poem in 2012. There were already letters in the red dots. The planned route reads “UT” around the streets.

The inauguration took place in 2012, but, preceding the official start of the project, 648 stones had been previously laid down to pretend that it started in the begging of 2000. The idea is that, since the moment of the inauguration, a new stone is added every week and that this stone is sponsored by someone. The initials of the sponsor can be marked in a non visible part of the stone, so they will forever be part of the cultural identity of Utrecht. This is a way to engage citizens to be part of this social sculpture. It is also a socially conscious project: 10 from the 100 euros that it costs to sponsor a stone go to charity.

The name of the project “The Letters of Utrecht” is also a word-play involving the fact that the letters that are being laid down for the poem will write letters in the big scale too, as seen in the map, and they are the letters of the word “Utrecht”! There is also a reference in the name to the original letters that gave city rights to Utrecht and that date from 1122.

The poems that are featured are written by poets that are originally from Utrecht. They feature themes like the passing of time and our place in it, how it is so everlasting and ephemeral at the same time. So far, this is how the poem goes (each paragraph was written by a different poet):

You have to start somewhere to deal with the past, the present is less and less important. The further you are, the better. Go ahead now,
leave your tracks. Forget the flash in which you may exist, the world is your street map. Was there a time when you were another: it passed.
You are already the other. You are, as you know, the key figure of this story. This is eternity. It lasts. It has time. Go into your story and swell. Tell.
Tell us who you are with each step. In our story we disappear naturally, and only you remain in the long run. You and these letters, which are cut out of stone. Like the letters on our grave.
The cracks in the Dom. Plunged into the sky like an index finger, to indicate the guilty and demand more time. So we can go up straight, like people along the Gracht.
Who stares at their feet. Look up! See Utrecht’s churches protruding above ground level. Raise the hands, begging with the towers to be this privilege: to be, now. The weather is nice.
Keep staring. Life is witness of your gaze on the horizon. Your footsteps
connect the pa(st)… (Note: the word is not finished, but it’s going to say ‘verleden’ which means ‘past’)

Translation by Marjolein van den Brand.

A very interesting feature of this project is that the poem will grow slower than the average pace of evolution of a language, so it will track the evolution of the Dutch language too!

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The goal of “The Letters of Utrecht” is to leave a cultural legacy for future generations which they can be part of, too. It acknowledges the people from the present and it relies on the people of the future to exist. It’s a living and breathing peace of art of which we all can be part of.

If you want to know more information about this project, check out the official webpage: De Letters Van Utrecht.

Have you found other cool art pieces in the streets of Utrecht? Let us know what is your favorite in the comments below!

 

 

 

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.

“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!

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