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Holland or Home, it’s a matter of perspective – RSM Erasmus University, the Netherlands

Rotterdam, the city with more heart than any other.

After living in Rotterdam for just over a month, and having travelled Europe for almost 2 months, I would highly recommend, support and applaud any smart soul considering studying in this beautiful city which is now no longer Holland in my mind, a far and distant land on the other side of the world, but rather my home.

When planning your exchange experience you will be faced with a multitude of questions, all battling one another for the top-priority spot on your exchange check list; the following is an extract of 10 of the questions I asked myself before my departure.

  1. Where do I want to travel?
  2. What to I want to see?
  3. What do I want to do?
  4. What do I enjoy?
  5. What languages do they speak?
  6. Do they speak English?
  7. What cuisines do I like?
  8. Will it be cold or warm?
  9. What will the university be like?
  10. How will I manage my studies?

(Notice how I put studying last…?)

That’s because when you leave to go on exchange you’re not leaving to just study (Regardless of what your parents, mentors and tutors might tell you) You’re going overseas to LIVE. For 6 months of your life you will be living, breathing, walking, talking, and yes, occasionally studying… amongst new people, new ideas and new cultures, and it’s important to chose a location that not only ticks the boxes you place on your studies, but a location that you can picture yourself actually living in for 6 months or more.

I remember the planning stages of my exchange vividly. Making all the necessary pre-departure arrangements with the university, applying to several host universities, attending pre-departure workshops, tending to a seemingly endless string of emails, and yet it’s all worth it. The day I received my acceptance letter to study at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam was probably the happiest moment in my whole academic career at UTS.

The Netherlands is a small country located almost in the heart of Western Europe, sharing borders with Germany to the east, Belgium to the south and the United Kingdom to the North. Whilst Amsterdam steals much of the glory of the Netherlands, the country is rich in culture with the Hague holding the seat of the states general, cabinet and supreme court, whilst Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, and the largest in the world outside of Asia.

As such, whilst the Netherlands is a country bustling to the brim with culture and pride, Rotterdam is renowned as one of the most commercially progressive cities in the world. The city is fresh and modern, and almost strikes one as a 50-50 blend of Sydney and Melbourne, incorporating the best elements of each. The nice thing about Rotterdam is that you will feel comfortable. Whilst pushing me out of my comfort zone and exposing me to a reasonable degree of culture shock, I still feel comfortable waking up every day in Rotterdam. The city is accommodating and inviting, but close enough to everything else that you can escape for the weekend to Germany, Belgium, London or France and Italy, as well as broader Europe.

Another great benefit of Rotterdam being such a professional and commercially progressive city is that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, speaks English. One of the great deciding factors influencing my choice to study in Rotterdam was that everyone spoke English. Whilst street signs and food packaging are written in Dutch, there is nothing nicer than being able to resolve tricky university timetable clashes, ask for directions to the local pub or sort out important travel documentation in English, as opposed to being trapped in a foreign country with a strange and foreign language. 

In addition, the people in Rotterdam are lovely and university life is far different from Australia! Whilst at home we pride ourselves on having an inclusive and active university, university life in Rotterdam and the Netherlands is ramped up tenfold. From the university societies hosting events almost every day, to the fraternities on and surrounding the campus, university pride in Rotterdam and the Netherlands makes both studying and living at or in the close vicinity of the universities an experience in itself.

As such a new city, with such a progressive people and culture, the city boasts the most accommodating bicycle network in the world! I would highly recommend purchasing a bike to anyone considering travelling to the Netherlands, as it not only enables for fast and cheap transportation, but is also a great way of maintaining fitness and stay in shape despite the amount of chips with mayo (Yes, that’s a thing in the Netherlands) and Dutch pancakes that one may consume.

I was incredibly fortunate to have been accepted into the Hatta Building on the campus of Erasmus University, and I would highly recommend living on campus to anyone considering going to Rotterdam, or on exchange in general. Within one day you’ll have made friends, and within one week you’ll have made a family.  It allows you to be close to your friends and ultimately your friends will be your greatest support network whilst you are away from your family. It is up to you on exchange to independently organise your life. Whether that be sorting out important travel documents, cooking for yourself for the first time or even learning how to fold your underwear!

The greatest piece of advice I can give is to get involved! Learn new things! Try new things! Do your assignments and attend your lectures, but join a society, take on a new sport, join several societies! Ask the local students what they do for fun and get involved! Feel comfortable being uncomfortable. Allow your new friends to take you out of your comfort zone to try some of the local cuisine, or to attempt learning a national sport. If you don’t know where to start, just sign yourself up for your university’s orientation week. This is a great experience to meet thousands of other students, and will most likely involve a showcase day where you can find and sign yourself up for societies that interest you, as well as sporting associations and student networks.

They say that Rotterdam has no heart, but I can promise you, it is the city with more heart than any other.

Asher Benjamin Silove Levitt
Bachelor of Accounting (Accounting Co-op Scholar)
Rotterdam School of Management,
Erasmus University
the Netherlands

For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au

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