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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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?