At the end of last August I started my exchange in Utrecht, Netherlands, a city for which I fell in love immediately. Utrecht has around 350 000 inhabitants, from which about 25% are students, so safe to say this is a proper student city. The atmosphere here is young and cozy, here they have a lot of cafes, restaurants and bars, but also a lot of activities, events, parties and trips organized by student organizations. Utrecht is a real Dutch-style city with a lot of canals and the beautiful old houses. And one the best parts is, it is only 25 minute train-ride away from the centrum of Amsterdam.
In Netherlands a school year includes four blocks, the same way as in Finland, so I’m studying here for two blocks. These two blocks last about 1,5 months each, and in between there was an autumn holiday and two weeks of “exam weeks”. During these exam weeks there is no lessons. I have had approximately 3 schooldays a week, and they have included only one subject per day and the lessons last around 2-4 hours. So there is not a lot of long lessons, but there is a lot to do outside these lessons. We have more assignments and group works than in Finland, and the amount of work was a bit of a shock in the beginning. There are usually always weekly assignments that you do in a group or individually (I have had mostly in groups) and even the weekly tasks can be many pages of writing. So the amount of things you have to do on your “free-time” is a lot more that I’m used to. The biggest difference to studying is the time schedule, usually in Finland there is remarkably more time to do something that we might do here in one week.
I still haven’t found the school being hard, and even though there might have been a lot of assignments to do, I haven’t had a feeling at any point that I don’t have enough free time. But if you decide to study in Netherlands, be prepared that you have to work for the school quite a bit.
Living and housing
I live in the school campus, area called De Uithof. This area is about 5 kilometers away from the centrum. This campus is like it’s own world with several school buildings, a lot of student housing, grocery store, few restaurants and bars. But still, there is fields with sheeps, cows and horses right next to the huge buildings! I just love that. I live with 4 other exchange students, we have a pretty big kitchen/living room area, and each one of us has quite a big room of their own. The best part is, that my school is right next to my home, right on the other side of the street.
On my free time I have traveled a lot with my friends. Travelling in Netherlands is very easy, there is a same card you can use in every place in this country in every bus, tram, metro and train station. Along with travelling around Netherlands, I have visited in 4 other countries in many different cities. Traveling in Europe is easy and very affordable, and it is definitely an opportunity to take an advantage of and use the free time to see new places. Everything is also pretty close, only a short flight (or rather long but very cheap bus ride) away! Other than traveling, free-time consists a lot of same things as in Finland; doing sports, watching Netflix and going out for lunch and dinners with friends. And last but not least, since I’m in the Netherlands and adjusting this Dutch culture, my free-time consists a lot of biking as well. I love the biking-culture, since everything is reachable with a bike and everyone does that no matter if it is sunny or a crazy rain.
I would definitely recommend Utrecht as an exchange destination, because this city just has it all. If you have any questions about doing an exchange here, don’t hesitate to contact me and ask.