Hogeschool of Utrecht, Spring 2018
Study Abroad Testimonial
Hello, my name is Alexis Flicek and this will be a quick testimonial about my time abroad in the Netherlands during the spring semester of 2018. I am currently going into my senior year at WMU, and studying Integrated Supply Management and minoring in computer information systems. While I was abroad, I studied international business management, which I will also pursue as a minor. The school I studied at was the Hogeschool of Utrecht. Utrecht is an amazingly beautiful city about 20 minutes from Amsterdam (or about a 2 hour bike ride). If you are ever interested about studying in the Netherlands, or simply even visiting, I would highly recommend checking it out. It’s quite similar to Amsterdam, but less crowded, easier to navigate, and the attractions are quite cheaper.
Studying abroad is of course all the fun you’ve hear and dreamed it to be, but there is also a lot to learn from the classroom setting as well. For starters, the Hogeschool of Utrecht was an applied sciences college, which meant there was a lot more hands on work in the classroom. What I didn’t know before I left was that hands-on would mean more than enough group projects to satisfy me for my entire life. I remember I had one course during the first half of the semester while I was there where we had to do group projects in a 3 hour time span every Friday. These projects would include researching and either putting a 10 minute presentation together, or writing a 15 page research paper. It was really difficult, and let me tell you, I dreaded every second of it every Friday, but it really helped me grow my writing skills. They are definitely much tougher on overall grading and writing standards. I’ve been in college for three years now, and finally learned how to properly write in APA format. The hardest part overall to adjust to was the workload, amount of group projects, and actually having to apply what you learned, versus memorizing it for an exam. Lastly, all exams were written answer which was a huuuuuge adjustment.
The learning style may have been way different, but I think it helped me grow academically, and taught me many new skills which I know that I will be able to apply to my professional career someday.
Daily life in the Netherlands was great. Before I left, I recall having someone tell me that I would feel overall healthier just being there, and looking back at it they were right. Between riding bikes everywhere and spending our days walking the city and playing parks, I believe I was truly the healthiest I’d ever been physically and mentally. Dutch people may be stereotyped for being very strict and direct, but once you get past the stereotype you see that they are some of the most casual laid back people who genuinely enjoy life. I believe people there are so happy because they have such a relaxed style of living. Being able to ride a bike everywhere in a city that beautiful and filled with so many parks and canals to see, it’s awfully hard to be sad. On a nice day, almost everyone can be found in the park lounging, having a picnic, and playing games. I’m still trying to figure out when Dutch people work, because there were three weeks in a row of nice weather, and I swear everyone was outside enjoying themselves the entire time. That is definitely one of the biggest differences I noticed between there and the US is how much people just simply enjoy being outside and how much time they take to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
Before even leave the US you are already starting to experience some of the culture shock associated with traveling abroad. From the moment you enter the plane you will hear many people talking, but you may not be able to understand them. On my trip to the Netherlands, it seemed as if everyone on the plane was speaking Dutch, and while I tried to make sense of it, I couldn’t. The nice thing about the Netherlands is that nearly everyone can speak English as well, if not better than most Americans, and they’re usually quick to switch to English if they see you blankly staring at them. At first, it was sort of overwhelming to be somewhere you couldn’t understand everyone, but after some adjustment it became relaxing to be in public. You were alone with your thoughts, and there was little distraction around you because you couldn’t pick up on what people were saying. I did take a Dutch course while I was there, and it was fun to try and pick words out from conversations you overheard and decipher what they were talking about.
My favorite cultural experience overall was meeting new people from all over the world, and how accepting and caring everyone was of one another. I had a really close group of friends which consisted of people from all over North America, Europe, and even Asia. If there was ever a moment where someone was doing something odd or out of the usual, no one paid any mind to it and just assumed it was a cultural difference and we all embraced it. No matter what everyone was always trying to include one another, and we were always there to pick each other up when we were down. The people I met while I was there taught me so much about life, how to be happy, and how to truly care for one another. They may never know (mostly because I don’t enjoy talking about my personal feelings too much) just how much they changed my life for the better, and helped me grow as a person and a friend. Studying abroad was truly a one of a kind experience that I could not recommend enough. Writing this paper was hard because there is nothing I want more than to fly back at this very moment and see my best friends from all over the world and ride our Swapfiet bikes all over town as a group one more time. Being able to facetime a friend half way around the world while I wrote this sure did help though. I’m glad I studied abroad in 2018 where everyone is always a phone call away. The memories and life lessons I learned while abroad I will cherish for a lifetime and then some.