I did it, I just finished my first semester at university. About six months ago, I had the great opportunity to upload my first article on here in which I talked about my decision to go to the Vrije Universiteit and what some of my worries and expectations were. Since a lot of people are now applying to universities, I thought it might be a good idea to do a little recap of how the past few months have been for me.
At home, I had the luxury of spending my primary and secondary school years with pretty much the same people for 12 years, which meant that I did not have to make new friends in 11 years. So, coming here clearly meant doing a 180 turn, with which I did not feel very comfortable at first. However, I apparently underestimated the Dutch openness, which made it super easy to meet new people and form friendships. Moreover, the intro week was a great opportunity for me to get to know other students so that I already knew a bunch of my classmates, which made the actual first day of university a lot less intimidating. In particular, if you are doing an international bachelor everyone is desperate for friends and that makes it a lot easier as well. (Pro tip: If you want to befriend a Dutch person, just comment on how bad the weather is and you will be loved in an instant)
Studying hard or hardly studying
Choosing the wrong degree
After three terms I can say I definitely chose the right degree. In hindsight, the bachelor day gave me an extremely realistic overview of the programme and thus far I did not have any bad awakenings. Regarding the Dutch university system, in general, I do have to say that it is more brutal than for example studying in Germany. Since you have one- to two-month-long terms and finals at the end of each term without a break in between, you cannot really catch a breath a lot of the time. Still, over time I really came to appreciate the system because you learn a lot more in a shorter amount of time and you do not have to memorise the entire semester in one week, like some of my German friends have to do.
Maybe facing language barriers
For someone who raised her hand maybe twice in English class for the last two years of high school, it was rather surprising to see how I did not struggle with language barriers at all. However, there are certainly moments where elderly Dutch people ask me something, I answer in English (because my I-speak-German-so-I-can-understand-a-bit-of-Dutch-card only goes so far) and they turn around and just ask the person next to me, which always stings a little.
I might have to deal with homesickness
Do we all see the ‘might’ my 3-exam-weeks-younger self put there? Well, that was a naïve move. I never had to deal with homesickness, but I was really struggling the first term here in Amsterdam. I think mainly it had to do with the fact that my first term was extremely stressful and I still had to get settled in. Now, it has gotten a lot better and while it is great to go home for a weekend to eat some real bread, I am also always excited to go back to Amsterdam.
Home sweet home
All in all, the past few months have exceeded my expectations and as many ups and downs as there were, I do not regret a single thing (except for the time I biked to university with not one but two flat tires). I definitely grew a lot as a person and I have already made memories that will last a lifetime. If you are thinking of applying to the VU but have similar worries I had last summer, I hope this reassured you a bit.
Until next time,