I wanted to challenge myself at university and learn new things. And, as an International Business Management student, it made sense to get some experience overseas - so that's what I did.
The comfort zone is a bit of an enemy, isn't it? It wants to get you down as soon as it gets the chance. To overcome it, you need to think outside the box. That’s why I headed to the International Office on the Cambridge campus, and asked about the Study Abroad programme with Erasmus.
If you're applying to ARU and considering (at some point) going to the Netherlands, you’re lucky – as that’s where I went! Hanzehogeschool in Groningen, to be precise.
I learned a lot of things, one being that the first rule of the Dutch is that they’re never sorry. The second rule of the Dutch is that… they are never sorry! It has taught me to only say sorry when you really mean it, like the Dutch do. It was a culture shock at first, but it made me reflect on the 'Sorry, sorry' British mode I’d adopted.
If you come from a country where forthrightness is not the first choice in an informal conversation, like Britain, you’ll be shocked by the honesty. People from the Netherlands are experts at being honest. So people might comment on what you’re eating or ask something personal, but they’re just being your friend and they’re just being honest!
It taught me to replace the boring and [possibly] untrue 'I’m not too bad, mate. How about you?' with something honest, like: 'Oh, I’m actually really tired.' Though, by now, I worry I am losing the Brits’ trust 'forevahhhhh'!
Another feature of the Netherlands is that it makes Cambridge look hilly. It is so flat. You’ll find it easier to bike in Groningen, where cars barely circulate, and you can easily ride your beloved Swapfiets bike. Mind the bike lights, though!
As a student, make sure you’re safe and well lit if you’re dashing about downtown in the early hours.
Always make time to kick down your kickstand and hug someone if you’re greeting or saying goodbye to a friend. When cycling together it can be quite easy to go separate ways and suddenly lose each other.
The funny thing about cycling is that you never realise you’re stressed out until you stop. Once you’ve parked your bike to have a proper walk (and maybe go to the Amazing Oriental with your new Chinese friends), that’ll be the moment when you’ll finally slow down, and relax, and enjoy the surroundings at a slower pace.
What else should I say? Thanks to the Study Abroad programme, I now have a clearer idea of where I want to spend my future, because Er gaat niets boven Groningen! (There is nothing above Groningen!)