I spent in the rainy lowlands more than 9 months, and experienced a wide range of emotions – from feeling sense of achievement, to depressing over the weather, and stressing over exams. The country itself turned out to be far more than I imagined. I loved the relaxed, worry-free lifestyle of the Dutchmen, as well as their openness to other cultures.
However, I was negatively surprised by the unnecessary bureaucracy both, in the University system and the city. The process of registering, getting work permits etc, was so confused for foreigners, that I got wrapped up in all the paperwork, and wasted time which I could spend seeing Holland instead.
The University met my expectations, as I learned a wide range of subjects, and took the opportunity to choose courses from other faculties. I extended my areas of knowledge to history, public relations and even cultural economics spheres. The courses were intense, filled with never-ending amount of assignments, and twice as many as we would cover in my home university. I found it confusing at first, but then I worked my way into the system – it is all about the points here, and ticking the boxes of what is expected of you. I am sad to say, because of this system which pushes a lot of assignments in a small amount of time, like a factory conveyor belt, I felt like I have to compromise on quality to get it done in time. I tried using critical approach to the tasks, but that was not appreciated by some lecturers, as they noted the assignment was much simpler than I have analyzed it. Overall, some courses were great, but others very superficial. However, as soon as I learned of how to approach my tasks, and manage my time – I started sorting them out myself, by devoting more time to courses I found fascinating, and less time to those I did not enjoy,
To sum up, I would say I learned a great deal from inspiring academics, and broadened my horizons. Now I feel confident about my dissertation, that I have a good basis and great ideas which I could pursue as my final thesis. Moreover, I learned to independently live in a country which language I don’t know, and easily adapted to their customs. This experience has been the best training for life!
As soon as I learned that you would like me to inspire others to go abroad, I opened a blog under lifewithonetowel.blogspot.nl . In my opinion, there is no better way of inspiring others than with your own stories. For 9 months I wrote about my experiences as an exchange student – about budget places to go in Holland (for incoming students), about exciting places to go (for outgoing), as well as about my own life here – how to fight with a housing situation, or Dutch bureaucracy. As soon as I met anyone who was interested in me, life abroad, or studies in another country, I gladly presented them with my card that directed them to the website. I also gave them out at a study abroad fare on campus during the first semester. I am happy to say, the blog was a great success – it was featured on the International Student Blog, as well as has more than 4000 hits.