4 Weeks Left.. 3 Weeks.. 2 Weeks.. Oh I’m Home.

In the last four weeks I managed to do what I had been wanting to do for a while, visiting more places in the Netherlands and ticking off the ‘things you need to do in Utrecht’ list I had been making since I moved in. These kind of things are always left until the end when you are living in a new place.

Firstly, however, I will explain ‘summer term’ at UCU. This part of the year is scheduled in the annual term timetable, but it is not a compulsory time for taking classes. This is the time for taking extra courses such as Chinese (for those going on exchange to China mostly), Methods and statistics II, etc. The courses last the full four weeks and are equal to one course taken in the Autumn and Spring terms i.e. if you take Methods and Statistics II for the 15 weeks in Autumn it is the same as the 4 weeks in the summer (obviously you study more hours per week in the summer).

Other courses you can take are lab courses – mostly for science majors who have to take three lab courses as part of their requirements. Each one of these only lasts two weeks, so quite a lot of people do two of these in this term. I am not allowed to take these lab courses, though, as I am an exchange student – which is a shame as they had some interesting ones such as a psychology lab course. and ones about using fMRI and EEG (techniques used in psychological research). This is even more of a shame as at Exeter we are not allowed to use these techniques until you are post-graduate.

Overall I didn’t fancy taking any of the courses offered in Summer, but many of my friends did, leaving Sofie and I as the only people who were totally free for these four weeks.

The word “free” is used lightly above, . To those taking courses we were “free”, however because of this we took over other duties. UCU caters for all its students and we pay accordingly for this (a lot of money in fact that my dad will never let me forget), yet in the summer Dining Hall is closed for normal service. Hence Sofie and I were the new “housewives” of our group with Sofie as “Mum” (though she dislikes this) and myself as “Chef”.

An average day goes like this; wake up at about 11 or 12 and walk next door where we all met to have lunch in Sofie’s room. She had brought a sandwich toaster from home so lunch consisted mostly of cheese toasties. We also had the occasional crackers and peanut butter too. After everyone had to return to classes after their lunch break I would start thinking about dinner.

[Chef Nichola]

Now here is where a big rant comes in and I introduce something that is the bane of everyone’s life at UCU especially at this time of year. As we are catered out kitchens are not that well equipped. They differ a bit between units, but in our unit in G, nine people share two hot plates and one fridge. This is reasonable when the University is providing us with food, but when they expect us to cook for ourselves for a month it is not enough. There is not enough space in the fridge to store all your stuff, let alone necessities for cooking like a freezer or oven. Plus the hot plates are poor at the best of times (expect at least 20 minutes till you get your water boiling, even when you pour boiling water into the pan to start with). It is something the college definitely needs to sort out. It is even more of an issue now as the company that runs dining hall is changing next year and because of this it will no longer be serving breakfast or Saturday dinner.

What this meant was that basically every day we had to go to the shop to buy the ingredients for that evening’s meal. When you come back from this it’s about 4.00 – 4.30, so you start cooking and then everyone comes over for dinner. Afterwards it is obviously time for evening activities with everyone, so it’s not that “free” in the end!

[Clitheroe ready for the Jubilee]

Still I had a great time in these weeks and most of the time I didn’t mind the cooking. Other people also cooked on some days so I had a little break.

At the weekend though I took full advantage of people having days off and we went on adventures.

The first weekend I wasn’t actually in the Netherlands but in the UK as it was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which as it is a celebration of a monarch on the throne for 60 years I didn’t think I would get to celebrate again, so I thought it was a legitimate reason to break from my Erasmus year.

A shop overdoing it a bit

[Celebrating with obligatory Pimms (now “by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen”)]

[Batavia the VOC ship]

The second weekend Myrte and I took a round trip in the car; visiting Batavia which is a replica VOC (Dutch East India Company) ship, going over the dam between the Markermeer and the IJselmeer to Volendam. This is the touristy town to go to, in Dutch eyes. It is where you can get your picture taken in traditional dress.

However Myrte and I were really surprised by it, if you minus the touristy shops it is actually a really cute fishing town. It reminded me a lot of Padstow in Cornwall as there is a little harbour which the town surrounds and there was also people paddling in the water and eating ice cream which made me think of the seaside.

[People sailing whilst going over the dam]

[Volendam]

[The remains of dipping my feet in the water]

[Looking like the seaside…]

[..but still in the Netherlands]

[Gouda market and cheese weigh house]

The next weekend on the Saturday I went to Christine’s home town Gouda (yes, the cheese town) with her and Sari. It was a pretty standard Dutch town, though much bigger than I thought it would be. It had some beautiful buildings, though, such as the Town Hall and the Cheese Weigh House.

 

[Anywhere in the Netherlands]

[Cheese in a canal, must be Gouda]

[A windmill inside a windmill]

We also managed to go inside an old Dutch windmill, while the blades were turning, for free, which was really cool.

[The blades turning]

[The windmill from the outside]

[Sailing in Dordrecht]

On the Sunday Myrte and Kelmentina joined me to go sailing with the DomStam Student Scouts and Guides. There was a huge lack of wind which meant taking the boats back took a very long time, but it was a really relaxing afternoon and the others enjoyed it.

On the last weekend there was big couch-surfing event going on in Utrecht so Klementina and I joined for the Scavenger Hunt. It was a lot of fun and as we were walking around town our group of six progressively became bigger turning into a group of nine. We had challenges, like take a picture in a police car, and make a picture for the phrase “my spare bed and couch are taken but you can stay with me as long as you don’t mind sleeping here”. After we had done everything on the list minus one item we returned to a park in town where we ate some lunch, learned how to hula hoop and threw a frisbee around. To top the whole day off – we won! I don’t quite know how we did win as our team didn’t receive any of the bonus points, but we won’t talk about that..

[“How did you fit in there”]

[Photo with buskers instruments]

The final week which finished on Thursday at UCU was filled with lots of goodbye things. Mine was on the Sunday where we played reverse hide and seek, where one person hides and everyone has to find them, and when you do find them you also hide with them until one person is left wondering around. It was a good game and made our tiny campus seem really big. It also made us see lots of parts of campus that I would never have seen otherwise which is a good thing to do in your final week. Over some cake everyone gave me a farewell present which was awesome. It was a white hoody with messages written all over it and I really loved it. After this we attempted our scheduled hour-long group hug. It lasted about two minutes but it was still great.

[Receiving my farewell present]

[..and modelling it]

Monday was Klementina’s where we went for some hot chocolate in town. We never go to town as a group so this was another thing ticked off the list. I also persuaded everyone to go to the Maria Minor bar (though apparently it’s actually called Olivier), which I always wanted to go to as it’s really cool inside as it used to be an old church and still has the old organ and pews.

[hot chocolates]

[moustaches]

[Maria Minor (Olivier)]

Klementina left the next morning to fly to America and in the afternoon Veerle, Myrte and I climbed the Dom tower. It is essentially the landmark of Utrecht, and they climbed it even though there is some silly superstition that if you study at Utrecht and climb the tower before you graduate then you will do badly in your exams. I thank them for risking their university degrees so I wouldn’t have to walk up the tallest tower in the Netherlands by myself. It was worth the long walk up the stairs and the view from the top was amazing. The tour guide said on a clear day you could see Amsterdam from the top. With this, and having had a picnic in Wilhemina Park days before, my list of things to do in Utrecht was complete.

[The Dom at ground level]

[The view]

[Me looking over to campus]

[Picnic at Whilemina Park]

Wednesday was moving out day where Sofie and mine’s belongings got moved to her house to wait collection by my Dad on Saturday/Sunday. Sofie’s mum had hired a van, but even with this Sofie was optimistic about the idea of fitting both our stuff into one and in the end it took two trips to get all the stuff to Apeldoorn. Sofie stayed at home that evening and so it was just Veerle, Myrte, Linda and I left on campus. Over these weeks Linda had been running for a position on the ASC (Academic Student Council) and this evening the results were released. She had won and we were all very proud of her. As Myrte and I were part of her campaign team and so had her Facebook password we did what we had to do and fraped her at midnight when the voting was closed, saying she had got her dream job at KFC over the summer. It was successful with people believing it was true, Linda not knowing and gaining 22 likes overall. Klementina even believed it was true four days afterwards.

[All my things]

[Linda’s new display picture to fit her new job]

Thursday was a bit stressful and dull as I had to finish cleaning the unit bathroom and then waited around for everyone else to be done so we could go into town for the last time. Linda couldn’t come with as she was moving room on campus at the time we were all supposed to be leaving. Myrte, Veerle and I had a nice lunch it town and Myrte and I then did some people watching. It was really nice. I then got the train to Apeldoorn (for free even though the ticket I was using had actually expired) where Sofie and her mum collected me and took me back to their’s.

[Lunch]

Friday Myrte and Veerle came over to Sofie’s where I cooked them all a roast dinner, including Yorkshire Puddings. It took a very long time as their oven only really had an off and on function, as it was old. However it tasted really good and I was very proud of it. Everyone even enjoyed the Yorkshires and now think it’s less weird to use the same thing you use for pancakes and to put it in the oven instead and then eat it savoury with gravy.

[Roast Dinner with Yorkshire Pudding]

Sunday came around too quickly and wasn’t long before the car was packed, I was hugging Sofie goodbye and then watching the Netherlands fade away into the distance on the ferry. It is all very surreal at the moment and it feels a bit like I’m not sure if I went to the Netherlands or not. It’s the same feeling we had after the fall and spring break when we came back from the hitchhikes. Did this really happen? It must have done I have photos to prove it. It all seems so strange. It is especially strange that I will be going back to Exeter, as when I was at UCU Exeter seemed like it was something I went to years ago and not something I would be going back to. Nevertheless life keeps moving forward and I will be returning to Exeter in September. However I will not be leaving UCU in the past and will definitely be returning there to see all the great people I met. They will also be visiting me at Exeter in October too. My Erasmus year is officially over, but all the friendships I made will continue.

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“Glowing Embers Lie Across The Sky”

With all my classes now over and only two exams left, I thought I would write a post about this last term and my year abroad so far.

Everyone around me is currently studying very hard, which makes it even more odd that this is my most freest time of the semester. I’m glad to say that this semester has been easier – but not by much as there was still reading and other work to do every day so I again haven’t done that much. I have no idea how other exchanges manage to go on trips all the time – for instance, Tina’s roommate Amy is often away at the weekend doing some awesome trip, as well as all the people in my Dutch class (which is only for exchange people). In this respect I feel that my time here has not been used to the fullest as when I look back I will probably not remember the huge work load I had and just think “why didn’t I ever go anywhere?”

However, I do think Tina and I have made up for this during the breaks, and my (non-existent) “places visited in Europe map” has come on leaps and bounds. Before I had only visited Western Europe and now I have far out-reached that, going to Central and also Eastern Europe – even making it as far as GMT+2! I’m sure this isn’t as exciting compared to some globetrotters, but I think it’s quite reasonable when your family has only been outside the UK to visit the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Plus visiting 13 countries (Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Sweden) isn’t bad!

Saying this I also haven’t visited that much of the Netherlands, which I hope to change soon. I did the most travelling to Gronigen, Leeuwarden and the Keukenhof while my dad was visiting. You see, the Dutch may be hospitable and invite you to your house but they then don’t get round to actually taking you – unless you invite yourself over (minus Gerrianne!).

My list of Dutch places I have been to includes Amsterdam (not the first time, but the first Queens Day), Rotterdam, Breda and Alphen an der Rijn. However, in the academic void (or the break between spring and summer term), I have managed to organise a trip round the Netherlands which includes staying at people’s houses along the way. The advantage of knowing locals! So after that I can add Texal, Apledoorn and Aalten to the list. In other words, as I have mentioned before, if you plan to go travelling on your year abroad don’t choose the best University College of the best University in a country that has the 4th best higher education in the world, as you won’t be doing a lot of it!

Many of the little differences between the nations I have now got over or around, and now actually find it quite hard to remember what they were. The problem of not taking my bank cards is okay as I know people with Euro accounts who I can give cash too and I just generally live a cash life, except you forget sometimes and then have to make a long walk from the place you are at to get cash. The reading of these ‘text book’ things I have got used to, and I am more on top of it than most people, hence why I can write this even though it’s Finals Week. The bike riding is obviously fine as I used to bike to school except everyone else’s bikes are now falling apart leaving mine the only one working in my unit, even though it now only has one brake thanks to Tina. At least it now looks awesome though:p

For this term Tina and my plan of cooking every Friday went astray after four weeks. It was good while it lasted though she insisted that all the food I made was incredibly unhealthy even when it was mostly vegetables and she also specifically stated that pasta was unhealthy :/ This, I think, helped towards the demise of our plans. I believe we have gone to the bar and parties just as much as before, but the waiting around for everyone to be done and working to ‘Linda and Tina time’ means we don’t get many pre-drinks in. Myrte will have some even more dull Friday evening’s when I am not around. Sofie made a big step the other day, and we are all very proud, as she danced in the bar on a party night! She says that this time was enough for a year, but we hope to see her again there soon.

For my courses, Discovering the Dutch was interesting and I enjoyed taking it as it was easy, but also dull at points when the classes were on medieval Utrecht and Golden Age art. However it’s opened my eyes up to things in the Netherlands I wouldn’t have learned otherwise – such as their schooling system is the same as our old Grammar school one, which I only realised from the class even though we’ve had many discussions about it as friends.

Psycholinguistics was fun and mostly like cognitive psychology with a bit of clinical as we learned about people with language disorders. It was the closest to psychology out of my four courses so I was happy with it.

Evolution, Culture and Human Nature was also good, and despite being a level 3, was also relatively easy as when you’re taking something from an interdisciplinary perspective details are going to be simpler. I am very proud of my essay on Emotion vs Rationality for this class as rationality really interests me and I made some insights I hadn’t thought of before, like emotions are a signal for you to make a decision (see my paper for more details, Birch, 2012). I am also happy with the whole class presentation we had to give on it as I got told I was a good presenter. I am very pleased with this as I had never done a presentation before coming here and now I have done many I feel a lot easier with them, though I am still not relaxed about it.

Sociology is the big disappointment of the semester. I do not advise people to take it. I do not believe what these great minds are telling me about society is true and anything I think is reasonable they have just taken from psychology and then renamed everything and pretended it’s their own – such as the analogy that everyone is on a stage and has many different front stages that they use depending on who is in the audience and therefore not many people know their back stage. This sounds a lot like ingroups, outgroups, group norms and group behaviour to me. Essentially if it is not psychology then it is philosophy as even though they say they’d like their work to be scientific it often isn’t based on anything empirical and this annoys me a lot. Sociology is no ‘queen of the sciences’ and certainly wasn’t the easy subject that I hoped it would be.

I don’t really know how I can go back to Exeter at this stage as it is hard to even recall that I went to somewhere so totally different in size, ethos and attitude. Especially as when I go back I won’t really know anyone as all the third years I was with will have graduated. I have set up some things for my return though – I will be a global buddy (helping international students find their way around and adapting to university in Exeter), a student life mentor (helping first years with all their daily life issues living in halls and with general university), SSAGO rep (Student Scouts And Guides Organisation) and Scout Rep for SAGE ( Scouts And Guides Exeter), as well as helping out with 10th Exeter Scout troop, who I was with the year before this. It sounds a bit hectic when I put it like this, perhaps I will be the new Tina and run off my feet all the time with constant committee meetings. We will see.

The sad part about University College is that I have not really joined any societies/committees. With the college being small it doesn’t offer the more quirky societies that I am a member of in Exeter such as Frisbee, Surfing, Aerobics, Amnesty International, Scouts and Guides etc. and has the more mundane football, hockey, newspaper, dancing, drama that I am not that intrigued about. I would also not be able to fit it around my studies and have no idea how anyone else manages to do any committee work as well as get good grades. I couldn’t. However what these committees do manage to do is amazing – with us winning the trophy an inter-UC – and I enjoyed very much the open mic night, the musical (Rent), the dance show, improv and Super Sticky Surfaces (the college’s soap drama which is really funny – Exeter should think about making one). There certainly are very many talented people at UC.

At Exeter, as it is so big (16,000 students versus UCU’s 600), I feel like I do not get to see everything Exeter has to offer, such as the drama and sports groups. Exeter is a lot more cliquey and closed and does not have the same community that it does here. I hope to change this next year and attend a lot more on-campus events as I really enjoyed seeing them here. This might be easier than previous years as I will be living on campus next year for the first time! It’s still 20 minutes from central campus though, which UCUers would not understand. In fact they really don’t understand, often saying “why don’t you bike?”  Hello! Exeter University is one big hill! A hard thing for a Dutch mind to contemplate!

However we can hold those tears back for a while as even though my studies are over it is not the end of year abroad as I will be staying around for the summer courses (which I am not taking) and so won’t be leaving till the end of June (with a short intermission to Lancaster for the Queen’s Jubilee weekend)! Yet I know this is not going to be the same as there will be no dining hall, so we’ll have to cook for ourselves (we’ll see how much they complain about dining hall after this) and I guess the Dutchies, in their confusing way, will be at home a lot. Hence I think this term will be a lot of highs of doing fun stuff as I don’t have work and others are free, and lows of severe boredom while those that do have courses are studying hard (but I can try to sneak home with those that leave, so all is not lost). I can’t contemplate what the weeks after this term will be like, but I will use them to the fullest as my time in Utrecht is nearly up. T -50 days and counting 😦

The inspiration for the title and the anthem for the rest of my time at UCU – Lostprophets – Last Summer

The Return to UCU

Five weeks of holiday and one still to go. On Monday evening I returned to the Netherlands. I am very pleased with this long break as I can finally rub my holiday in people’s faces back home. UK Christmas holiday is only 3/4 weeks and most people have exams when they return in January. However UCU started in August whilst the UK starts in the last week of September, so it felt like a bit of karma to be having fun whilst others were working.

I arrived at Amsterdam Schipol from Manchester where Myrte was there to join me for the trip back to campus. Luckily I had taken my big suitcases back a few weeks before so I only had a weekend bag to deal with. We were excited to see what campus would be like as some of our year had become “Mums” and “Dads” for the new people arriving. It is the winter Introweek, though, and half way through the academic year, which means it will be much smaller, not to mention that a coach load of UCUers would be on the ski trip and so they definitely wouldn’t be on campus.

It was quiet as expected, but almost a little too quiet. It was the evening and so the families should’ve been busy getting ready for their first party, but we couldn’t hear them. I had missed the dinner slot for dining hall and so had grabbed a salad at Utrecht station. We went to my room where I ate and introduced Myrte to Desperate Housewives.

When you start watching one of these American dramas with someone who hasn’t you realise how ridiculous the storyline actually is. Someone had killed a man because he was harassing his wife, but then all the 5 witnesses decided to keep it a secret and bury him in the forest. Surely you could go to the police, plus as he was trespassing in your home, it would only be a crime of passion and not murder. This one isn’t actually too bad, but last season the ending was that a plane crash-landed in the street!

We then checked out the bar even though we were both tired. We learned there were only 60 new people and 6 families, which is a lot less than the 23 families of our Introweek. Myrte thought this made the bar empty, but I thought it was an OK amount. The bigger problem was it was meant to be a “getting to know you” party but the music was too loud to talk to people properly. I was introduced to another English girl and her friends. We all had to do the awkward thing of shaking their hands and pretending to hear what their names were even though there was no way possible you could. We went through the usual “What are you studying?”, “Where are you from?” etc. but any deeper conversation wasn’t going to happen.

We then decided to leave, I headed to Myrte’s for a bit, where we could see a family had had their pre-party in the living room and eventually went to bed.

The next day I was alone as everyone was deciding to come on Wednesday for some strange reason and Myrte had to go home to dog sit. Klementina had a reasonable excuse as only a few flights fly out of Sofia every week, but the Dutch don’t. If you hadn’t seen your friends in five weeks, there were parties happening every night, and there is no work to do – so you can have good social time and go on trips, why would you only choose to come back on Wednesday? So I used this time to sort out my room a bit and finish off the Macedonia blog below.

Sofie arrived late in the evening so it wasn’t so lonely at the end. We watched some shows including introducing Tru Calling, which she liked the plot line of and said we would watch more tomorrow. We made plans for early brunch at 10.30 as Klementina’s flight was getting in at 8.30am to Eindhoven so hopefully her and Myrte would’ve arrived by then.

It turned out they wouldn’t be here so we went ahead to brunch as we were hungry. They got there 15 minutes later and we had a fun reunion. The rest of the day was spent waiting for others to arrive and planning what we would do over the next few days. Lots of ideas were thrown around such as going to Maastricht or Antwerp, but in the end we decided we would go to Groningen. It was expensive, as Dutch trains are, and would cost €30 for us non-OV people. However we found a deal to go for €21 which included going to the museum!

That night I suggested having a chill night in the bar and playing some darts, pool and perhaps beer pong. It was the Introweek off-campus party that day, so if the bar was open it would be quiet. Alas it wasn’t, but luckily Klementina had a friend who was having a CD promotion for his band in town. We were going outside the bubble! We found the place, Ekko, quite easily and when we entered we were very glad we had. It was a very cute, small place with a room for the acts and then another with a bar and some tables for chatting. The band was surprisingly good and actually were my perfect genre for live music. If only it was in a field and sunny it would have been perfect. It was so good Myrte even bought their CD. The venue also brought back memories of festivals as the beer they were serving was Jupiler, the kind a group next to us was handing out to us at Pukkelpop. We rode back happy and agreeing it was a great start to the term and we should defiantly do it again. We set our alarms and went to bed awaiting Groningen tomorrow.

But it was not to happen. I woke Klementina up at 8am like she requested, but she said she was too tried to go and that we should go have fun. I encouraged her to wait for the others to come at 8.30, but 20 minutes later she was in bed again. It’s just as well as at 8.40 Myrte arrived and as for Linda we had to ring her. At which point we discovered she was still in bed. Myrte was also tired and fell asleep on the floor. At this stage I didn’t think Groningen was happening so I started searching for somewhere closer to go. Here I discovered Bourtange a beautiful star-shaped fortress but it was in Groningen province near the German border so we couldn’t go there. I also found Muiderslot, a medieval castle near Amsterdam, but unfortunately it was only open at the weekends in winter. So I said we should go there on Saturday or Sunday. After some debate we decided to go to Leiden and Myrte’s house for a sleepover as was proposed earlier.

Bourtange

At brunch we received remarks about “how comes we weren’t in Groningen?” We asked if they wanted to join us at Myrte’s, but most had other plans or just didn’t want to go at all. Klementina had a tutor meeting at 12 so we decided to leave at two so people could sleep, Linda could write her essay and Klementina could get her courses sorted. When two came Klementina had to wait for her tutor to leave a meeting and then have another chat, but said she would catch us up later.

The closest to Gronigen I got

In the rain, Linda, Myrte and I biked to the station where we decided Leiden was not a good idea in the rain and that we would go straight to Myrte’s instead and do some baking. A trip to the supermarket and we had ingredients for brownies and chicken stir-fry. Myrte and Linda were excited, as UCU is catered, they don’t cook for themselves that often. It was good even though the noodles were a little stuck together and the stir-fry a little dry. When you don’t get much home cooking your friends you are easily impressed.

Linda had forgotten her phone and so had to return to UCU that evening, but I was determined to stay over even if no one else was. Klementina in the end hadn’t arrived, even though Myrte had gone to collect her from the station in the rain and had to return empty-handed. We watched the rest of Crazy, Stupid, Love and I explained the concept of a midnight feast, which apparently they don’t have here.

We awoke at one and had to return to Utrecht, as Myrte had to pick up her driving licence from the Municipality and was then going to drive home with her dad. When I got back to campus I strangely couldn’t find anyone in the unit, but later I found out Klementina was in her room just sleeping and I had neglected to check the bed. We had planned to go to the bar that night as it was Fairytale theme and I had two pairs of wings in my dress up box (another thing students here don’t acquire during university).

Thankfully this plan succeeded and after Klementina and I went on a Beer run. Something I had to also explain meant no running and only meant going to buy some beer from a shop. Here we were surprisingly ID’d for our beer and we couldn’t buy Kreik in the liquor store as Klementina had forgotten hers. This was quite odd as we hadn’t ever been ID’d last term and hence I thought the Dutch were pretty lax. However in Albert Heijn I was ID’d again and so decided the government must have started this scheme over the holidays. We were a little bit offended as the drinking age is 16 here so we look under 16?! Later I saw a poster that said ID if they look under 20, so yay we look under 20, one year less!

Klementina was shocked by this ID thing whereas it is completely normal in the UK for this to happen. She was especially annoyed that we didn’t get served when I only had the ID. “They should trust that you’re old enough”. Then I explained how it was even stricter at home and that in Albert Heijn when I had bought the beer and waited for her outside a security guard would’ve been watching us in the shop and then come outside and taken it off us. I also said that they would never have accepted my university card as ID as it was made of paper and so could be easily faked. So be thankful it isn’t up to that standard yet.

Some beers and shots later we were in the bar and having a great time. Even though I was the only one of the three girls, Me, Linda and Klementina dressed up I didn’t mind. Klementina had in the end not wanted to wear wings and Linda was being Pocahontas, which in reality means she looked like a person. We danced and chatted, the bar had gone up in our estimations, though the music could’ve been better.

Saturday I decided not to push Muiderslot as Linda said she might need to go home that day and we also wanted to go see Zeynep in her new apartment in town. Unfortunately we couldn’t get in touch with her so instead we decided to make dinner. A very exciting prospect for those who think Dining Hall food is terrible and who then order in food all the time. I showed Klementina through the recipes on the Sainsbury’s website – a supermarket at home where I go to when I’m at university. They do recipe cards and things like £20 for five family meals for a week, which is really good. As Klementina is vegetarian meat dishes were off the menu so we decide to adapt a potato bake.

We bought broccoli, carrots, leeks, parsley, dill, and mushrooms for the base which we would also make a cheese sauce for. Then we made mashed potato to go on top so it was also like a Shepherds Pie. Linda, Melanie and Elena came to join, who brought pudding of profiteroles and ice-cream with them. It was really tasty, with the mashed potato being especially good. Seconds went quickly and the bowl was also scrapped clean. “Even without meat it was delicious”.

Zeynep then came round, as we had managed to contact her, who told us her stories of living alone and of her up-coming exams including a 350 word essay English exam! We chatted away and too soon she had to leave again. Linda and I had said that I would teach her darts in the bar that night, but Klementina didn’t want to go as she was tired. We went ahead anyway. We played Round The World (where you have to hit 1 then 2 then 3 etc. on the board and then finish with the centre) and 301 (where you have to get from 301 to 0 exactly by finishing on a double e.g. if you have 15 left you could finish by hitting 5 then double 5). Linda confessed her hand-eye co-ordination wasn’t that good, but she improved a lot and I was pleased. She also enjoyed the game which was good. Happy we returned home.

Muiderslot was not to happen and I am disappointed in everyone. Linda still had her essay to do and Klementina said it was too expensive and that she still wanted to sort her room and other things out. People need to learn it’s all well and good saying you are going to do things and that going X, Y and Z with you would be really fun, but when push comes to shove we should actually go to these places. I feel that people don’t understand that this week we had no class so we could all of gone on some super outings as we don’t have work to worry about. Yet really the only day we could’ve all gone and done something was Thursday as on the Wednesday people were arriving and on the Friday the Dutchies were off home again.

A big list has been made of things we can do and I really hope that we get them done, but in term time it’s going to be so much harder to do. Plus it’s likely to be expensive as we need to travel with a Dutch person who has OV in order to make the trains a reasonable price (40% off). A good thing is that Myrte will now have a car, but as she’s only just passed I don’t think her parents would be keen for her to jump straight into big road trips. In essence I feel there has been a lot of missed opportunity this week.

The Travels Commence

Two weeks since I wrote this! Last weekend we didn’t end up going to Sofie’s house as Klementina had too much work to do so instead on Saturday I went on a canal cruise with Alizee and Carol. It was lovely as the sun was shining. This did mean that I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what the tour guide was saying but it didn’t matter. Utrecht is very nice and I learned little things, like underneath each lamppost is a different carving.

The weekend before, on the Sunday, I went to Rotterdam with Klementina which was largely disappointing and very expensive, €20 return! We had a tour of the docks, but it was a bit dull as it was mostly about the different cargo that was being brought in. Plus Rotterdam, being an industrial city, it wasn’t very pretty.

However we went to see the cube houses which were really cool, but I would quite like to know how much one would cost. Rotterdam does have amazing architecture, but it’s still not somewhere I would like to live. The pouring rain didn’t help its cause much either. We did find some cute jumpers knitted for lampposts and trees, so perhaps it is nice if you know what to look for. In hindsight if you plan a spontaneous visit to a city it’s probably worthwhile taking someone who knows their way around.

The train home was a nightmare as it terminated in Worden, for some unknown reason, and as we didn’t understand the Dutch announcement we sat on the train for a while till someone said there was a bus outside. So we ran, but got there just in time to see the bus pull away and the next one wasn’t for an hour. This meant we would miss dinner. So I thought if we have to stand in the car park for an hour we might as well try to hitch a lift. Luckily this pulled off and we even beat the bus back to Utrecht station. I was learning the Dutch seem much keener to pick up strangers than in the UK. Overall if we did get the tickets for Den Hague, like we were supposed to – in order to see the European courts, then the day would’ve been much better.

Unfortunately the Wednesday after that I had to go fetch my bike so I could buy some ingredients to make cakes for our family dinner. However it was stolen!* Joy. So I had a kerfuffle with the police and insurance to maybe get some money for it rather than venturing to the supermarket. This was doubly disappointing as I had just had my first presentation, so baking was going to be a celebration. Instead it was a disaster.

The presentation I think went well though. I am not sure as I don’t really know what is expected from a presentation, no one really gives you any guidelines for anything. It was a poster presentation for psychology and I at least think ours was better than some as theirs was more like a power point and ours was definitely a poster. We’ll see how it goes; I don’t need to think about it anymore.

I did manage to borrow Sofie’s bike and got the ingredients for the cakes. They turned out to be a big success. I made butterfly cakes with chocolate sponge and instead of the normal wings, I used cookies. Even “Auntie” Veerle (who wasn’t at the party) told me she’d heard much about them from my “mum”. They couldn’t stop talking about it. It was nice to have a reunion as I know some families fall apart the day after intro week. But it did feel a bit distant as if our family had a split, but I guess that is to be expected if you just throw thirteen people together in a group. I guess they can’t all be the best of friends. I wonder if we will have another again as I expected it to turn into a party after and for us all to go to the bar. However everyone pretty much left and we helped clear up.

That night was also the meeting for the hitchhike in the break. Myrte, Klementina and I went and it was pretty crowded. It sounded really fun. The day after exams everyone meets on the quad and a picture is taken. Then we are off. We are allowed to take public transport within Utrecht in order to get to the motorway, but after that it is not allowed. At set times you send a text back to the organisers who then send a reply saying which place everyone is in. The winners get a trophy and on the Monday evening everyone has a meal together. San Sebastian is the destination, which didn’t thrill me to start with as Spain isn’t that interesting. However I looked it up and it turns out to be a surfing haven. So this changed my views a little. Klementina and I teamed up and with two hitchhikes under our belts this term; we feel we can do well.

Some things in here are different to the hitchhike in Exeter which I also participated in. It was from Exeter to Amsterdam. Here we had to go in boy-girl teams or boy-boy teams only. Whereas in UCU this is not the case. You can go in groups of two or three and made up of any amount of sexes you wish. I understand why Exeter does this as there is of course a danger in Hitchhiking, which is greater if you’re a girl. However I guess this rule is not enforced as the ratio of boys to girls in UCU is quite high so it would not work and lots of people would not be able to go.

Another thing that UCU could do easily, joined with HumanitarianCo, is do it for charity. With Exeter you pay so much to go – which is donated to charity – and then if you raise that amount of money back then you get to go for free. This has two benefits. One, if you can do something for charity why not, especially when it makes you feel better. Second, if you’re wearing a charity hitchhike t-shirt then I’m pretty sure more people will pick you up. Especially as en-route people would be able to recognise you all as a collective. Hence, as we learn in social psychology, familiarity creates likability, so more lifts. A downside for Exeter, though, is the initial payment is over £100 which is quite hard to pay, so if they met somewhere in the middle, this would be the best hitchhike.

Following the former entry the “Exeter Social” is going ahead tonight which should be fun. Ali has Pimms and I’m going to try to get rid of my bag of wine left over from Pukkelpop. We hope to introduce some Exeter games such as “Fives” and “Ride the Bus”. We also hope to change this trend of calling “Ring of Fire” “King’s cup”, i.e. the American version. Myrte is coming too so I look forward to it.

I can’t think of much else that happened except the joys of studying. I had two exams today maths and linguistics and I think they went okay. I’ve also bought all my tickets for fall break now so I reckon overall it’ll cost €500. It’s expensive – but exciting and so probably worthwhile. San Sebastian – England – Budapest!

*The bike was to turn up again a week later outside the dining hall. It had not been stolen after all – I had forgotten where I had parked it one evening!