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


Things I Have Learnt From My Thesis…

So I’m 22,500 words into my thesis. I have one chapter and the conclusion left and I’ve just been utterly stuck. The draft is due in for 1st May, but my sister is visiting from 26th-29th April, and this Saturday is going to be busy too. So, with a deadline looming over my head and (academic) writer’s block, what better than to write a post about it?! This is also the reason for a lack of posts lately – and I’ve got about seven books read and waiting to be reviewed.

Fran knows how I feel. (image source)
Fran knows how I feel. (image source)
  1. Procrastination knows no boundaries… I should be working on it as I write this. Cleaning my flat suddenly became a LOT more interesting. As did organising my clothes.
  2. The view from my room is fascinating. People watching is my new hobby.
  3. Coffee is my friend. Until the effect wears off.
  4. Literally 90% of my thesis stress comes from Microsoft Word. I’ve been writing chapters using Scrivener, but I’m using Word to compile everything and it’s the worst thing in the world. It’s like it sees you want to place something in an exact spot and goes ‘NOPE! NOT HAPPENING! YOU WANT TO ADD FIGURES?! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? FOOL!’.
  5. Music is ESSENTIAL. But it has to be the right music, namely film/video game soundtracks and classical music. Something without lyrics, but also epic – to accompany my quest to finish this thesis…
  6. Finding the right font is a time consuming, yet important, process. Those sub-titles need to look perfect.
  7. As is formatting chapters before the whole thing is finished just because it feels productive.
  8. And thinking up a snappy title.
  9. Below the word count?
    Below the word count? Sorted! (image source)
  10. The thesis becomes 80% of your conversation topics, in one way or another.
  11. It’s also the first thing you think of in the morning, and the thing you fall asleep worrying about. Or don’t sleep well because of.
  12. The gym is a wonderful distraction. I never thought I’d say that sentence.
  13. Non-uni related book guilt becomes worse.
  15. Sometimes it’s best just to write SOMETHING, even if that something is crap, and look over it later.
  16. I’m totally cool with wearing the same outfit 5 days in a row. Who’s going to see me?
The final deadline is 15th June. Wish me luck!
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 #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.

Notes from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands #3

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!

Since my last post – and I apologise for the lack of posts of any type over the past week – lectures have finally started!
  • Archaeological theory is a bitch. I mean, I always knew that, but I managed to avoid studying it in the third year of my undergraduate degree as I was doing joint honours, but I have to do it this time round. Just no.
  • Despite only having had two lectures of Museum History so far, I really like the module. The lecturer is passionate, enthusiastic and he always makes the topics interesting. Plus we get to go on mini excursions to the various museums throughout the city!
  • I already have to start thinking of a thesis topic, although nothing is due until November. As my first focus is Museum Studies, I need to include museums in there. I wanted to look at ancient Greek religion too, so I might go for something like how the religion is portrayed in museums – although that may be too broad.
  • Leiden

    Pretty sunset over Leiden.

  • Lots more fun nights out (Einstein is the best), days in being lazy, museum visits and a pre-drinking session that involved singing along to 90s, then 00s, hits. Oh, those were the years.
  • I ticked some more things off of my Netherlands Bucket List, including something you might find in a ‘koffieshop’ over here.
  • I went to the Hague one night with my group of friends, for ‘Museumnacht den Haag’, which basically meant that all the museums and art galleries in the city were open until 1.30am. We paid €8 for a ticket, which granted us entry to any of them for free, and can also be used to visit any one of the participating places within the next year. Considering the normal price of the museums, it was definitely worth it, and it was a really fun night – even if the roller disco was cancelled…
  • Den Haag

    Den Haag at night.

  • I now feel officially Dutch, as I finally got a bike today. Obviously that’s the only requirement. It’s also a sort of mint green colour so it stands out amongst all the others, which is good! It’s just rusty-looking enough to not get stolen. I hope.
  • AND OH MY GOSH I LOVE HAVING A SOCIAL LIFE. Considering that one of my worries was that I’d be really rubbish and not get to know people or go out, I think I’ve done pretty well! At home I was quite happy with my own company the majority of the time, but here I want to constantly be with other people. And that’s why I’m looking forward to watching movies with a friend tonight!
  • I’ve also now been here for just over a month. It’s both flown by and gone slowly. I really hope the year doesn’t disappear too quickly, I want to make the most of my time here, both with the city and the amazing friends I’ve made.
Museum Volkenkunde

I saw a wonderful photography exhibition here at the Museum Volkenkunde that just filled me with wanderlust.

Hopefully I’ll have some other posts up soon, but I hope you can understand why I’ve been slacking! I have done more reading lately though, which is good.


Thoughts #20: On Moving To The Netherlands, Part Two


You may have seen me on Twitter, talking about how I STILL have nowhere to live for Leiden. I will be moving out there in mid-August, and I have been completely and utterly messed around by the accommodation system. If I register one way, I’m told to register another; if I register that way I’m told to register the other way – the way I was before! And now their website isn’t even working, so I’m obsessively checking it several million times a day (including at work, who luckily are very understanding) to see if it’s working. There SHOULD be rooms available soon, but the longer the website is down, the closer the moving date is, and the worse I feel. This is the reason I haven’t really been active in the blogosphere for the past week – I’m going to try and get some more posts scheduled today, but if I’m a bit quiet for a little while, you know why. The whole process has left me feeling so angry and frustrated about the whole thing.


I’ve been trying to distract myself from being too obsessive about checking the website, or getting too angry at the completely and utterly useless responses I’ve had from the housing company. I sent them a long email explaining the whole situation and how angry and confused I was about what I’d been told, and all they said back was ‘we understand your confusion and frustration’. No ‘sorry this has happened’, no ‘how can we help?’. Nothing useful. So I thought I’d share some of the reasons that I can’t wait to move to Leiden, to get rid of some of this negativity!

Rinn’s super positive list of reasons why living in Leiden will be amazing:

  • I get to meet new people from all over the world, as well as some old friends. This is one of the most exciting things for me, and Leiden is such an international university that it’s pretty much guaranteed that I will be living and studying with people from all over the world. As well as this, I’m planning on meeting up with some of my online friends that I’ve known for seven years, so a meeting is waaaay overdue.
  • I can spend time with fellow archaeology nerds. How I’ve missed them. My fellow archaeology/museum lovers. I can’t wait to meet you! 😀
  • I will experience a completely new culture and city. Leiden looks BEAUTIFUL. I only visited very briefly last March for one of the open days, but I fell in love. Cobbled streets, canals, the architecture, the language AHHHHH
  • excited gif

  • I’m hoping that I’ll pick up the language much more easily when I’m there. I mean there’s no better way to learn, right? I’m not expecting to become fluent of course, I just want to know enough to get by.
  • I’m looking forward to living independently again. I love where I live, and my relationship with my parents now is so much better than it was when I lived at home before, during sixth form. I’m much more appreciative of them and what they’ve done for me, and I really will miss them. But I really enjoyed living independently during my Bachelors degree, so I’m looking forward to that again.
  • I er… am kind of excited about Dutch supermarkets. Yeah. I have this weird thing, when I go abroad and end up in a supermarket I find it ENDLESSLY fascinating. All these new foods! All these different brands! I don’t know why… I’m looking forward to trying a variety of Dutch food, like vla, poffertjes, bitterballen and hagelslag! Oh, and olieballen look DELICIOUS. Expect posts on my experience with Dutch food, because I will be trying it all. Mmmm, smakelijk…
  • hagelslag

  • I can’t wait to be a student again. I’m going to give it my all this time, really get out and do things, make sure I take part. I got a bit lazy in second and third years before. I want to make sure I go to all the student bars, attend some parties and days out! The orientation week (with the wonderful acronym of OWL) should help with that.
  • There are LOADS of opportunities for travel. Amsterdam is a twenty minute train ride away. I’ll be visiting Belgium and Germany for sure. As long as I can spare the money and the time, I’ll be making the most of my ideal position on the continent.
  • And of course… think of the blogging opportunities. I may have less time to read and review, but I can still keep the blog active with other posts on my experiences in Leiden!

So yep, even after all this crap I’m still so excited to be going! If you’ve had experiences studying abroad then I’d love to hear them! Or if you know anything about Leiden, places to visit or eat, then please share those too!