Top tips about living in the Netherlands

Charlie G., Masters of Sustainable Energy Technology
Inbound student from the Technical University of Delft,
Semester 2, 2019

My name is Charlie Groenewegen and I’m an exchange student from The Netherlands. My home university is The Technical University of Delft. I’m currently doing my Masters in Sustainable Energy Technology, second year. I had the opportunity to do an exchange program with QUT for one semester. In this blog I’ll explain to you how it is to live in the Netherlands, and Delft, socially and money wise. Also, I’ll give recommendations what to do and where to go in my country.

Delft is a pretty small town in comparison to other big cities such as Amsterdam but that does make it a cozy one. Most student activities, such as sports, are hosted at the university and all the parties can be at external locations or at fraternities. Dutch people are quite direct but very fun to be around with. They’re always in to chill, joke around or just go out and do something. The rent in Delft averages from 300-500 euros per month and it comes with a decent amount of space for your room. Finding a room is quite easy by just applying to the Facebook groups or kamernet.nl. You’ll undergo a trial day in which the people who already live in the house will check who you are and whether you fit into the house atmosphere. Most houses are close by the university and pretty much everything else is too, which makes it very convenient. Going to Holland you’ll definitely need a bike to get around and public transportation is pretty easy to figure out. Food is the same price as in Australia, maybe slightly cheaper in the long run. Overall, if you have 1600 AUD per month available you’ll be good to go. You can always go cheaper but you’ll want to do some exploring and hang out with friends/go out etc.

There are a decent amount of international people at the university if you don’t have the chance to socialize with the locals and there are enough gatherings in the beginning of the year so that you can meet new friends. Don’t be afraid to step off to a Dutch person as they might seem quite to themselves or their friends, we’re quite friendly! I would definitely recommend going to a football or hockey game, these the biggest sports in the country and will attract a lot of fun crowds and good moments. Ajax is the biggest football club in the Netherlands and have the best atmospheres in the game. The country is quite small so really get out of the city and explore the country, from Amsterdam to the beach and try to check out Rotterdam.

Absolutely incredible snowy winter in Canada

Rick Somers, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), University of Calgary, Canada, Semester 1, 2019

It is difficult to put words; just how incredible the exchange experience was for me.

How does one begin to summarize the best semester of one’s life?

I went on exchange to the University of Calgary in Canada for the 2019 Winter semester. I’ll start by saying that you haven’t experienced Winter until you’ve been in a Canadian Winter. My definition of ‘cold’ definitely changed. You begin to feel very Canadian when you start to look at -10°C as “not that cold.” One of my most vivid memories of this climate was when Spring finally arrived and the temperature rose to a lovely 10°C. The normal attire across the city quickly became t-shirts and shorts, just like the summer wear of Brisbane.

Of course, there’s snow. Yes, it’s absolutely everywhere. Snow can fall in Calgary for 6 months of the year. Slipping and falling on icy pathways became somewhat of a regularity for me and my uncoordinated self, but this only added to the experience.

As for the Uni, it definitely has a very unique feel, atmosphere and culture. Buildings are connected via tunnels, so you don’t have to go out into the cold between classes. Since lectures aren’t recorded here, people actually show up to classes and the university is bustling with activity because of it. On top of this, there are heaps of awesome facilities on campus that are free to use for students. I made frequent use of the bouldering wall and rock-climbing gym, as well as the ice-skating ring and the gym. Skiing, sporting and other outdoor equipment can be rented for cheap at the uni as well!

The university provided plenty of opportunities to meet with other exchange students and I quickly found myself among a large group of friends from all around the world. Most exchange students stay on-campus in the Cascade hall. All the on-campus housing blocks are right on the university grounds and are connected via tunnels. I decided to stay off-campus, in a share house with some Canadian students.

I would recommend this route, only if you’re within walking distance of the uni; waiting in the freezing cold for public transport really isn’t fun. It was with these Canadian students that I really got to understand what being a Calgarian was all about. Lots of ice hockey was both watched and played, and I gained a real affinity for country music and poutine. Also, with Banff and the Rocky Mountains being an hour drive away, I found Calgary to be perfect for the outdoor loving, adventurous side of me. Nothing compares to the exchange experience, it was absolutely incredible!

London, Tehran, and Back

Holly C., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
A Legal internship at Lawyers Without Borders, United Kingdom, October 2019

 

Hello! I’m Holly, a Law and Business student passionate about advancing human rights.

Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) seemed like the perfect home for my International Legal Placement. Like all other LWOB outlets, the London office is dedicated to protecting marginalised persons across the globe through advocacy and legal aid. LWOB’s purpose is simple: support organisations that provide justice for those who cannot access it.

I joined LWOB on board as a legal researcher; I was promptly tasked with researching and creating a memo for marginalised Iranians who have had their personal property confiscated on account of human rights violations.

Over the course of this internship, I canvassed legal precedent in other Islamic Republics, investigated societal and political constructs that perpetuated such violations, and provided advice as to how non-governmental organisations could assist victims in recovering assets.

Throughout law school, we are constantly asked ‘why’ we do what we do. But we are infrequently asked ‘for whom?’.

This internship was an immense challenge and privilege. I felt honoured to be assisting individuals who had faced adversity that we cannot fathom in the West; yet, I was daunted at the responsibility of playing a part in shaping their future.  The fact that these people had already endured so much only increased the pressure. I was amazed at how the staff at LWOB worked so tirelessly for their clients in a resource-constrained and high-pressure environment.

Amidst a backdrop of a cold, grey and busy London, our decisions at a desktop dictated the outcomes of people’s livelihoods, homes and property on the other side of the world.

In many ways, my days looked like that of any other law student. However, rather than researching contract law precedent, I was scouring cases for rulings on governmental victimisation of LGBTIQ communities; rather than accessing Austlii, I was downloading a VPN to search Iranian, Iraqi and Pakistani legal databases.

This experience no doubt developed fundamental legal research capabilities. More importantly, though, I built a tolerance for risk, learning invaluable problem-solving techniques in situations that were rife with legal uncertainty. I learnt how to make decisions about what course of advice to include in my task memo. This, in turn, fostered my ability to discern reason from irrational fear in high-pressure situations.

More broadly, I was exposed to a novel culture, language and social structure. In this way, I developed an appreciation of the complexities in navigating to cross cultural communication during delicate legal proceedings.

Finally, I learnt the importance of ensuring all material is appropriate for the client in question. The humanitarian and legal aid sector has a reputation in some parts of the world for generating solutions without consulting those who will be most affected – that is, solving the problem from a Western perspective which fails to appreciate local customs and norms. As such, the advice provided for this groups must differ greatly if it is to be effective. Cases such as these demonstrated the crucial importance of always keeping the client front and centre, even when they are more than 5000 kilometres away.

My placement at LWOB in London was formative, both personally and professionally. Yet, development did not come in the way I expected. This internship was a valuable stepping stone towards a career within humanitarian law. Yet, it also illustrated the limitations of providing aid within the legal system. If we are to achieve meaningful improvements in access to justice for marginalised groups, I am now of the firm belief that legal professionals must engage in structural and political reform within the countries from where their clients originate.

My winter experience in Canada

Teagan Braysher, Bachelor of Justice, University of Calgary, Canada, Semester 1, 2019

Hi! I’m Teagan and I went on exchange for semester one this year to the University of Calgary, located in the city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

I lived on campus in the university accommodation, I was staying in a four-bedroom apartment (pictured below) and had three roommates, two were other exchange students and the other was a Canadian student. The campus had a lot of facilities, like a gym that was free for all students, a dining centre, a library, and lots of common spaces for students. The only issue I had with the university itself was the lack of communication from them regarding the important exchange information- e.g. where to go on the first day, what was and was not provided in the accommodation, university cards and expenses.

I found the academics of the university very different to QUT, the biggest difference being that they did not record their lectures or make resources readily available online. Another difference was that their academic semester starts in September, so even though I was doing my first semester of the year as per QUT’s academic calendar, it was semester two at the University of Calgary.

I found Canada to have about the same cost of living as Australia but maybe slightly more expensive for meat and produce, the only real differences being that it is customary to tip and that the sales tax is added on rather than being included in the price.  I feel that culturally Canada was very similar to Australia as well and my biggest shock was the obviously weather difference. The lowest recorded temperature when I was there was -32◦C on February 12th and the highest temperature was 20◦C on May 5th. So it was a little bit colder than Australia.

I was surprised to experience severe home sickness during my time in Canada, while I tried to not let this disturb my experience, being so far away from home was difficult to manage. Luckily, I was able to video chat with my family and friends often and talk about it with other exchange students who were feeling the same. I found that I was also quite anxious about money as I was unable to get a job in Canada due to their rules and the time of year I went.

The best highlights of my exchange were making new friends from around the world and going to live sports- especially seeing hockey games and lacrosse games. Another highlight was when the university organised for the exchange students to go to Banff where we walked across a frozen lake, saw some Canadian wildlife and drove through the Canadian Rockies. I was also able to travel around Canada and see places like Drumheller, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, and how they compared to both Australia and Calgary.

I had a fantastic time on exchange overall, it was well worth the money and time spent and I would definitely recommend going on exchange. I would advise anyone looking to go on exchange to carefully look at the host university to what they offer and possibly try to contact any current students for their opinions and feedback.

My incredible 6 months experience in Paris

Caitlin Watt.,  Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws (Honours)  Paris Dauphine University, France, Semester 1, 2019

I just finished my semester abroad where I studied at Université Paris-Dauphine in Paris! It was an incredible experience to be able to spend 6 months immersing myself in the French culture and I would highly recommend Paris as an exchange destination.

The University

Paris-Dauphine is quite a big university in the 16th arrondissement in Paris. I found it very easy to navigate and the facilities were pretty good (especially the cafeteria). I used my electives while on exchange so I was able to choose a range of subjects which I found it very interesting and I particularly enjoyed Marketing in the Luxury Sector and French. I found that the university was much more disorganized than QUT, which was frustrating at times and the classes were very different. For each subject, there was a 3 hour workshop which is held once a week and most of my classes had final exams which was worth 80-100% which was a little bit stressful.

The City

Paris is a beautiful city, fill with good food and amazing architecture. It is possible to spend hours walking around the city and admiring all of the amazing buildings, parks and the river. There is always something to do in Paris, be it going to a museum, sunbaking in the park with the locals (as soon as the temperature goes below 20 degrees) or enjoying the amazing food and nightlife. A highlight of my commute to uni each day was seeing the beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower as my metro line crossed the river. This is definitely something I have missed since coming home. If you don’t already know some basic French I would definitely recommend learning some before going to Paris, as often Parisian people are not very helpful or accommodating unless you at least try to speak French to them first! Paris is such a great exchange destination as it is amazing to explore but it is also very easy to travel to the rest of Europe and there are always cheap flights/trains from Paris.

Accommodation

I lived in a student residence in the 14th arrondisment while studying in Paris. The 14th is a very quiet arrondisement with a lot of residential buildings and I had a 45 minute commute to uni by 3 different metro lines which was a hassle, but there were other international students in the residence that I became very close with so overall I am very glad I stayed there. Paris is a very expensive city so the student accommodation is a very good option if you don’t want to spend all your money on rent!