Postcards from Abroad: Rotterdam, The Netherlands

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Alice is a third year cinema and photography student who’s currently studying abroad in the wonderful, if slightly rainy, city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. If she’s not venturing out of her comfort zone to actively meet new people and make friends, or living in the library doing the horrendous amount of school work the Dutch like to set, she’s exploring this new place, trying to take photos, make films and blog about it. She loves to travel about the place, and that’s one of the main reasons why she’s doing this year abroad, and hopefully she can tick a few things off her bucket list (or rather make one so she can then tick some things off and feel more accomplished because of it).

My time here so far has been pretty amazing, with some exceptions during the first month. I’m one of those people who like everything organised, at least the important things like somewhere to live for my entire year in a different country. Unfortunately that didn’t happen right away, sending me into something of a flurry of panic attacks in the days leading up to my departure, and when I finally found somewhere (it’s pretty awesome, and I’ll get to that in a minute), it wasn’t available until the 1st October, a long 35 days from the day I landed. So what did I do? I spent a very haphazard month jumping from hostel to hostel, to Airbnb to the first hostel again, to the second hostel again, then to a different Airbnb. Was it the cheapest? Not really. Was it the easiest? Not at all, especially when I broke one of the wheels on my 21 kilogram suitcase literally as soon as I got off the plane. Was it fun? I’m not entirely sure, but it definitely wasn’t the worst. It was annoying certainly, lugging my stuff from place to place,and sharing a dorm with at least 5 other girls is generally annoying/weird, especially when one of them snores and another seemed to sing in her sleep, but it was also pretty great. I met a ridiculous number of people from all over the place, I got to stay in a couple of Dutch apartments in the middle of the city, and allowed myself to feel as though I belonged for a little bit (I would seriously recommend Airbnb’s in the future for anyone else, they’re great).

So, I’ve now moved into a studio flat, which is perfectly halfway in between the city centre and the university, and which is in my initial budget (good things come to those who wait and whatnot), and it made me unimaginably happy to just dump my suitcase on the floor and know that I didn’t need to move it anywhere else for nearly a year. Of course living in a studio flat means no housemates, so no one in the immediate vicinity to talk to everyday, no one to kill any potential spiders (I haven’t had any in my flat yet thank god), and no one to just hang around with on a lazy day. This doesn’t actually bother me all that much if I’m being honest – I’ve come to really enjoy living by myself – as it means I need to physically leave the house and talk to people, which I’ve got to say has worked out so far.

Here’s my flat, with a pretty amazing view:

Alice Smith Rotterdam 2

 

I’ve made some amazing friends so far and been on a couple trips, one of which was to Antwerp. Europe has an equivalent of the Megabus which is Flixbus, and basically you can get the bus to different European countries astoundingly cheap (for the most part), and one of those countries is Belgium because it’s literally right there. So for the low price of €5 each way, you can get an hour and a half long coach to Antwerp, which is one of the loveliest places ever! We went to museums, the cathedral, a bunch of bars (Belgian beer is something else), and the ridiculously beautiful city hall, all in the space of 10 hours or something.

Here’s a photo of a photo (neither of which taken by me) of our group being tourists in front of the city hall (you can see I managed to wear more or less the same thing as my friend, so I’m the one in the middle wearing the red plaid shirt, black jeans and white shoes):

Alice Smith Rotterdam 1

 

The past couple weeks have been exam time over here (in the Netherlands you have two terms per semester, so it’s been finals week and I’ve started a new set of classes now which finish after Christmas for some bizarre reason), so I’ve mostly spent my time revising instead of socialising, or trying and failing to combine the two (studying ay my friend’s house turned into playing Left4Dead so…). One thing I have succeeded in doing, however, is becoming a little bit more Dutch: I officially registered as a citizen at the city hall (which is a thing you need to do), I bought a bike (the Netherlands apparently has 18 million bikes for its 17 million citizens, so I needed to add to that statistic, obviously), got a Dutch bank account and various discount cards for some of the shops I go to, by sheepishly asking (1) if they speak English (which everyone is more or less guaranteed to do but I feel like an entitled arsehole if I don’t ask), and (2) if I could please have the ‘bonuskaart’ that everyone seems to have.

So overall, my first few months have been great so far! I’m not a friendless loser who stays in the house all day, so that’s a big plus in my books! I’ve also got a whole bunch of little trips planned and I can’t wait!

Until next time,

Alice Smith

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