Michelle, Liv and Horia participated in the UIT

Internationals value the Utrecht Introduction Time

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“I feel like girls are more approachable here than in other European countries.” A handful of international students participated in the general introduction time of Utrecht’s universities and universities of applied sciences. They wanted to make friends before starting their studies.

The Utrecht Introduction Time (UIT) is organised every mid-August, a comfortably long time before the academic year actually starts, for all of Utrecht’s new students. Most of the over 4,000 students that sign up for this are freshmen and will study at a bachelor’s programme. A much smaller number has applied for a master’s programme, having done their bachelor’s in a different city. And an even smaller number of UIT participants consists of international students. German students Michelle and Liv and Romanian Horia are three of them. During the UIT, students have five days of getting to know the city and student life, which happens mostly outside the walls of the university or university of applied sciences.

Liv, who’s going to study Global Sustainability Science, doesn’t mind that most people are speaking Dutch. The kick-off event for the UIT was all-Dutch. “I want to learn Dutch anyway, so this is a good start,” she says. “I could understand quite a bit of it.”

Horia, Michelle, and Liv don’t feel excluded. Liv: “When you go abroad, you’re always going to feel alone and isolated in the beginning.” The Psychology freshman has moved to different countries before. “I lived in England for a year, and spent three months in Spain. Still, it’s scary to be in a new place each time. In my experience, though, you’ll always find friends if you’re open.” Horia, who’s always going to study Global Sustainability Science: “I went to the supermarket the other day and the security guard spoke perfect English! That makes me feel like I’m welcome here.”

Michelle says she’s lived in Utrecht for a year now. She worked an an au pair, and has already learned a little bit of Dutch. “Of course people hear my accent. But Dutch people are so friendly: they always try to answer in German when I ask something! And when I went out to buy a bike, the salesman instantly started talking about his girlfriend in Stuttgart.”

They don’t doubt for a second that this week is valuable for them. “Everybody wants to make new friends. This week is perfect for that,” Horia says.

Horia, Liv, and Michelle mostly want to party and explore the city during the introduction. “Our studies haven’t started yet, so it’s really just vacation. A wonderful opportunity to go party!” Michelle says. But aside from drinking, there’s also going to be some exercise, says Liv. “I really want to do yoga. Doing sports with new people is a great way to get to know them.” Finally, Horia mentions one pitfall to avoid: “Sticking with the international students too much. I want to get to know Dutch students too.”

Partying is awesome here
On the third day of the introduction, the trio looks a little less lively than on day one: they have bags under their eyes, and it takes a long time to find their answers sometimes. That’s all due to the night before. “It got really late...” Horia says dreamily. “Partying is awesome here!” Michelle adds. “When I was an au pair here, I didn’t party much. Yesterday, it was students’ night, and everything was really cheap. It was really the first time that I enjoyed going out in the Netherlands.”

“I’m a little afraid of the bikes,” Liv says. “Biking here is super extreme!”

Are there any romantic anecdotes from the first few days that are worth sharing? The sound of giggles quickly fills the air. “It’s not exactly romantic, but there’s definitely more catcalling in clubs here than in Germany,” Liv says. Michelle nods in agreement. Do the ladies always feel safe when going out? “Yeah,” Liv says resolutely. “One guy touched my butt yesterday, but when I turned around and told him to stop, he did so instantly.”

Aside from partying, the three have experienced a great variety of activities, and have become acquainted with tons of locations in Utrecht. They’ve visited the Olympos sports clubs, seen the rest of the Science Park, and explored the city centre. Yoga hasn’t happened yet, though. “I do want to go and do that, but it depends on what time we’ll be done tonight,” Liv says with a laugh.

Perhaps the most noteworthy was the visit to student association Unitas. Do they understand the charm of associations like it? “To be honest, it feels really weird to me,” Liv says. “You become a part of a random group of people you don’t know, and you don’t know whether you’ll like them or not. I’m familiar with it because it’s the same in Germany, but I didn’t know it was popular here, too. I’m opposed to the hierarchical character. No, I’d rather find my own friends.”

The light tension they’d all felt in their groups on Monday has disappeared by now. “It’s great to be part of a group,” Michelle says. “You’re so much more comfortable when you have people with you that you feel connected to.” Liv: “With an UIT group, you’ll know you won’t be completely lonely.”

Going out is awesome
And how was the introduction? “It was an awesome week.” A day after the UIT’s final party, Michelle’s voice is softer than it had been a week ago: the past week’s festivities have made her slightly sickly. “What I remember most fondly is going out on Thursday, that was absolutely perfect. It was hard to say goodbye to the group, we’ve become really close. We decided to go do things together more often, but you know you’re not going to see many of them anymore anyway.”

The UIT was memorable for Michelle, Horia, and Liv. Were there any letdowns? “The parties were mediocre,” Liv says. “I was also annoyed at constantly being bothered by organisations that wanted something from you.” Highlight of the week? “The beer cantus in Poema! I can honestly say I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. And the boat trip in and around Utrecht was fantastic.” Grinning: “It’s a cliché, I know.”

“I thought the partying was awesome,” Horia says. “It’s not that different from Romania. We do drink more kinds of strong liquor, while the focus here is more on beer. I’m not sure, but I feel like girls are more approachable here than in other European countries.” He’s also managed not to stick too close to other international students. “I met a number of Dutch people in clubs. It was very easy: they suddenly started to speak English to me!”

 

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