Ever thought what it would be like to be a university student in the Netherlands? Or maybe you considered studying abroad in Leiden University. Today, I decided to experience Dutch student life by following my sister, Laura, through her typical day in Erasmus University, Rotterdam. Laura is currently a freshman in a three-year bachelor program. Although she is part of Erasmus University, Laura is currently pursuing her studies in the Erasmus University College (EUC). The college is run by a Liberal Arts program where students take a range of mandatory classes in their first year (like our Core Curriculum) and then choose their concentration in their second and third years. EUC follows a Problem-Based Learning curriculum where small groups of students work together to define, discuss, research, and share information on current topics. Semesters consist of two quads where students follow three different classes per quad. Although some of Laura’s lectures are in Erasmus University, most workshops take place in the EUC building. Most remarkably, the building is one of the few to have survived the bombings of WWII in Rotterdam.
For their first year in EUC, students are required to reside in the Student Hotel. Each student is given both their own room and bathroom and expected to share a communal kitchen with around ten peers. Along with the room and board, students receive their own bicycle to commute to EUC which is a 10-minute bike ride from the Student Hotel.
According to Laura, living in the Student Hotel has been a great way for her to meet students and make friends. Because she shares a kitchen with her floor mates, Laura often cooks meals with her friends. For Thanksgiving, everyone was in charge for a certain dish that helped create a fine Thanksgiving feast.
Although meal plans are available for purchase in the restaurant of the Student Hotel, mostly everyone chooses to cook together instead. Everyone has their own shelf; however, Laura explained that people mostly shared their food and utensils.
After visiting Laura’s kitchen, I recalled how integral the dining hall had been to my Freshman experience at Rutgers. Meeting friends and grabbing food after class in the Livingston Dining Hall made up a huge part of my social life at Rutgers. However, according to Laura, sharing a kitchen with her floormates made them like a second family to her.
Together with her friends, Laura explained that they bike every week to the closest “Albert Heijn” for grocery shopping.
One of the other things that struck me was Laura’s room: I was very envious of it. Unlike my Freshman experience in the Livi Towers with a communal bathroom for six other girls and me, Laura gets her own private room with bathroom. Not mention, she also has a room cleaning service come in a few times a month.
Laura explained that while students have mostly one three-hour class a day, they spend the rest of the time studying independently in their rooms, kitchens, or communal study areas in the Student Hotel.
After showing me around the Student Hotel, Laura brought me down to the basement to see the EUC equivalent of Rutgers buses-bicycles. For students in the Netherlands, the most efficient way to go to class is on a bike. Everywhere in the Netherlands, there are lanes dedicated solely to bikers. In fact, when Laura and her friends go out on the weekends to pubs or Frat houses in town, they use their bikes to travel around.
After renting a bike for me as well, Laura brought me through the path to EUC. On our way, Laura teasingly warned me not to fall into the canals. Although she was joking, because of the narrow paths we biked through, I chose to take her advice to mind.
I recall that upon arriving at Rutgers in my first year, one of the first things my father did for me was buy me a bike. Although I did end up using it sometimes to commute between Livingston and College Avenue, I never truly did commit to riding my bike. In the Netherlands, however, biking is an integral part of Dutch culture. Rain or shine, Dutch students are always ready to hop onto their bikes. In fact, my father always recounts how as a child, his mother would always bring his brother and him to the Saturday market on her bike. Biking is not considered a sport, but rather a main mode of transportation.
On our way to town, Laura pointed out a Dutch Frat house called Laurentius. Fraternities & Sororities in the Netherlands are considered forms of student associations where students rush to get initiated into the association. Student associations are highly looked up upon as they are a great form of networking in the Netherlands. Laura also explained that the frat houses throw parties on the weekends but that she prefers to go out in town instead. Since the legal age to enter clubs and pubs in the Netherlands is 18, Laura and her friends choose to explore the nightlife in Rotterdam where they can meet college students from around the world.
Laura also took me to the big market hall in Rotterdam where you can find food from around the world. First, of course, we had to battle to find a place to park our bikes in the center of the city.
In the market hall, Laura brought me over to the Dutch dessert stand where they were baking fresh stroopwafel cookies. Stroopwafels are traditional Dutch waffle cookies with warm caramel in the middle.
Eating a fresh stroopwafel is the ultimate experience for a Dutch kid whenever their parents bring them to the weekend market in their hometown. Needless to say, I am still a Dutch kid at heart.
Coming over to visit Laura at EUC is always a great experience for me. Back when I was applying for universities, I had made the decision to apply to Rutgers and come to the U.S.. However, the Netherlands is still my home and through Laura, I get to live the Dutch college experience in my own way. From what I have heard, the college life in the Netherlands is a lot different to the one at Rutgers, but still a lot of fun. Rutgers currently has an exchange program with Leiden University which is also located in a great town. If you are curious to explore a new college experience, I recommend you to check out the Netherlands as well!
Greetings from Rotterdam!