We know that Utrecht has an amazing University, one of the oldest and biggest in Europe. We also know that students have a great effect on the life of Utrecht and are broadly welcomed into the city as they bring so much to it. they feel at home in Utrecht and also feel welcome.
One of the agencies that helps foreign students to feel so at home and to feel part of Utrecht is the Erasmus students Network at the University. I asked Guusje to tell us about it. She is 24 years old and has been living in Utrecht for about 6 months. Before that she lived in Sydney for her student exchange in Australia. Currently she works as an integration coordinator for ESN Utrecht. Together with five other board members she helps run this international student organization together with the ESN committees. Guusje studied violin at the Codarts Conservatory and is currently finishing her Bachelors in Psychology. Next year she will start her Master in Galway, Ireland.
What is ESN Utrecht?
ESN Utrecht is a non-profit organization for international students in Utrecht. We are part of the Erasmus Student Network and organize events for international student
Why did you get involved?
I think it’s very interesting to work with students from all over the world. The people in ESN are very open, everyone wants to be friends with everyone. Also, you learn a lot during the year by organizing all these activities and working together with different people.
Does it help students?
Yes, we help them with finding rooms, jobs, making friends, getting to know the Netherlands and create a social environment for them.
Where do most foreign students come from?
Most students come from Spain and Australia
Is there a language barrier?
Not really, everyone speaks English, because they need to be able to understand their lectures, but for the ones that would like to learn a little bit of Dutch we organize a language course.
What are the main cultural differences you notice?
That people have to get used to the “directness” of the Dutch.
In the UK there is concern that Brexit will affect the number of students who can go abroad to study. The UK government has not been clear on this so far.
I asked if Brexit would make a difference?
We are not sure as to what extent Brexit will influence ESN as a whole, or the section of ESN Utrecht. However, as the Erasmus grant is dependent on the European Higher Education Area, which is not limited to only European countries, and is a different entity to the European Union, the effect might be smaller than expected.
Why is Utrecht the place to be?
Utrecht is absolutely beautiful! It is not as big and touristy as Amsterdam, but as it’s in the middle of the country, you can travel everywhere else very easily. The centre is very cozy with old buildings, canals and everywhere small pubs and café’s.
Where is your favourite place in Utrecht?
Oudegracht is my favourite place. It’s in the centre of Utrecht and has a lot of shops, restaurants and café’s. In summer you can go down to the canals and enjoy a beer on one of the terraces.