Well, it’s official, I have made it through my first term in the Netherlands. I feel like I blinked and all of a sudden I have lived here for 2 and half months, already done a quarter of my exchange. My time here has been absolutely incredible so far so I figured it was about time to write an update on what I’ve been doing since I arrived in Rotterdam.
I arrived in Rotterdam at the end of August and moved into probably the coolest place I will ever live. I live in an actual tourist attraction; the cubes. Curious about what they look like? All you need to do is google ‘cube houses Rotterdam’ and your screen will be full of the bright yellow houses. I really have no idea how we ended up living in one of them, but hey, I’m not complaining. I had a few days to settle into the house and see what there was nearby. I have to say, my house is right smack dab in the centre of everything and it couldn’t be more convenient. I have the Markthal a 2-minute walk from my house and the Koopgoot (shopping gutter) as well. The Markthal is almost as aesthetically pleasing as the cube houses (that’s a joke, now you really need to google the cube houses). In all seriousness the cubes and the Markthal aren’t ugly, they just aren’t what you picture of an old Dutch city. Rotterdam was almost completely bombed during the Second World War so there are no cute old streets and old merchant houses like you see in Amsterdam but instead, it’s all-new architecture. The Markthal is probably my favourite part of living in the centre of the city because every Tuesday and Saturday they have a massive market in front of the actual Markthal. There are the most fantastic fruit and veggie stands, fresh meat and fish (not that those stalls really help me) and a variety of flower stands as well. It means I’m able to buy all my groceries at the market which is a million times cheaper than the grocery store. I mean seriously, I walk away with all my fruits and veggies for the week for under €10 which is about $15. My house is also an 11 minute (yes I timed myself) bike ride from my university.
It took me the most ridiculous amount of time to jump through all the hoops to stay in Rotterdam for a long period of time. It involves registering at city hall, opening a bank account, getting a phone plan, all things that you don’t realize are quite a process if you aren’t from the country. I finally got everything set up, after being here for over a month. I officially have a Dutch bank account, which I am weirdly excited about, and managed to get registered at city hall. I am very very thankful that I am here on my UK citizenship so the process was much easier (comparatively) than if I had been arriving on my Canadian citizenship.
After my first few days in Rotterdam, I had a friend from Canada come and visit and the two of us went to Croatia together. I will be posting a blog of that within the next week but figured I would give this update first. Once I got back from Croatia, it was time to settle into university again. My department here had an amazing orientation, taking us to a cute little restaurant beside a lake and a windmill. I was able to meet a lot of people who were in my program and get to know people before my classes started. And then classes started…and it was NOT what I expected. My Dutch university has their school year split into 4 terms and in order to complete a full course load that can be transferred back to Western, I have to take 2 courses per term. Both of the courses were so heavily theory based and, especially for history, I’m not used to it at all. I’m sure that I learned a lot from the courses but I really didn’t enjoy them the way I enjoy my history courses in Canada. Thankfully, I only had to do them for 2 months and have now started new classes which are MUCH MUCH better.
One of the nice parts about doing my exchange in Europe all the opportunities I have to travel. The first trip I did was, obviously Croatia, but after that, I travelled down the Munich for Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest was on my list of things that I absolutely must do while I’m over here. It was even more amazing because one of my best friends from Canada, who is studying in Spain, met me there as well. We rented a tent in a massive campground and then spent the entire day on Saturday at the festival. It was quite an experience, that’s for sure. The beer halls were absolutely packed but they were so much fun. We all drank far too much beer and ate some obscenely priced pretzels but it was definitely worth the trip down to Munich. I even wore a dirndl which, let me tell you, is not the most comfortable outfit to wear while drinking large quantities of beer. My second day there I did a guided tour of Dachau Concentration Camp which was a very dark experience, but something that I am glad I did. I left to go back to Rotterdam that evening. I travelled with Flixbus which is basically a discounted version of Greyhound. They do the job but spending over 24 hours on that bus round trip was not the most comfortable thing.
The next trip was the exact opposite of my trip to Munich, we had a rental car and actual rooms instead of just a tent, oh and we travelled for 2 weeks instead of 3 days. I will write a blog about this as well, but I’m talking about the road trip that my boyfriend and I went on around France while he was visiting me on reading week. He was the first person from home that I could show around ‘my city’ and show my campus to, and the first one to meet all my exchange friends which made the trip extra special.
My first two months in Rotterdam have been fantastic and I’m really excited about everything else this year has to bring. My Dad will be arriving on November 21st so I will get to show him Rotterdam and what my life is like here, my Mum will be visiting me at the end of January and together we will see Rotterdam and then spend a weekend in Belgium. Over Christmas, my best friend Reilly will be coming over to spend our second Christmas in a row in Europe. We will be visiting Paris, Venice, Prague and Berlin before heading back to Rotterdam for 5 days before she leaves to go home. This year is going by so quickly already, but I’m just trying to make the most of every day and enjoy my experience here.