Notes from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands #11: A Final Note…

Note from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands is my feature where I discuss my time studying at Leiden University. I want to blog about this amazing experience as much as I can!

Today is the day I leave the Netherlands, and it’s kind of hard to believe. I spent so long waiting to come here, and it’s gone by in a flash. It’s going to be an emotional day, most likely with some (a lot) of tears. I actually had a little cry going home at Christmas, so I’m not sure what it’s going to be like now I’m leaving for good… In a way, I’m looking forward to returning to the UK, there are plenty of things I miss about it, but I know I will also miss my third adopted home country. But what am I going to miss most?

  • Cycling everywhere. I absolutely love this; I love cycling and it’s so quick and means I don’t need to spend money on public transport. Whilst I could still do this at home, it’s not the same. The area where I live is VERY hilly and the UK just doesn’t have the same system for bikes as the Netherlands. There’s very few bike paths, nowhere to lock a bike… it’s just not the same. I’m going to miss my fiets!
  • Mijn fiets!

    Mijn fiets!

  • The beautiful buildings. I really love Dutch architecture, and all the tall houses and buildings with huge windows.
  • The canals. Water everywhere! Although I think I really love this because it reminds me of home – my town is full of streams and millponds, so I’m used to being surrounded by water. The canals bring a real charm to Leiden and other Dutch cities, and it means we get all kinds of exciting wildlife just hanging around – like herons sitting on top of lamp posts!
  • Just relaxing.

    Just relaxing.

  • The food. I already discussed my favourite Dutch foods, so I won’t go into much detail here. But maybe it’s kind of a good thing that I won’t be near any stroopwafels
  • Independence. I will have to move back home with my parents for a little while until I find a job, and that’s going to be another big change. It was the same when I finished university last time. Of course I love being home and spending time with them, but it’s also nice to have my own space too. It will be especially odd after being not only away from home, but having lived in another country by myself.
  • Travelling. I didn’t quite travel as much as I wanted to, but it’s so easy to do it from Leiden! I managed to go to Belgium and Germany, and within the Netherlands I went to Amsterdam (many times), The Hague, Delft, Dordrecht, Rotterdam and other places. Plus the beach is only a 40 minute bike ride away!
  • Leiden, I am REALLY going to miss you.

    Leiden, I am REALLY going to miss you.

  • The atmosphere. Dutch people are much more relaxed than the English. I loved strolling through the town, just seeing people sitting in the sun, often on boats, having a coffee or a nice cold beer. The working week is generally shorter and everyone just seems a lot more easy-going. I love it.
  • And last, but definitely not least… my friends. If you read my posts about coming here before August then you’ll know I was sort of terrified of not making any friends. But I did, and I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been. My friends, not the university, made the experience here an amazing one. I’m going to be so sad to leave everyone, even if we will (hopefully) not be that far apart in the end. Plus it means I now have contacts all over the world!

I may end up doing some sort of ‘wrap up’ posts of things I forgot, but this may also be the last post in this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my Dutch adventures, even if I didn’t post quite as often as I’d hoped!

In all, my time in Leiden has been absolutely fantastic. I do not regret making the decision to come here at all. I’ve met some fantastic people, had a wonderful time and completely gone out of my comfort zone in ways I would have never expected just one or two years ago. THANK YOU to everyone who has been a part of my life here, I am going to miss you all so much.

leslie gif

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Notes from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands #10: A Reflection

Note from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands is my feature where I discuss my time studying at Leiden University. I want to blog about this amazing experience as much as I can!

In just under a week, I will be leaving the Netherlands and heading back to the UK. I just wanted to take the opportunity to look back at everything I have managed to accomplish this year.

  • For me, one of the biggest things was the fact that I moved to another country by myself. At 18, I didn’t even consider any university more than 2 hours away from home for my Bachelors degree, so the fact that I felt confident enough to move abroad alone was a pretty massive step.
  • I went to my first club. Yeah, somehow I avoided them entirely during my Bachelors degree…
  • I went on my first pub crawl.
  • I went to my first paint party.
  • In fact, I pretty much attempted to make up for the lack of stuff I did during my Bachelors degree.
  • I wrote a 30,000 word thesis that I am pretty happy with.
  • I travelled to both Germany and Belgium, and stayed in my first youth hostel!
  • I learnt some Dutch – I can’t really hold a conversation but I understand a lot more than I can express.
  • I realised that I love cycling everywhere and that it’s something we need to do more of in the UK.
  • I confirmed that this is DEFINITELY the career path that I want.
  • I met up with some of the most important people in my life.
  • I learned that any event, no matter how boring it sounds, is always interesting when there’s free food and drink.
  • Apparently I actually DO enjoy the gym. Most of the time.
  • I met some fantastic people who I hope will be friends for life.
  • And this is one of the most important things to me – I managed to almost entirely financially support myself. I’ve never been good at saving money, but somehow I managed it really well during the two years I worked to come here. And sometimes I forget that all the money I’m spending here, all my rent, my tuition fees, everything – has been mostly paid for by my own hard work. That, more than anything, makes me feel like a grown up!

Leiden

Ik ga je missen, Leiden!

Notes from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands #9: My Favourite Dutch Foods

Note from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands is my feature where I discuss my time studying at Leiden University. I want to blog about this amazing experience as much as I can!

So I realised that whilst I’ve talking about what I’ve been up to here in the Netherlands, I haven’t reflected much on differences and other new things I’ve discovered. This is something I’m aiming to cover over the next few months, because there’s only a few months left already…

And what’s more fun about a new country than the interesting food?!

I haven’t tried everything I wanted to just yet. Most of it has been sweet stuff… but here’s some things you should definitely try if you ever visit this wonderful country. It’s all totaal lekker!

1. Stroopwafels

Lekker! (image source)

Lekker! (image source)

Ahh, that Dutch classic. Stroopwafels are waffle biscuits with caramel in the middle and are delicious with a cup of tea – especially when you balance them over the mug so that they soften and the caramel melts. Be warned though – dropping an entire stroopwafel in your cup of tea is a very traumatic experience, not at all gezellig. You can also get warm ones from the market which are AMAZING.

2. Erwtensoep

(image source)

Erwtensoep is a pea soup that normally also contains smoked sausage, potato and carrot. It is absolutely delicious and I’ll really miss it when I leave the Netherlands! It’s warming and fills you right up, although I have yet to try a homemade version.

3. Mergpijpen

Evil, yet delicious. (image source)

Evil, yet delicious. (image source)

Evil yet delicious, mergpijpen are little sponge cakes filled with a layer of jam, then covered with marzipan and chocolate on either end. I only discovered them recently and it’s BAD. THEY ARE TOO GOOD PLEASE TAKE THEM AWAY BUT ALSO DON’T.

4. Babi pangang

(image source)

(image source)

Okay, so Babi pangang is an Indonesian dish, but Indonesian cuisine is really popular in the Netherlands, and I’ve never seen this at home. It’s a delicious pork and vegetable dish, served with rice. Next step: actually get round to visiting one of the many Indonesian restaurants in Leiden, and trying it there…

5. Speculoos paste

A LITTLE JAR OF LEKKER (image source)

A LITTLE JAR OF LEKKER (image source)

Another food that I hate as well as love because once you start you can’t stop, Speculoos paste is a sandwich spread made from speculaas biscuits. Yep. Made from biscuits. So you can imagine how bad it is for you – but it tastes SO GOOD.

6. Komijnekaas

(image source)

Komijnekaas is a Dutch cheese, historically from Leiden, that contains cumin. It sounds like a really odd mix but actually the two work wonderfully together: the creaminess of the cheese with a kick of spice from the cumin.

7. Turkse pizza

(image source)

Again, not strictly a Dutch food, but you can’t get Turkse pizza back in the UK as far as I’m aware. It’s my favourite kind of kebab and perfect after a night out.

Have you ever tried any of these? Do you have anything to recommend?

Notes from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands #8

Note from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands is my feature where I discuss my time studying at Leiden University. I want to blog about this amazing experience as much as I can!

I was going to do separate posts for every event, but I’ve gotten pretty far behind so I think I will just do a roundup!

  • At the end of November, I went to see the Vengaboys with my friends Jack and Ella. It was an event called ‘Leiden Loves the 90s’, with 2Unlimited and the Vengaboys playing live, and then DJs later on. We just went for the Vengaboys really, and someone *cough*Jack*cough* got really excited and even got to touch a Vengaboy when he reached out into the crowd! Definitely something that won’t be forgotten 😉
  • It was a really fun night, exhausting but amazing! Definitely worth the three months wait… we were overeager and booked our tickets in September, as soon as we heard about it. And guess what? We made it to the official video, we’re at 0:11!
  • The following weekend, I went to Cologne with some friends to visit the ‘Weihnachtsmarkts’ (Christmas markets). This was something I had to wanted to do for ages, and I hadn’t been to Germany for years. The train only took two and a half hours, we were in Cologne by early afternoon and then it was time to explore! To get to the centre from our youth hostel we had to cross a huge bridge – which has become a lover’s bridge, with thousands and thousands of locks attached to it!
  • Just a few of many... Cologne

  • The trip meant that I got to test out my rusty German – I studied it for seven years but haven’t used it for about five or six, and I was happy to find that everything came flooding back and I was able to get us by. I felt so pleased with myself!
  • I think there were seven or eight different markets, and we managed to cover five in a day and a bit. Each one had a different theme, plus a different collectible mug that you could keep when you bought a drink. Talking of drinks – there was of course the classic Glühwein, but OH MY GOD there was also hot chocolate with amaretto, which is quite possibly the best thing ever. So SO delicious, I may have had many mugs of it… I urge you to try it if you can!
  • Cologne Cologne

  • You can see some of the different themes in the photos above – one was all covered in gnomes, another had an angel theme and was covered in beautiful lights. We went to another which was meant to be like a little village, and the lesbian & gay Christmas market later in the evening, which had some really fantastic live music. The one next to the Dom (cathedral) was probably the least interesting of the lot!
  • On the Sunday, we paid a brief visit to the cathedral – naturally, as Archaeology and Heritage students, it being a World Heritage site – but it felt a little awkward because there was a service going on, and there were just loads and loads of tourists milling about and taking photos whilst people were trying to worship. I felt really uncomfortable actually, and had to leave – along with another friend who felt the same way.
  • Our final stop was the Römische-Germanishes Museum (Romano-Germanic Museum). I’ve been to a lot of museums in my life (shocker), and I really liked this one – it felt very open, and there was so much to see, but it was also set out in a way that made it easy to see everything. Some museums have loads, but their layouts mean you have to zigzag back and forth to see it all – this was nothing like that. And I found Serapis, the god that I did my Bachelor’s dissertation on – I’m always looking out for him in museums! 😉
  • I didn’t get to see quite as much of Cologne as I wanted, and it was insanely busy EVERYWHERE, but I liked what I saw and would happily return again one day! That’s the beauty of being here – so many places within easy reach, although time and money are the main issues at the moment…

I was going to do just the one post, but actually I think it will be a little too long – I think one more post will catch up! It’s been a rather hectic month…

Notes from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands #7

Note from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands is my feature where I discuss my time studying at Leiden University. I want to blog about this amazing experience as much as I can!

Last time I spoke about my afternoon in Amsterdam with some fellow book bloggers, and this time I want to share what happened in the evening! I’d arranged to go to a paint party with some friends, so after Mel, Judith and Amber left, I waited in the station for my friends to arrive.

What is a paint party, you may ask? Well it’s pretty self explanatory… it’s like a normal party, but you get sprayed with paint. Which sounds insane, and it is, but it was also AMAZING. We were told to wear white t-shirts for the best effect and so we’d have a ‘souvenir’ to keep afterwards!

Neonsplash

We got there kind of early, and it was pretty quiet. The doors opened at 10pm, but the paint wouldn’t be released until 2am. Luckily, there was plenty of awesome music to dance to, as well as some interesting entertainment to keep us amused, like stilt walkers and some dancers with crazy lasers!

Here’s how we looked pre-paint drop, me and Amazing Jack (he had absolutely no influence over that description whatsoever, none at all):

So clean!

So clean!

The paint drop was due to start at 2am, but they did actually release some paint a little earlier – with paint guns! You could also buy bottles of paint just before 2am, and everyone was just going round throwing paint on their friends and people nearby. It was a weird and funny experience, to be united with strangers this way!

The beginning...

The beginning…

And then 2am came – the paint drop! It was AMAZING! There was a countdown, the music started really blaring and then suddenly all this paint just fell from the ceiling. People came onto the stage and sprayed the crowds with different coloured neon paints, everyone was throwing paint around at each other, spraying it or purposely dropping it on people’s heads, all the while dancing to the music.

And the finale...

And the finale…

As you can see from the photo above, it was messy. And so, SO much fun. We stayed at the party until around 6am (it finished at 7am), at which point I was feeling exhausted, hungry and kind of cranky due to a combination of the first two… After some issues with first the bus, waiting in the freezing cold in just t-shirts and jeans as we’d left our stuff in lockers at Centraal Station, and then the trains which just did NOT want to run, we finally go back to Leiden at 8.30am. It was really strange cycling back to my flat to go to bed whilst everyone else was just getting up. The streets were so quiet, and thank goodness for that because I got some very odd looks on the way home!

This was my first paint party, and I had a really fantastic time – good friends, dancing, music and PAINT EVERYWHERE! It definitely made for a memorable evening. I would absolutely be up for going to another one.

Here’s the after movie if you’re interested in watching it – sadly I didn’t spot us anywhere!

Have you ever been to a paint party? Did you enjoy it? Does this look like something you’d like to do?

Notes from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands #6

Note from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands is my feature where I discuss my time studying at Leiden University. I want to blog about this amazing experience as much as I can!

So it’s been a while since I posted about my time in the Netherlands, therefore I have a bit of a backlog, about 3 posts or so to cover November and December. Let’s begin!

  • One afternoon I went with two of my friends to Leidse Hout, which is a big park/wood on the outskirts of the city. They have deer, rabbits and chickens, and there’s a little tea house near the entrance, so we stopped for tea and cake before going for a walk. It’s a beautiful place, a little green haven, and I definitely want to go back there to take some proper photos.
  • Leidse Hout

    Leidse Hout

  • In November I met up with the wonderful Amber, Mel and Judith in Amsterdam. First of all, we ate lunch in the library which is HUUUUGE, and we were hoping for a fantastic view over the city from the balcony – which was unfortunately closed for the winter. Luckily, there was still a nice view from the building itself!
  • After lunch we headed to… the bookshops. Is that a surprise? No? Well what is surprising is that we were all on book buying bans, and we stuck to them! I think my favourite of the bookshops we visited was the American Book Center, where I got to meet Tieman, who I have chatted to on Twitter, in person! They had a really great selection of science fiction and fantasy, and it wasn’t all shoved away in one tiny corner like you find in so many bookshops.
  • It still has the apostrophe!

    It still has the apostrophe!

  • Of course we ended up in Waterstones (which apparently still has the apostrophe in Amsterdam). It was strange being in such a familiar environment in a different country, and even stranger seeing a section for ‘British food’ and snacks, like Marmite, teabags, HobNobs and other things we might miss…
  • There was a board on the way out where you could write what you were currently reading, so of course we had to leave our mark.
  • The Wise Man's Fear! It's there, somewhere...

    The Wise Man’s Fear! It’s there, somewhere…

  • And finally, we ended up in Starbucks, as you do! It was wonderful to meet them all (or again, in Amber’s case), have a wander around Amsterdam and band together to keep each other from buying books!
  • Judith, Amber, Mel and myself.

    Judith, Amber, Mel and myself.

  • After everyone left, I was still hanging around in Amsterdam – because I was going to a paint party with my friends that evening – but my account of that is for next time!

There’s still a lot more to catch up on! As I write this, I’m 2 days away from going back to Leiden after the holidays and I’m super excited to be returning, but it’s also been nice to be home for a little bit.

Notes from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands #5

Note from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands is my feature where I discuss my time studying at Leiden University. I want to blog about this amazing experience as much as I can!

It’s been a little while since I last blogged about this. Since I last shared my experiences with you at the beginning of the month, a lot has happened!
  • 3rd October was ‘Leidens Ontzet’, which is a big celebration every year to mark the occasion that the Spanish siege of the city was stopped. It basically means a HUGE two day city-wide party and fairground. Rides and food stalls everywhere in the streets – it was impossible to cycle, let alone drive, through the streets because of the crowds. The festivities started on 2nd October, and we spent that day wandering around the fairground. My friends seemed to rather enjoy the skeeball… and I spent 20€ on an archery game to win stuffed toys. GUYS I FELT LIKE KATNISS. Except, you know, a lot less skilled.
  • Just a rollercoaster in the middle of the main square, as you do.

    Just a rollercoaster in the middle of the main square, as you do.

  • That evening we ended up at a party on a boat (AMAZING) and then trying (and failing) to get into other parties. Too busy! So we ended up eating currywurst and going on the dodgems at 2am, which was also super fun!
  • 3rd October was a later start, to recover from the night before, and we went to watch the ‘Polstokverspringen’, which basically involved people trying to pole vault over one of the canals. Three of my friends signed up, and it was amazing to watch! Then there were fireworks later that evening (and lots of alcohol…)
  • Leidens Ontzet at night.

    Leidens Ontzet at night.

  • My grandparents came to visit for a weekend halfway through the month, and it was lovely to see them again. I cooked them a meal one evening, which was certainly a challenge in my little student kitchen with few facilities! We went to visit Delft one day, a pretty place that reminded me a lot of Leiden – much more than somewhere like Rotterdam.
  • Once they’d gone home, it was pretty much just revision revision revision for nearly two weeks. My Archaeological Theory exam was HORRIBLE and I’m convinced I’ll have to resit, but we’ll see. Museum History went a lot better I think. BUT EXAMS ARE ALL DONE NOW YESSSSS
  • Me and some of my friends went to a museums conference (‘for experts’ apparently!) which was really fascinating. They also provided free food and drink afterwards, which is always a bonus. There were also free drinks at the archaeology faculty an hour later so… we made the most of both situations.
  • Wednesday night was a big celebration since we’d all finished. Our usual spot until 2am, then onto one of the societies until 4.30 or so. I didn’t get home until nearly 6am, and it was wonderful to be able to lie in and not worry about wasting time. I’ve spent the last few days being lazy and doing whatever I want: watching TV shows, reading, playing games – although I need to write my thesis proposal some time today… Just want to relax before lectures start again on Monday.
  • I’ve also found a love for the gym. I’ve been trying to go most days and I’ve kept up with it, until now! I haven’t gone since Tuesday (it’s Saturday as I’m writing this), but I’ll be starting again tomorrow or Monday. I feel really great after each session and I need to get healthier.

I’m finding balancing blogging and all this a little more difficult than I thought, but that’s probably because exam season has just finished. I’m sorry I haven’t been commenting on your blogs too, hopefully I’ll find some time soon.