I have always heard good comments about the Netherlands and Dutch people. I haven’t been to the Netherlands before and originally coming from a big city (Istanbul, Turkey), I wanted to live in a small, compact city and using bicycles as means for transportation sounded exciting to me. Also Dutch people’s fame about being open minded and highly civilized was another reason why I chose Rotterdam as my exchange destination.
I knew that everyone spoke English very well and I would not have any difficulty in communicating, which was also another important aspect for me. Of course, I wanted to travel around and being in the middle of many places worth seeing was another reason.
When I visited Rotterdam in May 2012, before my exchange started, I made my last
decision and I am very glad I chose to come to Rotterdam. Except for the reasons I mentioned above, I was also impressed by Erasmus University Rotterdam’s facilities, both academic and social. Various interesting courses that I could choose and the valuable academic staff were some of the main reasons for my decision. I felt enthusiastic about studying a term at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, which would deepen my knowledge and skills in film and media studies, broaden my perspective, and also improve my general development. I believed that a master’s degree which is the combination of University of Copenhagen and Erasmus University Rotterdam would be quite fruitful for me; meet my academic needs, such as my ongoing research about film and media culture including comparisons between different European countries; and inspire me for my ongoing video project; enrich my future studies; and help me fulfill my career goals since I desire an international career. Finally, another reason was the Netherland’s fame in film theory and production field, since I was also motivated to complete my ongoing video project during my stay in Rotterdam. My video project was supported by the Stichting NAC. Finding your way around as a newcomer Erasmus University Rotterdam’s website (especially the welcome page for exchange students) had been an amazing source of information for me. I visited the website regularly before and during my stay and I was able to find answers to most of my questions, and the advices published there were
also great help. The orientation events were also great for newcomers which showed me the way to settle in Rotterdam step by step. I wish there was an extensive seminar on Dutch Culture though. I remember attending to a similar event, but I was not satisfied with it that much. Even though I did not have enough time to attend the Crash Dutch Courses, I am pretty sure it was a great opportunity for whom attended the courses. The International Office staff have been very welcoming, helpful. They have always been
there to answer my various questions and I always felt that they were there if I needed them. It was really good to feel confident about this. Because I know that some of my friends who were exchange students in other locations, had difficulty in contacting and communicating their counsellors, and it was difficult for them. You know, when you are trying to settle in a new country you have many many questions. Besides the practical questions, the International Office staff were also capable of helping me out with academically integrating to Erasmus University Rotterdam by showing me the way with procedures such as registering for courses, exams, and other regulations.
Erasmus University Rotterdam I have attended the following courses from the Research Master programme; “Sociology of Media and the Arts”, “Cultural Sociology”, and “Research Design”. These courses were my electives to be transferred to my home university. I have really enjoyed them all and it has been a huge plus for my academic career. I have also attended these courses for a few weeks which were also very interesting; “The Netherlands: History and Culture”, and “Television and Society”.
If I would compare my experiences in Erasmus University Rotterdam and University of Copenhagen, in terms of teaching methods, I would definitely claim that the study load of the courses I have followed were much heavy in Erasmus University Rotterdam. One reason for this is the fact that I have chosen to follow courses from an upper level (Research Master level). The curriculums for the courses I have followed were more based on quantitative methods. I was experienced with qualitative studies. I believe the reason for this was, because I have chosen courses from Faculty of Social Sciences. I am enrolled to the Faculty of Humanities at University of Copenhagen. The difference between the structures of academic year (the terms and semesters) were also very different to me. I was used to the semester system at my home university, which would mean that you would follow one set of courses for approximately four months (one semester, half an academic year). But the system in Erasmus University Rotterdam is based on terms, which requires you to follow two set of courses each semester (two terms make one semester). To be honest, I expected some difficulty, but not this much. If I were to chose courses for my exchange studies a second time, I would certainly chose courses from Master level (not Research Master), and I would not consider registering for courses which would be completely different with my main field (I took Sociology courses, while I was a Film student). Even though I struggled a lot in getting adapted to this way of teaching (which was a completely new experience for me), with the help of my classmates and professors, I managed to complete the courses successfully. Of course it took too much of my time and effort, but I believe that it was definitely worth it, because I found the chance of developing myself academically.
Last but not the least, I would suggest new coming exchange students to choose and register for courses which would suit their academic level and prepare themselves for a great deal of studying. Because naturally you are expected the same performance with the full degree students, so being an exchange student will not change what is expected from you academically. It should be kept in mind that, too much study load might not let your dream exchange come true. Of course, as students our main concern will be our studies, but remember to save some time for traveling, making friends, and new experiences during your exchange. Accommodation in Rotterdam I had some adventure, but in the end not much difficulty finding accommodation in Rotterdam. I had visited the city in May 2012, when it was certain that I would be an exchange. I started looking for a room. One of the advertisements I had found on a website was fake. While I was there, I wanted to see the room before I paid the deposit (which was an enormous amount of money for a regular student – 3 months rent!!!). I was lucky enough to figure out that there was no such address in Rotterdam, and I decided to try another way to find a place to live in. I had a friend who was residing at one of the artist residencies in Rotterdam and she advised me to apply for one. I already had a video project in my mind, that I would like to spend some time on it while I was in Rotterdam. I decided to apply and thankfully Stichting Nac supported my project by providing me one of the foundation’s artist residencies. We settled everything (such as the rental contract) before I arrived in Rotterdam in summer, therefore it was a safe deal. Comparing to the private market, I paid quite less (250 Euros, including bills, for a whole house!) So I found the chance to live in a dream house for almost five months. It would be a good idea for students who have an art project in mind to apply to such foundations for accommodation. But it should be kept in mind that early reservations are necessary.
What to do in Rotterdam?
As far as I know, Rotterdam is known for being the center of modern arts in the Netherlands. I followed galleries, museums, and tried to attend to exhibition openings, which I believe are perfect environments for meeting new people and understanding the dynamics of the city by following the art work. I found the chance to travel many cities in the Netherlands such as; Amsterdam, Utrecht, Delft, Breda, Den Haag, Eindhoven, and Maastricht. Although Rotterdam has a unique place in my heart, I really loved Maastricht and it has become my favorite destination in Europe. I recommend the new incoming exchange students to travel around the country as much as they can, because every spot is worth seeing with both historic and modern architecture, and with a variety of museums all around in each city. Location of the Netherlands is also perfect for traveling around Europe. I managed to visit Paris for the first time and I definitely suggest a short trip during an exchange in Rotterdam. London, and various cities of Germany and Belgium, are also perfect destinations near by for short trips. The transportation is very easy by trains and the discount card for railways is a must for every student. I would also suggest a bike trip between near cities (for instance; from Rotterdam to Delft);
if the weather and your physical condition allows you to do it of course.
Favorite moments of my exchange
As I have mentioned before, coming from a huge city (Istanbul, Turkey), I have always dreamed of living in a small town. A few days after I came to Rotterdam, I realized that I was living the daily routine I have always been craving for. I would bike to the campus; attend amazing lectures; have a coffee break with classmates; bike again; do some grossery shopping; bike back home again. When I got back home, I stopped for a moment and I thought “This is the way I want to live!”. And there was peace and happiness for me… No traffic, not spending hours trying to go to school or home, no stress, and having time for your own! I know it sounds a bit boring, but this was what I needed from the very beginning. Another favorite moment was when I climbed upon the wind mill (right across my house!) for the first time. Another one was when I was amazed to take the metro and stop in another city (from Rotterdam to Den Haag)! It was something I had never seen before and realizing that the Netherlands was such a tiny country was amazing for me! Actually I the list of my most memorable and favorite moments is never ending, because every single moment I spent in Rotterdam was beyond perfect! Making new friends I was a quite busy exchange student compared to other fellow students. I took Research Master level courses, which had many study load. I had to start studying for my Master’s thesis. Plus, I had a video project. Unfortunately, all these meant; less time and energy to travel, party, and make new friends. I found the chance to meet great people during my time at Erasmus University Rotterdam. The courses I chose to take were coincidentally compulsory courses for the Research Master in Sociology of Media, Arts and Culture programme and there were eight (both Dutch and
international) students enrolled. Although this small group, including me, were very much concentrated on their studies, we had great time together. I can definitely say that Dutch students in my class were very welcoming both in terms of practical and academic matters. They were all really nice, helpful, open minded and successful people who have become a huge inspiration for me. Of course, I was not all that antisocial, I had many close friends who were already studying in the Netherlands and many friends from my hometown came to visit me. I had organized an International Food Evening event for my classmates and it has been an inspiring and motivating evening for all of us. I also found the chance to be a part of the International Student Panel at Erasmus University
Rotterdam. I recommend every international student to apply for a membership in order to build a bridging relationship between the university and students; and make new friends from different countries and disciplines. Being a part of such a diverse community as a true experience for me.
Suggestions for exchange students
Here are a few suggestions for new incoming exchange students:
Time flies; especially when you have so many attractions around you. Therefore, I would suggest that you enjoy every single minute of their exchange. There are numerous museums all around the country. I have heard that the Netherlands has the highest number of museums in the world. Even though it sounds a bit boring at the first sight, I think there are exhibitions worth seeing. Rainy days are perfect for museum tours! Buying a museum card might be a good idea, then you get discounts on entrance fees and even free
admissions! Have picnics and feed the ducks! Learn how to bike and how to repair a broken bike, you will definitely need it. Eat pancakes! 🙂
International Food Evening. On 9 December 2012, me and my classmates (Romy who is half-Malaysian and half-Dutch, Maria from Spain, Isabella from Greece, Mansour from Saudi Arabia, Susan who is Asian-American., and Frank and Xanel from the Netherlands) from the Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam had an international food evening at my place. Everyone brought a homemade dish special to their country. The menu was quite broad; we had tzaciki, borek, cheesecake, thai soup, humus, baklava, kaas soufles, chocolate letters special for Sinterklaas and pancakes with various different toppings. We talked about different cultures, places, favorite locations, local events and travel routes. Each of us had travelled abroad frequently for vacations, therefore everyone had a story to tell. We exchanged ideas such as budget tips, best locations, symposiums and conferences about our fields, festivals, gourmet spots and so on. During the event, I asked everyone to describe their dream travel by making a list. The only rule was not to write down anything that you have experienced before. So, I wanted them to bring completely new ideas other than what they have already experienced. The list had 6 sections to be filled in: The location (country, region, city or even a district which is dreamed to be travelled to, e.g. Paris), the food (the best local speciality to be tasted, e.g. Hot wine), the event (the local event such as a festival or a celebration related to the place of visit, e.g. an underground concert at the Catacombes), the museum or gallery (the ‘must’ visited, e.g. Louvre Museum), the monument (e.g. The statue of Montaigne), the natural attraction (e.g. Lavender fields), the souvenir to be bought (e.g. Posters made of tin). It was very nice to see my friends daydreaming and contemplating about their future travels.After everyone made their list, we read them one by one and we suggested ideas for each dream travel. So, our lists became broader. We promised ourselves to make our dream travel come true at some point of our lives. This little game was very much favored by all of my friends, so I asked them to spread it through their friends. I hope one day everybody will have a dream travel list which they promise themselves to somehow make it become real. Finally, we all underlined the importance of spending time abroad and taking a step out of our safe-zones. We agreed upon the fact that such experiences are essential in terms of getting to know yourself and, of course, self-development. To conclude, the event was full of inspiration and motivation for all of us.
Ecem Cennet Sarigul