Will – Semester Exchange Program to Radboud University, The Netherlands
When I first arrived in Nijmegen, I was overwhelmed with excitement. This exchange experience had been in planning for months, and I had been counting down the days since I first decided that I would take the plunge.
The Netherlands is a really flat country, making it ideal for cycling. As a result, everyone cycles. Almost all roads have a completely separate lane for bikes, and even still traffic jams can occur in the bike lanes. The cycling culture is something that I was really excited to see and experience as it is such a smart and practical way of getting around at no cost, while also exercising. The bike-‘carparks’ are just ridiculous as well. The one under my accommodation holds 4000 bikes alone, while another one a mere 400 meters away holds at least half that. It gets so ridiculous that if you forget where you park your bike, you may be left searching for up to half an hour for it, and still not finding it. And I’m speaking from experience! The bike culture is so entrenched in Dutch life that on our second day of orientation we were given time to purchase our bicycle – our mode of transport for the duration of our stay.
I also initially noticed how green the streets and parks are. On my ride into university, roughly 10 minutes, you are just constantly surrounded by beautiful plant life and nature. The university also has really nice chill out areas where students can go and relax on the grass. A short walk from my accommodation is a really cool park with a lake in the middle as well as some old castle towers, a really nice place to go and relax by the water.
I was also shocked at how well everyone here speaks English. Once they identify you as a foriegner who doesn’t speak Dutch, they just change to fluent English and are able to answer your question without fault. Something I think I am very fortunate to have as otherwise I would find it quite difficult to get assistance or directions when in need. This takes away some of the culture shock that you may otherwise experience in a country where English isn’t as fluently spoken as a second language.
It was also really exciting to meet other international students who are also studying. In my orientation group, we had 19 different nationalities between the 34 of us. It’s really interesting to compare Australian culture and our way of doing things to that of other nationalities, because our culture really does differ in almost all aspects in some way or another. It’s really great at the end of orientation to have some solid relationships with people from all over the globe.
So far, my initial thoughts and feelings have all been positive and exciting. I am sure I will face some difficulties through differing cultures but so far it has been really enjoyable and a completely new experience as someone who has never travelled to Europe.
The attached photo is taken from one of the bike paths leading away from the Nijmegen Central Train Station, where you can see a packed bike storage lot on the left, as well as the accommodation I am currently staying in in the background.