About 6 months ago I was busy procrastinating over something, browsing random University webpages when I came across a list of things you could do abroad at other universities for the summer. There were scholarships to study in China and Japan, and grants from Santander to visit summer schools around the world, and from that point I was pretty hooked…
A few hours of searching led me to Utrecht Summer School, which offers 8 weeks of programmes from physiotherapy to programming taking place at Utrecht University. It only took me a few minutes then to find a programme I was interested in that and within a few weeks my application had been accepted! It seems like it took no time at all for the time of my flight to come around and I was on my way!
I arrived in Amsterdam and made my way straight to Utrecht Central station from the airport! The trains are weird and buying the tickets is weird and there were double decker trains! When I arrived I got to my room and met the person I would be sharing with for the two weeks. We had a really nice room in the roof of a University building in the centre of Utrecht. When I arrived I’d just missed the beginning of the Tour de France but everyone else had been there in time to see it so they showed me all their photos :)
My first week was mainly preoccupied with my course. It was taking place at a campus called De Uithof which was a 10 minute bus journey out of town, and I’d bought a discounted bus ticket as part of the course so travelling in every day was super easy. I really enjoyed the course too, it was a great chance to meet new people – a lot of the students were Dutch but there were others from Italy, South Africa and the UK too!
For my first weekend I went on a trip with a group of people from my accommodation. First thing in the morning we got a train to The Hague/Den Haag, and spend the day on the beach!
The beach was much hotter than I anticipated so, classic Brit abroad, I got completely burnt and ended up walking around with shoulders the colour of tomatoes for the rest of the week…
Since we had bought day tickets for the train we decided that we should make the most of it and go to Rotterdam from The Hague for a drink and some dinner, even though everyone’s feet were ready to fall off (never trust Google maps!). We got the train to Rotterdam about 6 and arrived in time to have a wander round the town and look around. We eventually managed to get some directions off a local guy – NB Pretty much everyone in the Netherlands was SO nice to us even though we were annoying tourists, and this guy stopped for 10 minutes to talk to us about the city! – and he told us about something called the Beer Garden. We eventually found it down a very dodgy looking side alley on a nondescript road but it was amazing and so unexpected! It turned out to be what looked like a student hangout in a really urban area and fairy lights strung up everywhere and trains going past every few minutes. Just goes to show that it pays to talk to the locals! After a drink we decided it was about time to head home to Utrecht, especially after we checked my iPhone and saw we’d done over 50, 000 steps that day…
The next day was Sunday, and I signed up to go on a trip organised by the summer school to the Kröller Müller Museum in a national park about an hour’s drive from Utrecht. Even though I was completely exhausted form the day before it was an incredible experience, including seeing original Van Gogh paintings and Picasso’s too! As if that wasn’t enough I then took one of the free bikes from the National Park with a friend and we cycled for 2 hours around the park which was beautiful.
Monday night was another social programme activity – a pub quiz at Mick O’Connels, an Irish pub? There seems to be one of those in literally every city in the world! We had a laugh at the weirdness of being in an Irish put in the Netherlands but got down to our quizzical skills and ended up coming joint first in the quiz – I was very relieved to get the only question about Britain correct (Who was the last unmarried Prime Minister? Answer at the end!).
The last few days of my trip turned out to be pretty packed, I went on a night-canoeing trip which was organised as part of the social programme and my flatmate and I climbed to the top of the Dom Tower which is a beautiful church tower that you can see from literally every place in Utrecht!
It seems like I was only in Utrecht for 2 days, not 2 weeks! It went far too quickly and before I knew it I was on my way home :( It was an amazing experience and if you are thinking of studying abroad for a while I’d say to go for it! You meet so many new and interesting people, learn about a new culture and also learn a bit about yourself too… :)
I hope you’re all having a great summer and if you’re waiting to hear if you’ll be coming to Cardiff this Autumn then good luck for results day!!
I’ll be back in August but in the mean time enjoy the weather while it lasts