Thoughts #16: On Moving To The Netherlands


As many of you already know, I will be moving to the Netherlands in August to study. I’ll be doing my Masters degree there, and with every day that passes I am simultaneously terrified and excited to be moving to this new country by myself, to live in a city where I know absolutely no-one, with a language that I love the sound of, but that still baffles me. I guess I just wanted to use this post to discuss some of my worries, both rational and irrational, and how I’m trying to overcome them!


One of the many grachten (canals) in Leiden.

1. I’m scared that I won’t have much of a social life.

I’m generally really rubbish at meeting new people. Unless that person has an interest that I can immediately connect with (like BOOKS!), chances are I’ll feel really awkward at first. I don’t have much of a social life now – I’m back in my home town and I barely know anyone here. Most people went off to university and didn’t move back afterwards, whereas I came straight back home after university so I could save more money for my Masters. It’s not the easiest place to meet new people within my age group (small country town), and I thought it won’t matter too much because I’ll only be here for a year. That year has now turned into two, and most of my socialising is either with a few close friends spread around the country, my family or online friends.

I guess in a way I’m kind of worried that I’ve forgotten how to have a social life! Luckily, I’m pretty determined to go out there and meet lots of new people from all over the world, and make some friends for life. And I’ll find like-minded people on my course, not to mention all the different student clubs and societies! Plus I love the idea of sitting in a jazz bar with some friends – De Twee Spieghels, here I come.

2. The language barrier could be a problem.

Okay, so I don’t have to learn Dutch. My course is taught in English, and the Dutch are known for being very good at English (and languages in general) – but I would feel SO ignorant if I went not knowing a single word. I would love to be able to go into a shop or a restaurant and be able to ask for help, make a purchase or order something in Dutch, no English needed. I just want to be able to make small talk; I don’t need to know how to lecture people about the dangers of air pollution (Luftverschmutzung was a popular topic on my A Level German course… for some reason). Although in general the level of English spoken in the Netherlands is very high, that doesn’t mean everyone speaks it well. And I don’t want to seem like an ignorant tourist.

I’ve been teaching myself Dutch, very slowly, for about a year. I’m quite happy reading Dutch text, it’s the speaking part that’s hard. I have quite a few Dutch and Flemish friends who I really need to practice with, but I’m terrified of making mistakes – which is stupid, because how else do you learn? I’m starting to feel more confident with basic conversation, so I guess the next step is actually putting it to use. Plus Judith @ Paper Riot has an AMAZING feature called ‘How to Dutch’, which I’ve tested myself with!


Stadhuis van Leiden (Leiden townhall)

3. I’m worried that studying again after two years will be really difficult.

I’ve been working for nearly two years, so I’ve kind of lost the ‘routine’ I had whilst studying. I’ve obviously had a lot more free time (or at least that’s how it feels – working 30 hours a week now vs. 9 hours of lectures and a LOT of self-study during my Bachelors), which I’ve spent reading, gaming and doing other leisurely activities.

But when I go to do my Masters, I will have to be careful with how I spend my free time. I can’t just pick up a video game whenever I feel like it, I’ll have to consider whether I have other, more important, things to be done first. Play hours of Mass Effect or do that pile of laundry? Read that new release I’ve been looking forward to, or read that set text for my next class? Cook a healthy, nutritious dinner or get something from an automaat? Make ADULT decisions about GROWN-UP things – I just can’t.


4. And the scariest thing at all… how much time will I have for blogging?

Yep, I’m really scared about this one! I don’t want my blog to just slowly fade away. I’ll make every effort to keep posting. I highly doubt it will be as often as I do now, but I’d be happy with even just once or twice a week. There are lots of bloggers who balance out blogging and studying, and I’m sure I can take inspiration from it.

But the best thing? I can blog about my experiences studying in the Netherlands as an international student, which will be REALLY exciting and is most definitely an excuse to take ALL THE PHOTOS. Claire @ Bitches With Books has a great feature about studying at Oxford University as an international student – plus she’s doing a pretty awesome degree.

Have you had experience with moving or studying in a new city or country? Were you able to keep up old hobbies? What were the biggest changes for you?


28 thoughts on “Thoughts #16: On Moving To The Netherlands”

  1. I moved to a different city for college as well as a summer internship in England and both times were amazing for me. I was a bit nervous too, but in the end, the new experiences were worth it! I feel like there were a lot of changes for me back then, but I just found new things to love so I didn’t feel sad about the things I stopped doing.

    Wow I envy your dedication to learn Dutch! I really want to learn French but I just don’t make time for it like I should. I’m sure that people in the Netherlands will appreciate your efforts to learn the language and you will get so much better at it by immersion so you shouldn’t worry! And I hope you will be able to keep up with reading and blogging, but as long as you have fun and try new things I think that is most important! I am so excited for this new adventure for you!

    1. I didn’t realise you’d done an internship here, Charlene! Whereabouts did you go?

      I’m trying, but it’s very tough, especially because I’m teaching myself. I studied German for seven years and there are some similarities (at least in how the languages look, not sound) which helps quite a bit. Often I’ll recognise words because they’re very similar to the German.

      Thanks Charlene, I really can’t wait 🙂

  2. This sounds amazing to me. To have this kind of opportunity .. wow!! I am sure it will be fine.. I have found that people usually help out international students more then we help each other. Oh and you should play Mass Effect and leave the laundry.

    1. I know, you should have seen my face when I got the email confirming I had got in to the university… 😀

      Haha, sound advice!

  3. Hi! My name is Araceli. Nice to meet you!

    That sounds so exciting! Those sound like all my worries when I moved permanently away from home after graduating and finding a job with an exciting company.

    But you know what? My experience would have been 150% better if I had just embraced it. It also sounds like I have more free time now and also didn’t have to learn a new language (around here people speak Being Rude). Haha!

    I wish you luck! It’s always great to meet new people and learn about other cultures.

    1. Hi Araceli, thanks for following the blog 😀

      Yes, I know I really need to go out and embrace it – and I’m going to try my hardest! I just worry because I’m a bit awkward in some situations, I don’t really do clubs and parties – I’d rather sit in a pub or cafe with a group of friends, or have a close group over to my place. But I’m sure I’ll find some like-minded people 😉

  4. If you ever need more help with your Dutch, just shoot me a message somewhere! 🙂 I think everyone is really going to appreciate you for trying to learn Dutch. We are all aware that it’s a difficult language – it’s sometimes even difficult for us and we grow up with it, haha. And yes, most of us are pretty good in English, especially students 🙂 It’s one of the languages we have to do in school. So making conversations won’t be that hard when it comes to language barrier :)!

    I can’t wait to see your experiences. It will be fun to see my country through your eyes 🙂

    1. Thanks Mel! 😀 Lots of people have said that, which is nice to hear. I know it’ll be much easier to learn the language when I’m there and hearing it every day.

      I’m going to go crazy with my camera, and try and get in as much travelling as possible too 😀 I’ve got a few trips to Belgium and Germany planned, as well as other parts of the Netherlands!

  5. I had to to take four semesters of a foreign language for my English major (still can’t figure out why that was) and took German on a whim. I still regret not making German a second major and then studying abroad. I hear people talk about their experiences studying abroad, and I wish I would have made up my mind to do it when I had the chance. Congrats and have fun!

    1. Oh, that is odd! I did seven years of German which I loved. Wasn’t fluent at the end of it though, which was annoying. That’s a shame, but I hope you still enjoyed your university experience all the same! 🙂

  6. I can kind of help with the first two? I’m currently just over half way through my year abroad period in Japan and like you, I find it difficult to make friends. The trick (that I’ve found) is if you want friends, you unfortunately have to put yourself out there and speak to them first (though this could just be a thing that happens in Asia because in England, if you’re the foreigner, the natives talk first to you, not the other way around).
    And yes, the language barrier will be rather troublesome at first but you’ll pick stuff up naturally and improve and be able to communicate better even without really trying! Just make sure you are immersed in the town/city you’re living in and you’ll definitely start picking it all up naturally =] but do have a dictionary on hand =]

    1. Oh gosh, you’re brave to go to Japan! That’s a whole new level of language barrier. I hope you’re enjoying your time there 🙂

      I will put myself out there and make a big effort to meet new people. I can’t wait to spend time wondering the cobbled streets and looking at the sights, as well as relaxing in the bars and cafes 😀

  7. I’m so excited for you! I totally get the socialising thing. I still live in my hometown, and have never – as you know – been to university. When I went to Rome in September I was sooo nervous about meeting new people and making friends, as I was staying in a hostel and you kind of have to. It wasn’t as bad as I thought though, and I even got to speak to some of my roomies in Spanish. I wasn’t going out partying with the rest of them, but still xD

    And you have Judith and Mel to help you with Dutch! I’m sure once you’re over there you’ll become a lot more comfortable with the speaking part, after you’ve gained experience. That is, if you manage to pronounce the words because THEY MAKE NO SENSE WHAT IS THIS LANGUAGE.

    I can’t wait to see all the photos! And ermehgerd, we could meet up when I go over there! Although I don’t know when that will be.

    1. You’ll be off soon though won’t you? Or at least I saw that you’d chosen to take Classical Civ at A Level – great choice ;D

      Yes, and I have lots of MMO friends who are Dutch and Flemish to practice with too! 😀 So many people. There are some words that are REALLY hard to pronounce, but I quite like the challenge.

      Yes! We should! 😀

  8. Sounds really exciting Rinn! Embrace the change. I am betting you’ll really enjoy yourself. It’s always a challenge in the beginning but before you know it, you’ll be considered a local 🙂

  9. I lived on my own in another country for a little bit due to my studies, and I had a great time! I know all those fears you mentioned, and I agree. Well, maybe except for the language barrier. The country I ended up in was an English-speaking one, so I didn’t have to worry about it.

    As for social lives, I had my dorm to thank for that. Getting to know my neighbours helped keep me from being a little loner. Getting to know my classmates/coursemates too! Since you’ll be in a Masters programme, you might have more contact with people from your department. Uni departments might have lots of mixers/events or even associations for your field of study, and those are GREAT ways to meet new people. 😀

    As for hobbies and blogging, that definitely took a backseat to my studies. Balancing studies, an internship, and friends? Hard enough! Then blogging? Whoa, I had a hard time balancing. It was why my old blog took a nosedive, because I was too busy to write posts or visit other blogs. 😦

    But I had time to read! After being exhausted by other parts of life (it was pretty crazy!), I needed some downtime. All my tiredness made me appreciate things like this even more. 😀

    Best wishes, Rinn! Join us, your fellow international students!

    1. Ooh, seems like quite a few of my readers have had a similar experience 😀

      Yeah, it should be easier to get to know people on my course as it’ll be smaller groups – that was the problem with Bachelors, too many people and not enough opportunities to just sit and talk to them. I know there are LOADS of events in the first few weeks held by the International Student Network, so I’ll be joining as many of those as possible.

      Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about 😦 Reviewing will take a back seat unless I HAVE to review the book, or really want to. I love writing discussion and thoughts posts, they come much more easily and quickly so my blog will probably mostly consist of those.

      Thanks for the advice, Ana 😀

  10. I’m really excited for you and starting your graduate students this August! 🙂 The whole thing may seem really daunting at first–especially being in another country and everything (language! culture! how do you get around in their transportation system!)–but once you get a hang of it and you establish a routine, it’ll be amazing 🙂 I guess I was fortunate when I did a semester exchange that I had two other classmates studying at the same place so we pretty much had the same circle of friends (I spent a semester in Italy), but I noticed that the international students community can be really welcoming and friendly so I think you’ll be fine with #1 😉

    By the way, I totally understand you about the whole social life thing, though; if it wasn’t for dorm, I’m pretty sure I would have spent my entire Masters in the library or in my room reading (other books) (which I still did + trying to establish a routine with my studies, but the whole social life thing started getting better after a while)

    I’m looking forward to hearing all about your adventures in the Netherlands! 😀

    1. Eeek, I can’t wait! One of my friends who is at the uni now (but will be gone when I go) gave me some great encouraging words, which helped 🙂

      Whereabouts in Italy did you stay?

      1. That’s awesome that you know someone who’s there right now, they can give you a heads up on stuff 🙂 How long is your programme for?

        I was at Trento (close to the Italy-Austria border) 🙂 Lovely town, surrounded by mountains ❤

      2. Yep, it’s really useful 🙂 The programme is a year, but I’d love the chance to do a PhD – I guess I just have to decide how I feel towards the end of my Masters, whether I want to continue with academia. Perhaps I could stay in the Netherlands to work, if my Dutch is a decent level when I finish.

        Ahh, how lovely! I bet you had some gorgeous views 🙂

  11. I’ll always been down the other end of the laptop 🙂 and of course you know I’m planning one visit if not more!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s