After 10 glorious months, going from a nervous girl dragging her suitcases around town to feeling like a Utrecht local, whizzing over canal bridges and through parks on my bike, my time in Utrecht has come to an end.
My Erasmus journey has been nothing short of perfect, the ideal student experience all bundled up into one year of joy.
Before I wave goodbye to this column and Utrecht University, I will offer some tips to any future Utrecht University exchange/Erasmus students, because if you are anything like me – you are trawling through the internet trying to find any morsel of advice!
The first few weeks of travelling abroad can be difficult but hopefully, by using these tips and learning from my mistakes, it will be a little bit easier for you.
My first tip for anyone visiting Utrecht on exchange is that a network of buses and trams run from underneath Utrecht Central. This may seem obvious, but when you are using Google maps and you are standing in the station, the fact that they are underground can mess with the signal, leading you on a wild goose chase around town to a bus stop very far away!
When you move to Utrecht you will quickly notice that having a bike is not just a stereotype, any and every person you see will be on a bike in some shape or form. Getting a bike can be very exciting but it can be difficult to know where to start. There are many services such as Swapfiets where you can rent a bike for a long period of time, they also offer guarantees and repairs. Another option is to buy your own but be careful not to get taken advantage of and sold an overpriced bike. Shop around, see what is available and always test-ride any bike before you hand over the cash.
Speaking of spending money, the first month will be the most expensive, don’t panic! Buying household essentials, groceries, and a bike will make it seem like you will spend your whole budget before you even settle down. Don’t stress, the demand for spending will slow down! But always remember to use your student discount where you can.
When it comes to making friends, don’t worry if you can’t find your type of people straight away. Throw yourself into any orientation events and try to talk to people from different walks of life. If you make it through the first few weeks and aren’t clicking with anyone, you will meet new people in every module you do, so there are plenty of chances to make friends throughout the year!
Finally, my main advice is to simply enjoy it. Enjoy the big moments — the festivals, nights out that you won’t remember the next morning, laughing until your sides hurt. Also remember to enjoy the mundane – the cycle to class, a coffee in the park, watching boats pass down the canals. And when that inevitable homesickness comes, remember that you will be okay, because the months pass by faster than you could ever imagine.
Despite how cringe it sounds, Erasmus really is a journey that helps you grow. seeing a new country and learning from different people is truly life-changing. Every Erasmus journey has highs and lows, a new city, new people, and sometimes even living alone for the first time, but it truly is what you make of it, so take the lows with a pinch of salt and live through the highs.