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

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

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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?

My Erasmus adventure: how I experienced the greatest time of my life abroad

And how to make it yours, too!

When I heard for the first time I could go abroad during my studies, I was definitely not a big fan of living in another country for half a year. I thought it was a bit scary, a big responsibility and I had a boyfriend at the time, so it didn’t seem like a good idea. But there was one thing that totally convinced me: I could go on a real adventure! (And travel and party a lot, of course.)

And that’s why I went through with it. I chose the middle way and stayed within Europe. I had to be somewhat different, but not that different, so I went to… Vienna, Austria.

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The Hofburg Palace

Moving to Austria 

A classy, flourishing city with a very well recommended university – this had to be the perfect place! And I could work on my German (very important). Ok, but I had to pack for five months. Five months. That is: Winter, Spring and Summer. Normal people would pack one suitcase and that’s it. How many did I bring? Three.

Indecisiveness is a real pain in the, let’s say, behind.

Luckily, I wasn’t alone and my mom and sister travelled with me. Then, after a few days, they left and well, I was alone. Reeaally alone. That first weekend was confronting, but I got a real chance to discover the city on my own. (And to explore all the different take-out options. The sushi in Vienna is great, by the way.)

Then it was time for the notorious ESN introduction (did you know ESN has over 500 local sections within 40 countries?). I was lucky I already knew one girl from Utrecht, so we could do all the social stuff together. It was a hectic and fun week, but I have to admit that I was kind of tired of being socially active all the time. Sorry, I’m just a bit lazy sometimes. You’ll understand.

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Some friends and I at a concert at Schönbrunn Palace

My ‘second’ hometown

All of my hard work payed off, because I made friends easily from all over Europe. Before I knew it, I had this great group of friends who did everything together: we ate, travelled, shopped, partied and above all, just shared our happy moments. It sounds a bit cliché, but it just was.

It felt like I would never leave, but of course, that moment came way too soon. Nobody wanted to go and we felt really weird to say ‘farewell’. We had to go back to our normal lives and everything would be the same again – only with a ton of great memories in our (three) suitcases.

The Erasmus Experience

How I would describe my time abroad? The most relaxing, fun and energizing time of my life. I made some really good friends and really fell in love with the city. I could definitely live there, like, forever.

One of the things that made this experience so great was all the travelling. I went to Berlin, Budapest, Prague (two times), even Malta (to visit a good friend and actually one of our Board members, Beaudine) and went all across Austria (even skiing!). So don’t forget to go beyond the borders of our beautiful Utrecht, and pay a visit to Amsterdam/Rotterdam/The Hague/Groningen/Belgium/Germany as well! Luckily for you, ESN organizes a ton of great trips. Make sure you’ll go on one of them!

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Skiing in the Alps
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My friends and I in Prague

A crazy and fun Erasmus, that’s what I’ve had. And I hope yours will be too! Take chances and step out of your comfort zone – or you’ll regret it.

(And if you’re curious: I still meet up with some of my Erasmus friends, but it’s not always that easy with the… distance and stuff. However, it’s good that we can hop on a plane every now and then.)

5 lessons you have learned during your time abroad

Time’s a bitch and your days abroad are numbered, so it’s time for some reminiscing!

Your bank balance hit a new low

Ouch yup, checking your bank balance during your time abroad is no fun. You’ve had so much to see and do and eat and explore and what not … Still at the same time hardly any money came in. Make sure to find a good summer job when you return home, because you did learn one thing from this experience: money can buy you amazing experiences! So make sure to save some money so you’ll be able to say yes to new adventures. Oh and maybe a lesson in budgeting is also a good idea. 😉

The world is bigger than you thought

Some people say the it’s a small world we’re living in. Well, it is when you stay at home. But when you travel abroad you’ll meet so many different people from different cultures and countries that you’ll soon realize that there’s so much left to discover in this world! The world counts almost 200 countries and once you get caught with the travel bug you can’t wait to discover them all. And since you have made friends all over the world, you’ve got a good excuse to do so!

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Friends can be found everywhere

A few months ago Utrecht was a just a dot on the map, an empty concept ready to be filled with new experiences. You might have arrived in Utrecht all on your own, but I’m sure that you’ll leave town with a ton of new memories and friends. Living abroad teaches you that there are friends to be made everywhere. At ESN, at university, at your student house. People love to connect and to share experiences. Some of the friendships are there to stay and others you’ll leave behind in Utrecht. Never be afraid to start an adventure on your own, because you’ll meet other people who want to share their adventure with you.

Say yes to everything!

Do you remember that one night when you were sitting on your couch watching a replay of How I Met Your Mother? Nope, didn’t think so either. The most amazing things happen when you don’t expect them to happen. You just have to be flexible and be there at the right time and moment. Whilst studying abroad you’ve got all the time, you’re not bound to a job a or other obligations. So whenever one of your Utrecht-buddies asks whether you’ve got time to come and visit them in their home country, say yes and just do it!

You’re a survivor

Leaving behind the familiar for the big unknown is always a big step. How are you gonna survive without your besties around the corner and your mum and dad nearby? Well, congratulations, because you just did it! You went to a city where you didn’t know anyone and you’re gonna leave this city with new confidence. Studying abroad teaches you that you can always count on yourself and that you’re able to survive!

How to maintain a long distance relationship with a Dutchie?

As summer is approaching, so is the time for many of you to say goodbye to your new friends, Utrecht and perhaps even a Dutch lover. Saying goodbye can be hard, especially when you’ve fallen for a special someone from another country. Nobody says it’s gonna be easy;  that’s why we’re providing you with some tips to help you maintain a long distance relationship with your Dutch lover or just your Dutch friends!

Make sure to bring home frozen bitterballen

This snack is one of the most typical Dutch foods. A yummy fried meatball with some mayonnaise, accompanied by some cold drinks on a terrace… That’s the image that pops into my mind when I think of Dutch summer. So what better way to bring home a bit of the Netherlands than bringing some frozen bitterballen? Of course, this tip is only for those of you who don’t have to travel home too far. You can easily fry them at home and share them with your family and friends. This way, your family and friends at home will fall in love with the Netherlands immediately (and indirectly with your newly found lover or friends). The old saying ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’ is definitely applicable here.

Communication is key

As you might have noticed, the Dutch are not known for their communication skills. We’re famous for our directness and don’t share our emotions and feelings too easily. That makes communicating with your Dutch partner or friends even more important. In today’s world it’s easy to stay in touch via Facebook or Skype, but in order to truly make your friendship or relationship work, you have to dig a bit deeper. Try talking to each other on a regular basis, talk about your expectations and don’t be afraid to tell the other how you feel. However, be careful to not overdo it since too much planned talking or texting can take the spontaneity out of your relation and ruin it.

Seize the opportunity to travel

Having friends abroad is the perfect excuse to travel more often. Plan visits to each other, so that your Dutch friends can also see your home country. But visiting each other shouldn’t be the only travelling for you; try to explore new countries together, so you can create long-lasting memories and make the times you see each other even more special. Check out the new Abroad magazine (arriving on your doorstep within two weeks) for more information on travelling with Erasmus friends.

Keep up your Dutch vocabulary

As said above, communication is key. Even though many Dutchies have an excellent level of speaking English, you can easily charm us if you’re able to speak some Dutch tous. You might have learned a few words or sentences here and there, but try keeping up your Dutch skills even when you’ve returned home. But how can one do that when no one around you speaks Dutch? Try watching Dutch movies with subtitles on Netflix, or practice your Dutch using the DuoLingo app.

Believe in your relationship

You might enjoy the idea of staying together despite the distance, but after a few months apart you will probably both start to realize the difficulty of a long distance relationship or friendship. If you want to make it work, it’s crucial to keep reminding each other of your love for one another. Confirmation of your commitment to each other can make or break your relationship. Both parties have to be willing to work through the problems that inevitably will arise, instead of dropping the relationship at the first sign of difficulties. Believe in your relationship or friendship, and I assure you: everything will work out eventually.

For more tips on saying goodbye, check out the coming edition of the Abroad magazine, filled with must see’s and do’s for your final weeks in the Netherlands.

 

ESN VIDEOBLOG#2 Allie’s experience abroad

This video is made by Allison Young, who is studying abroad here in Utrecht. Since the start of the semester, she’s been part of a mentor group which did a lot of cool stuff together in and around Utrecht. Allison is studying media and has always enjoyed editing and watching videos. The JoCo asked Allie what her motivation was for making this video..

Allison: ‘Making a video was a good way  to really think about what the impactful moments were for me. I knew that time was going to go by fast here and that I would cherish having something so visual and personal to reflect on back home. It’s also a great way to show my family and friends what I’ve been up to since being abroad.’

Don’t wait to watch this amazing video of Allie’s experience!

Want so see more of Allie? A new video: Utrecht: part 2 is coming up soon at her channel!

Video by: Allison Young

Fly to the sun in less than 4 hours

Are you sweating your way through the last tough week of exams and are you dreaming of a spring break on the beach with a cocktail in your hand? Search no further, because the JoCo did some daydreaming and came up with their 3 favourite European holiday destinations which will match all your criteria!

Algarve

It’s hard to believe that the absolutely stunning Algarve is only 3 hours away from our cold little country. The endless sand beaches with insanely blue water resemble the beaches of the far away Thailand, but then it isn’t so far away! Next to the famous rock formations at the coast, this region has got so much more to offer. While it can be quite busy at the coast, the hilly inland parts of the Algarve are still untouched by tourism. Over here you can enjoy the beautiful nature, tasty Portuguese food and some peace and quiet. However, if you’re more in the mood for a party, you can indulge yourself in the busy party scene of Albufeira. The Algarve has got it all!

sun · beautiful beaches · portuguese food · party · travel time 3 hours 

Sardinia

Back to the islands! And this time not Ibiza, since everyone already knows that you can have a great time over there, but Sardinia! This huge island, in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, is home to the flamingo and I understand why. The spectacular coastline and rough nature appeal to the pretty pink birds so they thought, why not stay there? If the Spring break would last forever I think more people would stay as well … Because next to the beautiful nature Sardinia also offers the finger licking good Italian cuisine.

culture · rough nature · italian food · beaches · flamingos · travel time 2 hours

 

Canary Islands

The Canary Islands are the favourite holiday destination of many Europeans. And no wonder, because after 4 hours in a plane you’ll land in a totally different world. When you set foot on Lanzarote or Fuerteventura the warm sea breeze will come to you and the volcanic features of the islands give you the idea you landed on a newly discovered Star Wars planet. Okay true, the Canary Islands can be somewhat touristy and sometimes it might feel like you’re in little England but those English do have their good reasons to lodge on the Canary Islands. It’s cheap, the weather is always good and you can enjoy awesome surf spots. And that’s where you won’t see those bloody English tourists.

Famara-Lanzarote

A post shared by Victor (@victorhdl) on

beaches · vulcanic beauty · surfers paradise · travel time 4 hours

 

5 things NOT to do with your parents in Amsterdam

Having spent some time in our lovely Utrecht, you must have visited Amsterdam at least once, either alone or with friends or family visiting you. The lovely capital of the Netherlands has plenty of sights and activities to offer, depending on what your interest is: starting from a cultural walk through the Rijksmuseum to a memorable visit to the Anne Frank House to shopping at the flower market, you will find plenty of things to do and see. The sheer variety of options in this vibrant city is enough to make your head spin and make you want to return again with a desire to share your experiences with your family. However, if your parents are conservative, this liberal city could shock them and leave them with a very different impression from yours. To avoid disappointment, here are 5 places you should avoid when visiting Amsterdam with your old-fashioned relatives:

1. Red Light District

Who hasn’t heard of the (in)famous centre of Amsterdam, where ladies (and, at some places, men) stand in windows selling pleasure? Actually, these streets located at several spots in the city offer more than that; they are lined with windows with ladies/gentlemen luring by-passers, specific sex-shops offering every kind of product/equipment/accessory you can possibly think of, theatres with live performances and much more. There are simply no taboos!

2. Red Light Secrets – Museum of Prostitution

This museum is different from any other you have visited before – namely, it displays and teaches you everything you need to know about the oldest profession in the world. You will not only enjoy an educative tour in a beautiful building but also learn about a hidden part of history. Due to the interactive nature of the museum, you’ll also be able to try what it feels like to be on the other side of the window!

3. Condomerie

Despite its risqué appearance, the shop was originally established in 1987 as a way to help people prevent STDs, mainly HIV. The founders of the establishment have been promoting safe sex and a liberal approach to protection ever since. By now, the Condomerie is much more than just a shop to buy condoms – it’s a place to consult experts and ask questions. Last, but not least, it’s a cheeky tourist attraction with its fun and fantasy products!

4. Coffee shops

Due to the Dutch government’s liberal approach towards drugs, certain products are legal to consume. Even though coffee shops selling marijuana are not specific to Amsterdam but can be found all over the Netherlands, they are much more popular among tourists in the capital. Not only is smoking weed allowed but one can also purchase various products such as space cakes, different types of seeds and so on in basically any souvenir shop in Amsterdam.

5. Gay bars

Same-sex relationships are becoming more and more accepted globally, but prejudice still persists in some places. Not so in the Netherlands – plenty of gay bars and clubs await the LGBT community. Homosexuality was decriminalised as early as 1811 and the first gay bar (which, by the way, still operates) was opened in 1927. Here, the Dutch “live and let live” approach really shines through – as long as you’re not hurting anyone, you’re welcome and accepted.

The places of interests mentioned above might be fun and fascinating for you, but older generations from more conservative countries are unlikely to appreciate them. Worry not – Amsterdam offers a lot more than windows and weed! Various museums, parks, bars, restaurants, canals, flower markets and monuments await for you and your family to discover.

What are your favourite places to visit in Amsterdam? Share your opinion with us in a comment!

Best Dutch daytrip destinations

Whether you spent the last few months in Utrecht discovering its hidden and not so hidden gems or you just got off the plane to start your new adventure, our amazing city has a lot to offer. Like a mysterious girl, she shows you a different face of hers every time you see her, be it a party city, a cultural centre, a university town or a hub for sports fans. However, even this versatile place would struggle to give you a complete overview of the Netherlands, and you might long to discover more of this country. Of course, nearly all students will have visited Amsterdam at some point, so there’s no need to mention the capital, but many other Dutch towns are waiting to be discovered! Here’s a list of our personal favourites in no specific order:

Maastricht

This city is a must-see on your Dutch travel list! Not only does it have a unique atmosphere due to the mix of Belgian, Dutch and German cultures but it’s one of those historical places you should visit. There are plenty of sights to see, including the Basilica of Our Lady and the Basilica of Saint Servatius, both of which are breath-taking pieces of architecture. If you want to see something that’s one of a kind, pay a visit to Boekhandel Dominicanen – a beautiful church which was transformed into a bookstore! There are also various museums, like the Museum aan het Vrijthof, which offer temporary exhibitions in different topics ranging from local artists’ works to arms collections. Plenty to see and to do! Oh, and Maastricht is also great for shopping 😉

Leiden

The city is famous for its university, the oldest in the Netherlands.  However, the town has much more to offer than “just” great education. It caters to culture-lovers with its wide range of museums where you can see everything from fine art to natural history. The city, just like Utrecht, is full of gorgeous parks that are ideal for hanging out with your friends and organising a picnic (once the weather gets a bit better). Until then, keep an eye on the Pieterskerk – the building used to be a church but now it operates as an events centre hosting musicals and other cultural events. Last but not least, don’t forget about Molenmuseum de Valk, a pretty tower mill of typical Dutch style that you can visit since it’s also a fascinating museum!

Haarlem

Not too far from Amsterdam, this city has a medieval character to it. Haarlem is a great daytrip destination for culture enthusiasts since it’s packed with all kinds of museums: from the Frans Hals Museum displaying Dutch masterpieces of art to Het Dolhuys, a national museum for psychiatry. If you’d just rather soak up the city’s vibe, take a long walk around the Grote Markt, the heart of the city where many festivals and markets are organised. As several other Dutch cities, Haarlem is also famous for its canal cruises during which you can experience the city from a completely different point of view. If you’re looking to pamper yourself with culinary experiences, hit De Jopenkerk: a former church that was transformed into a restaurant, a café and even houses a microbrewery where you can taste various kinds of beers!

The Hague

As one of the biggest cities in the Netherlands, The Hague has a lot to offer to visitors and it’s impossible to discover everything in just one day. Still, it’s worth even to just visit for a day and check out the most important sights like Madurodam (a park filled with scale models of famous Dutch buildings), the Peace Palace (book your tour in advance though!) and the Panorama Mesdag (art museum housing beautiful paintings) just to mention a few. Car lovers, beware and visit the Louwman Museum that presents the world’s oldest private car collection – guaranteed you’ll have a blast. The Hague is also filled with various official and governmental buildings so if you’re studying Economics, International Relations or just have a knack for History and Law, you have to drop by!

Eindhoven

Just like other Dutch towns, Eindhoven has a rich cultural and historical background. In the Second World War, air raids destroyed big parts of the city centre. However, Eindhoven reinvented itself and that results in a unique city filled with old churches like Sint-Catharinakerk and Temple des Augustins but also with unique new buildings like the Evoluon (a conference and events centre that also hosts theatre performances) and the van Abbe Museum (a state-of-the-art art museum). If you’re interested in thematic museums, go and see DAF Museum that shows the history and works of the brand, or Philips Museum that is rightly located in the birth city of the company. If you’re a foodie, check out Vershal het Veem that offers fresh products daily that come from enthusiastic specialists that are passionate about food.Eindhoven is also one of the most popular party cities for students!

Hopefully you enjoyed this brief overview of the best day trip destinations in the Netherlands and already feel the wanderlust to visit some of these cities – and many more! What are your favourite spots in the country? Let us know in a comment and tell us why you love it!

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