Bachelors of Engineering/Arts, 4th year
Bachelors of Engineering/Arts, 4th year

Academic Experiences 

I did a mixture of courses within social sciences including psychology, sociology and anthropology courses. It was very interesting being involved in a 'quarter' system rather than a 4-subjects-the-whole-semester system because it exposed me to the study culture existent within most of Europe as well as the U.S. where they do something similar. A challenge was with essentially only having 6 weeks to start and finish 2 subjects at a time which meant no time for procrastination and you have to get into the swing of things very quickly. However, with everyone in the same boat, you learn to get into that rhythm and you have people around to support you.

Personal Experiences

Going on exchange was a gold mine for personal development. Learning to live by yourself, manage your finances, cook and clean, work out how public transport and university work were all skills that I learned while away. I was lucky enough to do my exchange in a smaller place where the exchange community was very close and very involved, which meant that developing close friendships fast wasn't hard and being encouraged to put yourself out there was easier. Also, doing exchange in Europe was a blessing for travel - weekend and holiday trips were easy to plan and not very expensive, and there was always information readily available through peers. Everyone in the Netherlands spoke perfect english and most restaurants and bars had english menus as well as dutch so the language barrier was never much of an issue, although knowing a few words here and there was handy!

Accommodation

I lived off-campus but within an accommodation that was a subset of an existing complex, reserved exclusively for students. Unfortunately, my study confirmation came through a little late and it was only by luck that I managed to find accommodation. Many of my peers were left stranded in hostels or friends houses in Utrecht during the first few weeks due to the high demand for student housing making it very difficult to find things last minute. My biggest advice would be to get in there early.

Budget 

The recommended budget of 10-12 thousand dollars for the semester was fairly accurate. I spent more because I traveled before and after exchange, as well as did many trips during exchange. However, as with anywhere, if you are smart with your money, it will go further and there are always cheaper ways to do things e.g. buying certain fresh foods and cooking more, making travel plans early so you can scout out good deals for flights etc.

Academic Development and Employability 

I think just the fact that you are involving yourself in an international community makes you more attractive professionally. Being able to engage with different cultures shows that you are willing to put yourself out there and learn from diverse experiences. Also, making connections and speaking with academic staff from another university educates you on the research and educational practices of places other than home which can give you more perspective on the diversity of your own profession.

Highlight 

The highlight of my experience was definitely the people who I met as well as the lifestyle change. When you are on exchange you have the opportunity to tailor the experience to do what you enjoy the most and to engage with people you never would have otherwise. I can definitely say I am coming out of this experience with friends I will keep for life (and free accommodation should I ever want to visit them...).

Top Tips

Many people come out of exchange saying it was the 'best experience of their life'. This certainly was true for me, however, going in with that expectation can put a lot of stress on you. Exchange is what you make of it, and should fulfill whatever reason you've decided to do it for. The first few weeks can be very stressful and very flustering as you try to navigate your new environment, settle in with new friends and peers as well as feel like you're spending bucket loads of money on doing your initial stock-up of cleaning supplies, food, transport cards etc. Be re-assured that as the few days or weeks pass, things will settle down and you will soon feel very comfortable and you will settle into more routine. Make sure you put yourself out there and don't be afraid to try things that are outside your comfort zone. Everyone is in the same boat as you so support each other and you will have the best time.

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