Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Erasmus in Nijmegen

OH – MY – GOOOOOD!! (please use this pronunciation when reading this out loud) If anyone would have told me that going on an Erasmus exchange is such an extraordinary experience, I would have started looking forward to it 10 years ago! I have actually no idea where to start, because there is so much I want to tell you; about Nijmegen, my roommates, the different cultures that I was in daily contact with, the university, the food, the night life, the excursions, my hamster, the mentor group, the amazing sports centre,..well actually about everything. So how on earth am I supposed to get all of this in one article? I guess it’s impossible, so let’s just start at the beginning and see how far we get.

I came to Nijmegen for the first time on 15th August in order to take part in the introduction week. I don’t know what was wrong with this day, or probably with me, but my first impression of Nijmegen was horrible! The city centre where I had lunch with my parents was deserted, the Erasmus people waiting in the queue with me were ALL Polish and the floor and especially the kitchen where I was supposed to live for 5 and a half months smelled like something indefinable. (Don’t worry, I will not follow the example of some former Erasmus students and keep on talking about the things I didn't like;)) But then, things turned out quite differently. The introduction week that started the next day can only be described with one single word: epic! I’ve never seen so many people from different countries, I’ve never heard so many different accents, I’ve never partied for 10 days in a row and I’ve never had to repeat myself so often when explaining where I actually come from. It really was the best start I could ever have imagined.

After that week, I had to deal with something more serious: school. Courses started already on 31st August and Mélina and I were immediately thrown in at the deep end. We had to fill out numerous forms, order readers, buy books, enrol for classes, even though we thought we were already enrolled and find our way on the campus, which seemed to be huge, but in the end turned out to be one of the smallest campuses in the Netherlands. After the first week I was pretty exhausted and a bit disappointed that no one had helped us find our way round. But today I am very grateful for that because I’ve become much more self-assured because of this. What I particularly liked about the university is that it is quite modern and new. Everything is connected by computers and you can only borrow a book in the library by reserving it via the online catalogue. Moreover, the food in the refectory was delicious! I really enjoyed the student’s life there, although the Dutch students remained quite reserved. After a month or so, I understood that Erasmus students were seen as outsiders, which I actually wasn't expecting. But I couldn’t be helped soI made the best of it. As far as the courses are concerned I can say that all of them were quite interesting and also challenging. Sometimes I had the feeling that I would never be able to make it, but then somehow I managed and that made me even prouder. Something rather uncommon was the fact that we had a study period and exams in October and once again in January, but actually it’s a good thing because you have less work to do in January.

Next to the university, you’ll find an amazing sports centre, where more than 50 sports are on offer. I think I’ve never done so much sport in my entire life; I am really going to miss the spinning classes with my Erasmus friends. Talking about the friends I made there, I had very nice flatmates, among which one German girl and a girl from the Dutch Antilles who speaks Papiamentu, which I think is very cool, because I’d have never thought I would once meet a person who can actually speak that language. The room as such was quite nice and the best thing was that Mélina and I were located at Hoogeveldt, which is exactly where all the Erasmusparties were held every Tuesday night. Bike accidents due to elevated alcohol consumption happened thus rarely...:) Partying in the Netherlands is not really different from partying in Belgium. We used to have pre-parties in someone’s flat, because alcohol is quite expensive in the bars. The parties usually started around midnight or even later, especially because the majority of Erasmus students were Spanish and thus had finished their dinner by then. The city centre offers lots of bars and clubs to go to, but actually I have the feeling that flat parties and birthday parties were held more often and were preferred by everyone. After all, we’re all poor students (except for the rich Americans :)). But regularly the ISN-office organized parties and activities for the Erasmus students like trips to Texel, Maastricht, Aachen or Rotterdam and mostly theme parties like the Halloween Party, the Christmas Party, the stereotype party, the Black-and-White party, the beach party, the pyjama party and so on. A thing I had to get used to, but with pleasure, was the daily bike rides. It was terrific and even when it was raining I enjoyed riding my bike. I am definitely keeping my bike for Leuven. Well, I guess this is pretty much all that I can tell you in an article, even if there is still a lot more to talk about. I just want to end this article by telling you some things I didn’t know before going to Nijmegen. Hot, freshly-made “oliebollen” is the second best sweet food I have ever tasted. Leffe bruin is called Leffe dubbel and it’s bottled in a different kind of bottle than in Belgium. I’m still doubting whether I should send a mail to the Leffe brewery to ask them why this is so. Dutch toilets indeed look differently than Belgian ones; thank you Simon. On Monday shops are never open before 11 o’clock, “apekooi” is the greatest ball game ever and some Dutch people behind the bars don’t know the word “pintje” which made me feel very uncomfortable until I realised that they call it “een biertje”. Now, I really have to stop but the very last thing I still want to say is addressed to the BAC II students: JUST DO IT!

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