– with some advice from other exchange students!
By Mirthe Levels
Hello and welcome to all new students! So, the new semester is about to start, as is your exchange experience. Do you feel like you’re ready for everything? I know that it can seem quite daunting to start your exchange period. To help prepare you a little bit I spoke to a couple of other exchange students about how they experienced their time in Tilburg.
My first question for them was what they expected to find in this tiny country, and if those expectations had been correct. Armin Barati from Canada said “Before coming here, I expected it to be a bit of a culture shock. It wasn’t like that though. Everyone’s super accommodating and I was
happy to find that mostly everyone speaks fluent English.” Jay Chen from America said he had had similar expectations about the language. “Yeah, I expected English to be widely spoken and understood, and I also expected there to be tons of bikes. Both expectations were correct, but even though English is widely known, grocery shopping was a bit difficult because none of the descriptions were in English.”
So, it seems like it might be a good idea to quickly learn some of your favourite vegetables in Dutch! To help you on your way a bit, here a quick lesson: for the healthy people under us, ‘Kale’ can be translated to ‘boerenkool’. It’s a pretty Dutch dish to eat kale with a smoked sausage. For those of you less healthy students (like me), if you ever see something called ‘stroopwafels’, which is a Dutch cookie, don’t skip it! There are also some great fried snacks like ‘frikandellen’ or ‘kroketten’ that you will probably get a taste of somewhere during the semester. And don’t you worry, for the less adventurous eaters under us you will also find the more familiar frozen pizzas (simply called pizza’s) in the frozen area of the supermarkets, too.
“I prepared myself to live abroad all by myself, and to be very independent,” Mari-Liis Vähi from Estonia said. “However, from the very first day I met so many people who were all doing the same thing, which was great! Everyone on exchange wants to make friends, so it is very easy to become close with so many beautiful openminded souls from all over the world. And luckily, this means you never have to figure things out all alone.” Dayana Akhmetova from Kazakhstan said that she expected to find herself in a beautiful country, and these expectations had been correct. “Clean air, lots of greenery, and a certain lightness came from Tilburg. However, the Dutch values and habits were quite a shock for me. They are very different from my country, so it was a bit difficult to feel ‘at home’. Still, Tilburg is a very safe and nice student city.”
“I expected to find a lot of friends,” Beatrice Barbato from Italy said. “I expected to learn from a new culture, and to improve myself. All of what I expected happened, although I did have to study more than I had hoped! What I wasn’t expecting was to look at the window of the plane when I
was flying home and cry, not only because I’m going to miss a lot of people, but also because it has been an amazing experience that taught me a lot.”
The students also have some tips for you. “Just really immerse yourself in the culture and have fun with your exchange experience, meet as many people as possible and travel as much as possible,” Armin said. Mari-Liis agrees, and said “Be active and participate in the events meant for both exchange students and for locals. Make some local friends as well to better immerse into the culture and get out of the exchange bubble! Mostly, don’t worry too much and just have fun, because you all are in the same boat with other exchange students and together with the help of the I*ESN mentors everything will figure itself out!”
“When you arrive in the Netherlands, don’t hold back,” Beatrice said. “You’ll never be alone, you’ll find amazing mentors, teachers, friends, flatmates and maybe, as I did, you’ll find yourself.”
“Experience the Netherlands with an open mind and really try to get out of your comfort zone,” Jay added to this. “I*ESN does an amazing job at organizing events and getting all the exchange and Dutch students together, so take advantage! Also, enrich your social interactions by making friends with people from all over the world – after all, that’s what exchange is all about.” Dayana advises new students to take part in the I*ESN activities as well. “Make sure that you try to participate as much as possible during the TOP week. I missed it, and I felt like it was a bit harder for me to find friends in the beginning,” she said. “Also, try to read about the culture from the place you’re going to live in, and be ready to face certain peculiarities. And don’t forget to have fun as much as you can, but still remember to study! It can be quite difficult to get used to the new education and grading system in the beginning, so make sure you take the time for this, too.”
Well, those sure are some helpful tips. I hope that these help you to prepare, and most of all get you very excited for what’s in store for you. In the mean time, join the group for 2019 – 2020 to see what I*ESN has in store for the coming semester!
See you soon!