This is a snapshot of each week in November which marks the middle of my exchange at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
After two weeks of cramming, re writing and revising endless piles of readings my exam uneventfully came to a close. Papers were stacked and cross referenced by exam officials and finally sent off for marking. A small but familiar wave of nausea rolled over me as images of professors marking big red crosses on each of my rushed answers flashed through my mind. I calmed myself with the memory of a presentation from previous exchange students during an information session eight months ago, the speaker urged us to ‘remember it’s a pass fail grade’. I stopped as I made an exit to the building, the air was fresh. The season is starting to change. It’s November, Period 1 has just finished and I have an entire week off from University. I live in the student accommodation across from the University. It’s short bicycle ride home from the city, where my exam was held, to my flat where my six housemates are probably sitting around a table celebrating with a Heineken and cheering to the start of whichever holiday they have booked for our week off. Sometimes it’s difficult living with so many other people (especially three Australian boys) but tonight we are celebrating and their usual 1am ruckus will entertaining rather than annoying. At least they won’t be playing FIFA or ‘indoor hockey’, which is supremely played with poster holders and ping pong balls.
We poured in to the taxi at 5 am to catch our bus to Eindhoven, the nearest Ryanair Airport. Five hours later we were wandering through the Old Town in Warsaw. We wound our way through narrow cobblestone alleys, stopping occasionally to explore a store. I found a Nazi memorabilia antique shop which we filtered through with morbid fascination. We passed the week meandering through Warsaw and Krakow, looking at street art and finding new museums. Poland was amazing. The sun set at 4pm and the nights were bitterly cold, but the people were beautiful and the food was amazing! Such a great week but I’m glad that I’m home now.
I’m back at uni now. I’m doing an ‘early exit’ course this period which means the course is condensed to four weeks and it is more full on than I anticipated. I heard various things before I left about the how demanding the work load was for Law in the Netherlands but my expectations were definitely too low. The standards are higher here and I’m just realising that now. The library here is clean and quiet though. It’s right across the road from my house so I spend my days there when I’m not in the city for my lectures.
Exams are drawing closer and I’m studying more than before, but it’s ok because I really love my life here. Its great not working and I’ve decorated my room with photos, soft sheets and a bed spread. My bike makes it easy to ride anywhere (an essential purchase when living with the Dutch) and I joined a student gym which has heaps of classes every day when the weather is too rough to go for a run through the forest behind my house. Utrecht is a beautiful city and I couldn’t have asked for anywhere nicer to live. The canals are scenic and Dutch people are incredibly hospitable. I’m glad I chose Utrecht University, it really feels like my home now.