New to the Netherlands as an international student? Tips from a veteran to settle in

You’ve checked your documents, packed your bags, tied up your shoelaces and voyaged to the Netherlands to start your study at a dream university abroad! 

Although you deserve to take a deep breath, as an international student setting foot in the lowlands for the first time, you’ll still have a few decisions to make. 

But don’t sweat it! We’re talking about some basic choices that are faced by most incoming international students. 

My name is Anwesh, an Indian student who is currently finishing his master’s course in computer science at TU Delft. 

Considering myself to be a veteran in terms of my stay in the Netherlands as an international student, I feel wise enough to put down some thoughts that I’ve neatly gathered since I landed in the flatlands back in August of 2019. 

Now let me quickly ready my Pensieve and recount memories that should serve as sound advice.

READ MORE | Moving to the Netherlands: all you need to know

Choos your housing wisely

In the Netherlands, with university towns like Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Utrecht or even Delft, you are usually faced with the dilemma of either getting a place on (or around) campus or living near the city centre. However, given the admittedly crazy housing situation in this country, it is more likely to be a snap decision rather than a choice anyway.

READ MORE | Student housing in the Netherlands: your guide to finding a room in 2021

Living in the city centre can be great for obvious reasons. You are closer to most of the good cafes and watering holes the place has to offer in addition to having a shorter walk to the grocery store and the marketplace in general. 

Photo-of-housemates-living-together-having-dinner
Shared university accommodation can be a one-way ticket to new friends. Image: DGL Images/Depositphotos

Living around the campus, on the other hand, has its own perks which I personally endorse.

Firstly, an initial benefit straight off the bat is that you have to be super lazy to miss your early morning classes when you live on campus as most of the academic buildings are at a walkable distance.

Secondly, with the multitude of events that take place all over campus, you’re pretty much out of excuses like, ‘That’s too far, I can’t make it!’

Participate in new activities

Looking back at my time in Delft, I would never know I was good at bouldering or that I liked any form of Latin dancing if I had stuck to my excuse of being lazy and excused myself from university events.

I would also be completely oblivious to the fact that students could make and share food with fellow students every month as a ‘no-waste food-sharing meal initiative at TU Delft’s own sports centre (super fun!!). 

READ MORE | 7 innovative Dutch projects for a sustainable future

But I have to be honest, these observations are a direct result of me being dragged to events that I was sceptical of attending in the first place. Therefore, a generous piece of advice to all of you reading this would be to try your hand at various activities that are a regular fixture in and around the university. 

Since you never know where you find your odd element, it doesn’t hurt to get out of your comfort zone and embrace the melange of activities available at your disposal!

💡 A time-saving tip: platforms like Facebook and Meetup come in handy in terms of keeping a track of all these events and activities as most of the organisers like to spread the word through social media.

Study in groups to find your new crew

In addition to taking a shot at attempting new things and having enriching experiences, university events allow you to develop your network both for social and study/academic purposes.

Another choice that you can take advantage of is the possibility of studying in groups which is quite usual here (in contrast to India where usually we studied by ourselves). 

For me personally, this turned out to be a great way to finish my assignments or even prepare for exams while getting to meet awesome new people and of course indulging in post-work social evenings of what the Dutch call, gezelligheid (loosely translated to cosiness). Give it time, the phenomenon grows on you!

READ MORE | Gezellig: an essential Dutch concept

photo-of-students-in-netherlands-studying-in-library
Making friends and improving your grades? How efficient of you. Image: CandyBoxImages/Depositphotos

Studying in groups especially helps when you get stuck trying to figure out the solution to a “take home” assignment for example, especially in the beginning (which happened more times than I am willing to accept).

Studying with your brand new fellow students (and potential new friends) really speeds up your academic work as all of you figure out the nitty-gritties of student life together. 

Chat with everyone (literally everyone)

Admittedly the act of greeting everyone, even people you pass by randomly on Dutch streets was something that caught me off-guard initially. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to strike up a casual conversation with a total stranger!

Believe me, the simple act of exchanging greetings with people does tend to brighten up the otherwise dreary Dutch weather

Coming back to the importance of networking as a student, it always helps to have even the most random conversations with people, whether it involves sharing similar academic/life concerns, getting something done or looking for an opportunity to work, the list is endless.

I once found myself interviewing for a part-time job after a random chat with an acquaintance who motivated me to reach out to recruiters on LinkedIn. In fact, I know many friends and colleagues who’ve landed a gig this way! 

Fortuitously, things do work out, but maybe not without networking or getting motivated by inspiring articles like this one (haha) and eventually, acting on it by fearlessly immersing yourself in an eclectic selection of activities at the university!

With these tips, I hope you’re well-armed to navigate at least the early days and get yourself set up. 

What tips do you have for international students arriving in the Netherlands? Or, if you’re an international student, what would you like to know? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Feature Image: Rawpixel/Depositphotos

Anwesh Marwade
Straight outta 'Bollywood' Mumbai, Anwesh came to the Netherlands to pursue his masters. Little does he know that exploiting the dutch cafe culture with regular orders of bitterballen every time he goes out for drinks by the beautiful canals, made him fall in love with the country one stroopwafel at a time! When it's not sunny enough for the beach, he's exploring new places or helping out at language cafes.

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