Feeling the effects of last night. Exhausted, I was cycling down Vredenberg, one of the main streets in Utrecht, The Netherlands. It was 11 o’clock and I was on my way to a seminar at Universiteit Utrecht (or a “werkcollege”, as my lecturer frequently calls them, interchanging Dutch and English as he pleases). The sun was shining, the air was warm, and there was a plethora of people riding bicycles around me. I’ve lived here for three months, and I still look around in curiosity as I cycle. Taking it all in. I’d always wanted to study abroad, and now it was happening.
There had been months of anticipation of going abroad. I had so many questions in my head, which I was so eager to finally be answered. What would it be like? What kind of friends will I make? Is it going to be everything I think it’s going to be? As soon as the time came to actually leave the UK, I couldn’t believe it. Everything I had dreamed about for months on end was finally happening. From there, it all happens very quickly. You make all your best friends in the first week. You start your course. You go out and get drunk several times a week. Meeting new people, still. And before you know it, you’re half way through asking the question “Where did all that time go?”
I chose the Netherlands because I had previously been to Amsterdam whilst interrailing, and I loved it. I had only visited the capital, however, so I wanted to see more of this country as I felt there was more beyond what was offered in Amsterdam. Once I decided on the Netherlands, I chose Utrecht; a student city not far from the capital, bustling with activity, but not too big to feel overwhelmed. I was assuming I would have a cultural experience, frequenting museums, admiring Rembrandt’s work and eating copious amounts of stroopwafel. This was not the case. The only museum I have visited is Utrecht’s Centraal Museum, and the only thing I gained from this is a pretty sweet Instagram photo (see below). This is not to say I have done nothing cultural, I, like everyone else who lives in the Netherlands, ride my bike everywhere I go, to the extent that if I have to walk anywhere for more than five minutes I scorn for days.
I was expecting to meet a lot of people from different countries and backgrounds, in an attempt to broaden my cultural experience from that of the Netherlands to across the world. How I was wrong. I couldn’t have been more wrong. All but a few of my friends here are Australian. So many Australians. It’s come to the point where one doesn’t ask “Where are you from?” but instead “Are you Australian?” Not that I’m disappointed, I love them all, they’ve made this trip what it is, and now I know I have places to stay whenever I visit Australia. They’re a good bunch.
The nightlife in Utrecht is really fun. It’s nothing like Amsterdam’s infamous nightlife; it’s a lot more typical of what you would expect from a normal university town. There are lots of bars, of many different shapes and sizes, a few clubs, and a couple of music venues which offer club nights on certain days. The place I frequent the most is Chupitos, a shots bar chain which provides the best night out in Utrecht, in my learned opinion. They provide a very wide variety of shots: some which are so nice, you question it’s alcohol content; some of which are so horrible, you instantly get hit with an avalanche of regret. A night out which is always a lot of fun is going to see live music, and there is a lot of that going on in continental Europe. The first act I saw live abroad was Flume, and a large group of us travelled by bus to Brussels to see him. A week later, I went to see Hermitude on my own in Amsterdam, which was one of the best decisions I have ever made, as they were amazing. A week later, a huge group of us went to TivoliVredenburg to see ODESZA and several other acts live, namely What So Not. The music throughout the night was incredible, however it was let down by the fact that that the music was stretched out over the course of eight hours, which led to us feel pretty horrific by the end of it (some more than others).
Amsterdam. After living in the Netherlands I feel like I need to say something about it. I don’t like Amsterdam. There I said it. Tourists (mostly British ‘lads’) flock to Amsterdam in search of the ultimate night out, expecting a cocktail of drugs and alcohol, prostitutes and the sense of amnesia which follows the morning after. This has ruined Amsterdam. There is now such a large hype surrounding what a night out in Amsterdam should be like, and too many clubs offering different sorts of night outs, that there is too much to choose from. The result of this being that a night out in Amsterdam is more than likely to end in disappointment. This is exacerbated by the fact that the city is so large, and all the streets look the same, meaning that you can only find your way round properly if you know the city well and have a bike, i.e. if you live there. I saw Hermitude in Amsterdam, and granted they were excellent, but the night was ruined after they finished as I had to walk around in the rain, unable to get home as I had no phone and no idea where I was. In the end I had to stay at a friend’s house, but I would have much rather been able to sleep in my own bed that night. If you want to see the Netherlands, visit Utrecht, or another student town, such as Groningen.
Two months to go. It’s gone so fast. I don’t want to leave, but also I’m looking forward to getting back to real life.