Notes from the Netherlands

Notes from the Netherlands #4

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’m getting a better balance of blogging and studying now!
  • I have my first two exams in three weeks and I’m kind of freaking out. I really don’t feel prepared in the slightest, we don’t even really know the sorts of questions we’ll be getting. Plus it’s just been sprung on us that we have to read an entire textbook for the Museum History exam – it would’ve been nice to have known that four weeks ago!
  • I went to Antwerp one Sunday to meet up with some friends – online friends, who I’ve known for seven years, and until that point had never met in person. It was wonderful to finally meet them after talking to them so often for such a long time. Hopefully we’ll sort another meeting out soon!
  • Antwerpen Stadhuis

    Antwerpen Stadhuis

  • There was something called Nacht van Kunst en Kennis (Night of Art and Knowledge) here in Leiden, so I went with my friend Jack. We assumed, from the description, that there would be street entertainment and stalls, so we’d be okay with not buying a ticket as they were €17.50 each. However everything was inside so we didn’t really get to see anything that was part of the event! Instead we went for some drinks and a chat, which was really lovely.
  • Our Museum History assignment is to compare two ‘time capsule’ museums: Museum Meermanno in Den Haag, and Teylers Museum in Haarlem. We’ve already been to Museum Meermanno (with a rather strange ‘Birds’ exhibition) and by the time this post goes up I should also have visited Haarlem!
  • Leiden by night.

    Leiden by night.

  • On 25th and 26th September, it was the official opening of the new archaeology building. To celebrate, they held a symposium for all students and staff. The first day consisted of a series of lectures by guest speakers from universities across the world, and the second day was a ‘crafts market’. They had stalls set up representing different areas of archaeology, for example at the osteoarchaeology stall there was a ‘skeleton puzzle’ where you had to try and put an entire skeleton together. They even had a camel you could ride and BABY GOATS!! I WANT A BABY GOAT NOW PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
  • Then there was a free bar from 5pm, and a party. Lesson learned: do not give archaeology students, or rather ANY students, an all night free bar. Fifteen glasses of wine later (in SOME cases, hahaha… I had about eight) and we were done before 10pm. Cheapest Friday night ever.


  • Up and coming (although gone by the time this has been posted, so I will have more to tell in the next one) is Leiden Ontzet, the celebration of the resistance of the Spanish siege. Basically a HUGE city wide party, fairground and everyone gets really, really drunk. It sounds amazing.
  • My grandparents are also visiting from 9th – 13th October, so that should be interesting! I’ll have to take them to a couple of different cities, it’s so easy to get anywhere from here.

    Next time I hope to have an account of Leiden Ontzet for you! Now back to studying…

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.

Notes from the Netherlands

Notes From The Netherlands #2

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 I last posted about my time here, so much has happened and I can’t believe it’s only been just over two weeks!
  • I got to know one of my coursemates, this amazing guy called Jack (you better be reading this Jack, haha!) a lot better, and he has definitely helped me to come out of my comfort zone and experience things I would never even have tried before – now I know I actually enjoy all this stuff I was just too scared to even try out, thanks to having someone there who I really get along with.
  • All of last week was Orientation Week, which was a very intense week full of events for Masters students. Every day there was a variety of different activities planned to help us get to know each other, as well as the city.
  • View from the Hortus Botanicus

    View from the Hortus Botanicus.

  • On Tuesday, there was a pub crawl planned for the evening. I’m not a particularly big drinker – or rather, I’m fussy about what I will actually drink. And until now, despite having already done three years at university, I’d never gone on a pub crawl. My mantra for the week was just to do everything and throw myself into it, leave my comfort zone. So I did it – and I’m so glad! I had such a fun time, and I think the fact that I enjoyed that encouraged me to do other things. And I probably also consumed more calories in alcohol than food this week as a result.
  • Wednesday night was a cocktail party at the ISN (International Student Network) house, followed by Einstein, which is a popular student bar in Leiden. Vodka definitely hits me very quickly. This night was even more fun than the last, and we got to have drinks sat on a gracht!
  • View from V&D

    View from V&D.

  • On Thursday night we went to a club called Next. This was a HUGE deal for me – as it was actually the first time I’d ever been to a club. Honestly. I enjoyed it so much more than I expected, and basically just decided to forget the fact that I can’t dance and just have fun. It was so packed, people were drinking and I’m pretty sure no-one would have noticed my dancing, whether bad or good.
  • And then Friday was the big end of week party at InCasa, so I’m pretty glad I got my first club experience before that – I felt a lot less scared this time! Another fantastic night, but a slightly earlier finish than Thursday, where I didn’t get back until 5am…
  • Overall, it’s just been an amazing time so far. Getting to know and spend time with some really wonderful people, all these new experiences, the fact that I actually had the courage to push myself into doing these things – I’m pretty proud of myself!

I can’t even begin to explain everything that happened this week, there was just so much! All I can say is that it has been completely and absolutely amazing. I know I’m going to be just fine in this wonderful city.

Sat outside The Duke of Oz during the pub crawl

Sat outside The Duke of Oz during the pub crawl.

Notes from the Netherlands

Notes From The Netherlands #1

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’ve now been in Leiden for nine days, and I feel so at home already. Here are some of my observations:
  • Dutch is tricky. Well I already knew that, but I’m scared of speaking it – but I’m getting better. Yesterday, I managed to go through an entire supermarket trip understanding everything and not having to use English. I didn’t give the cashier a blank look when she asked if I wanted my receipt, yay!
  • I will probably get run over one day because I’ll never get used to cars being on the other side of the road.
  • Loads of houses in the city have the names of the families or inhabitants on the front door, which is strange to me!
  • They also have HUGE windows (good) with no curtains (bad). So I end up looking into houses then immediately feeling bad for doing so.
  • Most shops don’t give change under 10 cents, which means NO MORE EVIL TINY COINS.
  • Everything just feels so relaxed. People aren’t rushing to get about, they’re polite and it seems so clean. More people on bikes means less pollution.
  • There are lots of canals (obviously), little lakes, green spaces and ducks, so I feel right at home.
  • Dutch cats don’t like me as much as English ones. *sobs*
  • This place is just AMAZING for photo opportunities.
  • I haven’t really been homesick, which is a surprise. But I’ve also had a long time to wait for this, and get adjusted to the fact that I’ll be living in a different country.

So what have I been up to?

My parents came over with me, to help take my stuff and get me settled in. I’m so glad they did, I think it would have been an entirely different story without them. They stayed until Sunday morning, and from Sunday to Wednesday morning I was by myself. I got various admin jobs done like opening my Dutch bank account and signing my tenancy agreement, I bought much needed household items and did some exploring.

Then on Wednesday, I finally met up with two of my coursemates, and then we met two more coursemates yesterday. It was really nice to finally hang out with people and have a face to face conversation again (there’s almost no-one in my halls of residence at the moment as they’re renovating most of the rooms, so it’s quiet). We explored the city (including the bookshops, yesssss), visited the botanical gardens, took a look inside two of the big churches, sampled some appeltaart, climbed up to De Burcht for a view over the city, visited the antiquities museum and even spent one evening in an English pub before coming back to mine after closing time for a cup of tea. So very English.

It’s been a really lovely few days getting to know people and spend time with them, and tomorrow I will meet even more – because that’s when the Orientation Week finally starts! I just know that this year is going to be an amazing experience already, and I can’t wait to share it with you all.

Tot ziens!


Thoughts #24: On Moving To The Netherlands, Part Three


As you may or may not know, I will soon be starting my Masters degree at the University of Leiden. I’ve already posted on the topic twice before, first to discuss my worries, and then to rant a little about my problems with finding accommodation, and to make a list of reasons why it will be amazing (my attempt to combat the negativity!). But guess what? Today is The Big Day.


Yup, today I fly out to Amsterdam. My flight is at 5.30pm and AHHHHHHHH. We’re staying in a hotel tonight, then we can pick my keys up tomorrow afternoon and move in! Then my parents are helping me to settle in, get in some basic supplies, and they’re flying home on Sunday night. It will be scary and exciting and emotional and so many different feels but I CANNOT WAIT.

But what might this mean for the blog?

Posts might be less frequent.

Although I honestly have no idea. I already have the rest of this month scheduled (and perhaps September by the time this post goes up) so I’m sorted for a few weeks at least. I don’t know how crazy my timetable will be, plus there’s so many new things to do, so I have no idea how often I’ll be posting.

You’ll see some posts on my experiences.

I won’t just be posting about books, now I’ll be talking about my year studying abroad. The culture, getting to grips with the language, the food, various trips I go on – I want to cover it all!

I’ll probably be slower to respond to comments.

Both on my own blog, and commenting on others. I’ll get there eventually!

I may be quieter on social media for a bit.

This first week might not be so different, since I’m moving in a week before Orientation Week and also I think before many others (a lot of people seem to be unable to move into their accommodation until September 1st, which is weird). I’ll mostly be using the week for exploring the city and getting to know my way around, and how active I am depends on how many people I meet during this quieter week.

So see you when I see you, lovely readers!


Snapshots #3: Water


I’m a bit of an amateur photographer – I studied photography at A Level, and it’s always been a hobby of mine. Snapshots is the feature where I share some of that photography! All of the photos link to my Flickr account, in case you’re interested in viewing more.

Today’s theme is: water.

At one of the millponds nearby.

Same millpond as above. The area is now a college for adults with learning disabilities, but most of the grounds are open to the public.

The Oude Rijn in Leiden, I will be moving to this beautiful city in a couple of weeks!

Bergerac, France.

Bergerac again!

At Porchester Castle in Hampshire.

Do you enjoy photography too? What are your favourite moments to capture?


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!


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?