Last updated 6 months ago by Alina Nabeel
It’s been a year since I landed in the Netherlands. In terms of knowledge about the culture, geography, language and a few other things about the Netherlands, I was embarrassingly ignorant. Surfing the web and going through my university’s study abroad programs did help me with some important information but the best learning happened only after I dragged my suitcases out of the NS train onto the cobblestone streets trying to find my housing.
To help you all better embark on a similar adventure like mine, here are a few tips that I learned during my study abroad in Dutchyland.
Secure a place to stay
Make sure to lock in your accommodation prior to your arrival in the Netherlands. Housing in the Netherlands is no cheap ride! So make sure that you budget well. Generally, Dutch universities do not provide on campus student accommodation so you are required to make your rental arrangements yourself. However, they might assist you in finding some accommodation. It is better to stay at a shared international housing to engage with students from different backgrounds. Mixing with these students and learning about their cultures will teach you about lands beyond this tiny Dutch world.
Get ready to jump on those two wheels
You will see bikes literally everywhere in the Netherlands. You are going to see more bikes than people here! The country offers well established biking paths almost everywhere in the country. Biking is one of the most convenient ways of getting around cities here. So getting a bike is something you should do as soon as you land in the Netherlands and take full advantage of the biking culture in this incredibly flat country. You can find cheap used bikes from Facebook marketplace for your stay in the Netherlands. Just make sure to properly lock your bike when you park it outside as despite being an extremely safe country, bike thefts are a norm here!
Everyone speaks English
Don’t speak Dutch? Geen Problem! You will be surprised to know that almost everyone here is fluent in English. However, the only drawback of this is that you can end up living in the Netherlands for years and might still not learn Dutch. Still it is highly suggested to learn Dutch as street signs, public transportation information, and official documents are not translated in English. Moreover, sliding a few words from your Dutch vocabulary during a conversation is also awesome if you want to return home after your European study abroad and wish to show of your bilingualism to your friends back home.
Travelling across the Netherlands
Even though biking is the norm you might still want to make use of Dutch public transport on your lazy days. You will be surprised to know that all you need is just one OV-Chipkaart to travel across the country. All public transport is accessible with the OV-Chipkaart. The Dutch transport system is one of the most efficient ones in the world and is also relatively cheaper than most other European cities. So the first thing you should do after arriving in the Netherlands is to apply for an OV-Chipkaart. These cards can be topped up either online or at the ticket machines located at train stations. Once you get your OV-Chipkaart you can reap the benefits of special student discounts!
Getting high grades might be more challenging than you expected
The Dutch education system is ranked one of the best in the world. Being an exchange student you might have less time getting used to the European style education system. Moreover, with few graded assignments and homework throughout the semester, you can face difficulties coping with the workload as you might have planned to gallivant around Europe during your stay. The Dutch education system also considers high grades way more unattainable as compared to American universities. However, do not get demotivated, work hard, study harder and make the most out of your short stay in the Netherlands!
In short, studying abroad in the Netherlands is a lifetime experience. I am sure you are going to get obsessed with the biking culture, Gouda cheese and the orange-adorned streets during the Kings day and most importantly, dancing away the weekend nights until the sun rises!