Spotlight on the Netherlands

student in letter
Author: Kaitlyn Kopp


            Did you know that the country of tulips, canals, and bike-riding hosts 2 of VIU’s exchange partners? I got the opportunity of a lifetime to attend Hogeschool University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht - a small town just 30 minutes from the heart of Amsterdam. It is loaded with quaint Dutch restaurants, cobblestone roads, and endless canals, all wrapped around the central Dom Tower (I recommend climbing it on a clear, sunny day - it’s a beautiful view!) I found that whether your walking the streets of Utrecht, eating fries in a cone in The Hague, or cycling the streets of Rotterdam, everyday was a new adventure that I did not expect when I first chose my host country. Some things I learned while over there:

  • They invented Heineken (aka the 9 dollar import beer at any pub in Nanaimo). Don’t expect to pay more than €2.97 for a 6-pack.
  • Mayo is a staple in the Dutch diet. Anywhere and everywhere has mayo as an option- even in different flavours (curry mayo, hot mayo, chipotle mayo, etc).
  • The locals bike absolutely everywhere: to the gym, to school, to buy groceries, to the bar… even the mayor of Utrecht bikes to work everyday.
  • The Netherlands has the highest English proficiency in the world. Almost everyone I talked to knew English, so it was super easy to settle into the country.
  • The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Their pride festival was one of the biggest I’ve ever seen - it wrapped around the entire city of Utrecht.
  • All Dutch people keep calendars in their bathrooms marking off all the birthdays of their friends and family. If you see a calendar in the bathroom – don’t be alarmed – it’s extremely normal for them.



There are many reasons (besides these) why I think that everyone should consider the Netherlands as their exchange destination. The first reason by far is that there was a considerable number of international students on exchange as well. My best friends were Irish, French, and even a Canadian girl from Calgary. I formed relationships with them within minutes, and within a week we were already travelling together. In a normal situation that would be irrational, but over there it was completely normal. My host school also had various exchange groups that hosted weekly activities to meet more students. I highly recommend anyone travelling to the Netherlands to get involved with the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) as I met friends through there that I would not have met otherwise. 

If you’re the adventurous type, who wants to explore as much as possible in the shortest amount of time, the Netherlands is for you. Flights anywhere in Europe ranged from 5-100 euros return, and they have an extremely accessible train network. I had the chance to travel to many places throughout the Netherlands, as well as to Cologne, Germany, for a discounted student price. The main reason for me is that the Netherlands is very travel-friendly.Not only that, the Dutch are constantly having breaks during their school year. I traveled to over 15 different European countries within my 5 months abroad. I highly recommend The Netherlands to anyone who is looking for a social, active, and adventurous lifestyle. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

student on beach


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