Life in Nijmegen by Amy Beck, 3rd Year Law Plus
“I am now three weeks into my Erasmus. It has probably been three of the hardest weeks of my life. I knew it would be hard but everyday throws up another hurdle. I don’t think I have ever cried so much in such a short space of time. However I don’t think I have ever laughed so much either. It has been over a year since myself and two other law students (Ciara Larkin and Kate Byrne) chose to come to Nijmegen. In that time we completed our second year exams and our co-operative placement. I thought I was well prepared for leaving Ireland. I had my passport, health insurance card, my adaptors and all my bags packed. I had lived away from home since first year. I was always considered independent by my friends and family. I was self-sufficient and made my own money from the age of sixteen. Living in another country and attending classes in a subject I have been studying for two years already would be a cake walk.
We left home early on the 23 January to fly to Amsterdam from Dublin and saying goodbye to my parents I was an emotional wreck but I knew I would be. It was just nerves, a fear of the unknown. Once we arrived and got settled I would be fine. I was travelling with two friends. Some people go on Erasmus alone knowing no one. I was lucky.
Once we landed in Amsterdam we boarded a train. That was the first issue. While everyone in the Netherlands speaks English, and speaks it well, all the signs are in Dutch. We found the train and realised it was a double decker and with our luggage that turned out to be our first hurdle. After making a detour to an unpronounceable town to collect Ciara’s house keys and having left Kate on the train to Nijmegen we eventually made it to Nijmegen ourselves. It was cold and it was dark. We left our heavier bags in Kate’s house and went on the hunt for Ciara’s accommodation. I’m not quite sure how people survived without Google maps because even with it we struggled. To cut a long story short we made it to Ciara’s house after walking around for about three hours. We were exhausted. I couldn’t move into my accommodation for another two days so I bunked with Ciara. The following day we found a restaurant with an English menu and ordered pizza. We also found the Irish bar… an essential with the six nations coming up!!!
On Sunday we explored the city trying to memorise where everything was and where we could get what. On Monday we were able to register with the university and I was able to pick up my room contract and keys. That was the start of orientation week. It was a hectic week; in our orientation groups we attended introductory lectures, bought our bikes, were given a city and campus tour, visited the local museum and historical landmarks, were shown around the sports facilities on campus and attended different parties every night. It was intense but a lot of fun! It gave me an opportunity to meet people who would also be studying law here and also people living in the same block as me.
Our second week marked the start of our classes. It is a very different set up here to in UL. The lectures here are structured more like a secondary school class with small numbers and a more intimate classroom set up. Here we don’t just have one lecturer either. The lecture’s theme for the week determines who teaches it. It can make it quite hard to adjust to the teaching methods. EU law here in the Netherlands is a first year subject as it seems to be for most European students. Most Americans also have taken some sort of course in EU law before. We three on the other hand will not study EU law until next year. Because of this the lecturers assume everyone has a good general understanding of basic concepts. While a lot of the terminology is familiar a lot of it is not. Even though I am three weeks into Erasmus not all classes have started yet. This is a good thing though as it has meant I have been able to spend some more time with my housemates and also explore the city. I have also been able to get used to cycling (on the right hand side of the road). Cycling home from a night out is the done thing here. However, as newbies our immune systems were obviously not up to it and the three of us have all been struck by head colds. However it hasn’t stopped us having fun! We have visited different Dutch cities and so far have put Madrid, Brussels and Paris are on the bucket list!!
Obviously I miss my friends, my family and my dog but it is the small things over here that make me miss home. Within a few days I had to ring my Mum and ask her to send me over tea bags and dairy milk. One night I felt so homesick and none of my housemates were home so I ate a whole bowl of mashed potatoes and drank tea. I don’t think I have ever felt so stereotypically Irish in my whole life. But it did make me feel better!
It is strange how proud of your country you become while abroad. There are three more girls from UL here with us and on international night during orientation we attempted river dance in front of 200+ other international students. When lecturers mention the economic crisis at home you feel a need to step in and tell people that the country is in recovery and when people say “Top of the morning to ya” or ask you if you have ever met a leprechaun you do everything in your power not to get defensive. I constantly have to tell people that just because I am Irish do not automatically mean I am from Dublin and that I’m not British.
UL has a great reputation over here with international students some I have met even applied to UL for their Erasmus but for one reason or another were unsuccessful.
With classes getting more intense as the time goes on here, I am excited to see what else I will experience during my time on Erasmus and hope I will come back to UL in September ready for whatever fourth year brings!”