I had a chance to spend four months in Utrecht, a city in the Netherlands. The Netherlands presented itself as a land of great cheese and bicycles. During my spare time, I rented a bicycle and went to explore everyday life in Utrecht.
When COVID-19 took over Europe, Netherlands closed its schools quite quickly. After schools were closed and everything went online, I started to spend a lot of time with the exchange students who I shared an apartment. We made dinners together, watch movies, talk about a lot of stuff, so I had opportunities to learn how to make Greek or Czech food.
Living and studying in the Netherlands was quite the experience for me. It wasn’t the “best time of my life” as most people say after their exchange but I did live a lot, make great memories and stories and I would do it again any day. Here’s a few tips you might find useful if you consider Utrecht as your exchange destination.
Studying in Utrecht can be different to Finland depending on the university you study at. I studied Music Marketing & Management at the HU University of Applied Sciences and I had school 2-3 times per week for a few hours and the whole study program was incredibly easy. For anyone wanting to study music business, the program in HU is a fair choice but I reckon there are better schools and programs out there. I was personally disappointed in the program. If you want to make the most of your exchange and don’t want to focus too much on school, HU is the place. It’s stupid how well you can do with minimum effort. For the folks who actually want to study and learn, Utrecht University is your jam.
Netherlands is a great destination country if you want to travel around Europe, as many countries are just a train ride or a short flight away. Trains are relatively expensive but you can find cheap flight tickets if you take advantage of different student deals that are available. I focused mainly on enjoying the student life in Utrecht and exploring the different cities within the country but did visit a few countries during the Autumn.
One major thing to take into consideration is accommodation. To put it simply: housing in Utrecht is terrible. If you want student housing, you need to book and pay for it the minute it is possible, even if you don’t know if you got accepted into the school. The rooms will go very quickly and if you’re not able to get one, the school can’t do anything for you. I didn’t get student housing and ended up living 6 months in the upstairs of a very sketchy driving school, which later on turned out to be illegal. So don’t be like me, be early! The rents in Utrecht are high and most flats have mildew but that’s just the way it is here. Ain’t no changing that.
I did spend my exchange in Breda, which is a small city in the southern part of the Netherlands, located in the province of North Brabant. I studied at Avans University of Applied Sciences and joined the minor in Environmental Geography. The first period of my studies was quite intense, but then I got used to it.
In my free time, I travelled a lot around the Netherlands and travelled to Germany. During my stay, I also made friends and spend time with them, we went together to events and explored the city of Breda.
Life in the Netherlands is quite like life in Finland, the prices of groceries and housing are almost the same. One big difference is the bicycle traffic and the number of bikes – it is crazy! But it is the easiest and fastest way to travel around the city.
I spent 6 months on my favorate city in Netherlands, in Breda. my trip started over a year ago and it ended just before the covid-19 pandemic reached Europe in february. I really fell in love to Breda. The architecture, the landscapes and the people. I Traveled to Breda 2 weks before my school started there and had plenty of time to get to know the place and the people there. And during that period it was +30 degrees everyday which was a bit different from Finland in september.
The city of Breda has about the same amunt of people living there as Tampere, but the area of the city is way smaller and the city is almost 1000 years old already so it has some really beautiful old buildings there. The gate abowe is a picture of the entrance to the prison of the city.
Finding a place to live as a foreign exchange student was really a handfull but after searching for about 6 weeks i managed to move into a small house with a yard (shown above). The downside of the flat was that i needed to share it with the owner who was a local musician in the respectful age of 75. So no parties in the house or any excess noise whatsoever. Thankfully the city centre wasn’t that far away so i could enjoy the student parties and the many pubs of the city.
I studied Biotechnology as a minor in Avans university and it involved a lot of different projects from cultivating Hela Cancer cells to studying beer DNA and isolating specific genes from the Yeast strains involved with beer making to study the effects of fermentation to the fravour of beer. It was a really interesting time in my live.
My exchange period is almost over and I think now is good time to tell you something about my studies and the Netherlands. My studies here have been quite intensive and I was well prepared for that. I am studying in The Hague University of Applied Sciences and I participated in course called ‘Smart Manufacturing and Robotics’. The basic idea of this course is to design automation systems for companies, and I would totally recommend this course for somebody who is studying automation or mechanics and is ready to study from 9am to 5pm every day. The course may be a little bit different than what we are used to in Finland and in TAMK. There is more freedom but also a lot of self-studying and hard work. I have really liked this course but because of corona it wasn’t quite same experience what it would be normally.
But for those people who want to have more free time I would say that choose another course. Because free time in the Netherlands goes really quickly. The thing what I liked the most in the Netherlands is the possibility to travel another countries really quickly and easily. Even despite of the Covid-19 I managed to make one week trip to Frankfurt, Zürich and Luxembourg. If you want to stay inside of the borders you will still have plenty to do. The Netherlands is a beautiful country, especially in the springtime. If you want to see beautiful landscapes you should go to watch tulip fields and for those who are more into sports go to watch football, hockey and F1. There is also many museums and historical places.
Living in the Netherlands is quite similar to Finland but there is one thing what you must have and that’s a bike. The bike is the king of the transportation although the public transport works also well. Price of the food is quite similar as in Finland and grocery store selections are good. But there is one product which is much cheaper than in Finland and that’s alcohol. For a poor student who likes to taste different beer brands I would say that go to the Netherlands.
What’s happening, peeps? I hope you’re doing well!
Man oh man if this spring has not been the weirdest, right? 2020 is doing a great job at being a pissy POS that just ruins the fun for everybody. Like seriously, start off with Australia looking like the end of Apocalypse Now, follow up with a global pandemic like it’s nothing, whip up a couple of earthquakes and other natural disasters, and finish it off with a little spice with the whole Kobe incident. Right now the USA is on fire because of the horribly sad and gut-wrenching case of George Floyd, and I’m just here, being 23, and for the first time in my life feeling so overwhelmed by all of this that I feel like like I am, in fact, stuck on a space rock zooming through the universe a million miles an hour without being in any control over of whatever the F will happen next to me, and to all of us. So here’s to that – ain’t life just the darndest sometimes? But for real, if there is a god I hope they realize to hit the breaks soon enough.
Anyway, we’ve been dodging ‘Rona in Rotterdam for a few months now and I have to say it ain’t half that bad! I’ve had a decent time! I spend most of my days either studying my courses in the international logistics management program I’m involved in, or working out. Seriously, my days are a random combination of trying to be active, studying, eating and being social. But let’s talk about the studies, shall we?
The level of education I get here is intense. Like I have to admit, I was not quite expecting this, even if I had my expectations high. I had heard prior to applying that in the Netherlands you get to actually study and I heard it’s going to be tough and time-consuming. I just thought it can’t be that bad and that it’s probably worth it. And yes it is, both of those things.
The quality of teaching in Hogeschool Rotterdam is crazy good. I feel like I’ve learned the most when I’ve been here. The teachers are very professional and know their fields throughout, and they all seem to have an understanding of pedagogy as well, because their lectures, materials and methods are very effective. Before coming here, I think I wouldn’t have called myself even a SCM familiar, but I have to say that after studying here, the idea of being a specialist in Supply Chain Management seems quite close actually. These people know what they’re doing, especially when it comes to logistics and SCM.
Other than that I mean, I still got a month or so to go and returning to Finland is acute again and uhh…. yeah, I should graduate by the end of the year as well. I got my thesis topic down and I get to start working on that which is nice. So the courses I have here are my final actual studies before graduating and thus closing this chapter of my life. And I am glad that I get to say with pure honesty that I’m happy I chose Rotterdam. I feel confident starting my thesis and taking the next steps on my career. I know I got this in the bag, and I have to say it’s mostly because of my time here. Wish me luck tho!
But that’s about it. I’m sorry don’t have any pictures for you, so here’s one of me and one of my POV while writing this thing:
Beautiful (but rainy) Netherlands, as the caption states, was my exchange destination. More specifically I stayed in a city called Zwolle, which is the capital of the region Overijssel, located in the middle of the Netherlands. The city has old city center and a lot of history behind it. Museums, churches, stores, monuments, market every friday & saturday as well as many great restaurants. Lovely city overall and easy to get around with a bike to everywhere. Bike is essential as they cycle everywhere in the Netherlands, in fact there are more bikes than people in the country overall.
In addition to cycling, Netherlands is a great place if you want to see many places during exchange. With extensive railway network and short distances within the country, almost every single city is a daytrip distance away. Also Belgium, Germany and France are close by, so weekend trips are also possible to other countries. This is what I did mostly during my freetime on the weekends. When I stayed in Zwolle, I visited many restaurants, played games with my friends and took part in student activities and parties.
I chose Zwolle because I wanted to apply sustainability as a part of my studies. The module I chose in the Netherlands was Global Project & Change Management. I enjoyed my courses, the new perspective on business as well as all the driven people in the programme, both the lecturers and the students. It’s a real community they have been able to build and the atmosphere in the studies is very encouraging.
Studying at a Dutch University has been really easy. The study methods are very close to the ones in TAMK, where most of the studies are project and team based and the approach is very hands on. I like this since I have never been the kind of person who learns by reading. I enjoy learning new things and then getting to apply that to practice straight away. Also the projects, both in the Netherlands and Finland are done with real-life companies, or as I did, the Municipality of Zwolle. This is a great way to build your international network for future.
I really had the best time of my life and I wouldn’t change a thing. Everyone should do exchange period!
I spent my August 2018 – January 2019 in The Hague The Netherlands. There are about 500 000 inhibits and it’s an hour’s train ride away from Amsterdam. I really loved the city and there were not so many tourists as Amsterdam has.
I studied in The Hague University of Applied sciences where my specialization was International Business. You could choose one 15 ects minor, I chose Human Resource Management. In addition that I had for example Business English Communication and International Business Law courses. The best thing about my studies were HRM courses. I learned so much! Teachers were all very motivated and inspiring and classes were well planned. I also think student respected teachers more which was nice. A lot of the studies were something I wouldn’t have had a chance to learn in TAMK so I was very happy with my curriculum.
I lived next to the school in this big building in 21st floor and had amazing view of The Hague from my window . I had my own room but shared the rest of the apartment with three others, two boys and one girl. They were also exchange students. We became a one big happy family and spent a lot of time together. Our friends often came to our apartment and we had movie nights, cooked together, sang singstar, talked, drank and partied and played a lot of Uno. So many happy memories. After Erasmus our group has stayed close and we even had our first reunion already!
During my free time I traveled to many other Dutch cities as it was very easy by train. I also visited Vienna (where I had two of my friends from TAMK doing their exchange), London and three Belgium cities.
I really had the best time of my life, in school and in the free time. More of my thoughts can be found from SoleMove feedback section and don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to know more. I can warmly recommend The Hague and all Erasmus experience.
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.
On this very day, I have stayed in The Netherlands for exactly 3 months and I’m about halfway on my exchange studies. Yes, here in The Netherlands the semesters are quite long in comparison to Finland.
I am studying in Rotterdam, the second largest city in The Netherlands (Roughly 625 000 inhabitants, located in South of The Netherlands). My typical school week is quite short, for instance, currently I only have 3 days of school in a week but this is balanced by project working and other homework. So having “easy weeks” definitely does not mean that you can slack off during your day-offs. I have had way more individual assignments here than in Finland, also the project working is much more demanding.
Although I am studying in The Netherlands, my degree programme’s (International Business for Asia) focus has been on Asian business culture – making my exchange studies very unique. I have had the pleasure to meet so many students from Asia during these studies and inspired by this, I even took a Japanese language course to learn the basics of Japanese. Speaking of languages, it is very easy to get by with English in your every day life, especially in Rotterdam as it is a very diverse and multinational city.
There is not really a culture shock to be experienced when living in The Netherlands, maybe some homesickness every now and then – definitely missing the sauna as well haha. Otherwise, be prepared for some very direct communication with the Dutch, they get straight to the point with things. This is something that I have really enjoyed actually, I also like to get straight to the point. Nonetheless, it was really easy to get to know new people here and I have made so many friends during my stay already.
During the weekends, I have traveled around, visiting the major cities of The Netherlands and I have even been to Brussels twice. I still have some places left on my go-to list, such as Antwerp, Utrecht & Delft. I might even travel around in January or February if my school ends early enough, my rental agreement is still active until 8th of February.
If you actually read this far, I would lastly like to give out some general tips for those heading to Rotterdam/The Netherlands for studying:
Generally, a Finnish bank card will not work here. You most likely need to apply for a Dutch student bank account, however, this is free of charge. You only need to register for the municipality and receive a BSN (burgerservicenummer) to apply for the bank account.
Accommodation is expensive and hard to come by in Rotterdam. Easiest way is to apply for a student housing (SSH), but keep in mind that you need a down payment of two months and the apartments run out very quickly during the application period.
The cycling infrastructure is great in The Netherlands, each city usually has dedicated bike lanes for cyclists. Public transport is more expensive in Rotterdam than in Tampere, but it is very extensive with metros, trams, buses and trains.
School for the business studies in Rotterdam was relocated to the city center, around 3,5km away from the student housing.
Food is around the same price as in Finland, however, more selection on some groceries.
It is easy to travel from Rotterdam to other cities, so have some spare money for traveling!! 🙂