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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How To Have A Cheap And Amazing Holiday

After nine months of being in the Netherlands, it was now time to explore the country with my friends. In the cheapest way possible, of course.

The plan:

  • A – Tuesday 22nd May – The end of finals week and hence the final party at UCU (The Beach Party)
  • B – Wednesday – A night camping on Texel (one of the Dutch islands)
  • C – Thursday – A night at Myrte’s house in Alphen aan den Rijn
  • D – Friday – A night at Anton’s in Wezep
  • E – Saturday – A night at Gerrianne’s in Aalten so we could join her for her confirmation
  • F – Sunday – A night at Sofie’s in Apledoorn
  • G – The day in Apeldoorn and back to Utrecht
The route

The Route

This was a great plan as we would get to visit lots of people and get to camp on the islands, which we had wanted to do for a long time. Plus staying at people’s houses means free accommodation and potentially free food. As ever it is great to know locals.

Tuesday

I had finished my last exam the day before but everyone (except Gerrianne) still had deadlines and other exams to do. I thought they would have been done by lunch time but they actually continued long into the day. Whilst they were working hard I laid on the Quad and read Dave Gorman’s Unchained America.

The beach party in the evening was a big deal and something that is looked forwarded to all year. However, the name threw me a little bit as I assumed it would be in the beach party area (a room in dining hall), but my logic was apparently wrong and it is held in a different location every year. Last year it was in a swimming pool and this year it would be in the football stadium near our campus. I was already unexcited by this as I guessed that once you were in the stadium it would be the same as just being in the bar. I was to be correct in my assumptions.

First, however, there is the pre-beach party hosted by one of the fraternities – Primus. It started at 5pm and ran to 11pm when the beach party started, and after this was the after party starting at 3am in the bar. I was pretty sure there was no way I would make the whole thing. I loved the pre-party – it was for charity, the sun was shining and we were listening to students singing and playing music whilst we had a few (drink as much as you want) beers. It’s pretty much my favourite thing to do. We had a great time even though the pump for the beer was broken meaning the beer had even more foam than usual (about half and half). It started off with only Sofie, Myrte and I, as Myrte was to be playing at 7.30pm with her band. But as the night continued more people joined us and we celebrated our new-found freedom.

However, when the switch to the actual beach party came around, things didn’t go so smoothly, with difficulties getting the group  ready to leave at the same time. Eventually we gathered everyone and walked the short distance to the stadium. When we were in it was just a room with the bad “boom boom” bar music that we don’t enjoy. We sat down in another room. My feet hurt so everyone went to dance while I stayed sitting. Long story short, I laid around on a bean bag and people didn’t come back for a long time so I ended up talking to Life. He is one of our unit mates and this was really nice as he is part of the unit we don’t talk to at all. The other guys came back and we ate some snacks. Everyone then went back to try the dance floor again, but after the stories of what it was like I wasn’t keen on that, and instead had a little nap.

We then left having a little sit in the middle of the road on the way back. When we reached the after-party people were too tired to even go up the stairs to check it out, so we all went to bed. Such party animals!

Wednesday

We woke up early for the last brunch and hence last meal ever in dining hall, as in the summer term it would be closed. We called all the stragglers who were not there on time and discussed our excitement for the plans ahead. The aim was to get to the campsite in Texel before five, and so after brunch we packed the car. The task looked impossible but in the end we could fit everyone’s luggage in, plus three people. As Dutch students get free public transport they were going to go by train to Texel and the rest would go in the car with Myrte. At the end of the week we would split all petrol and any extra train ticket costs. Simple.

We nearly killed Klementina on the way as she became very travel sick, but we made it. We waited for Veerle, Anton and Gerrianne to arrive and then we boarded the ferry. It was the calmest piece of sea I had ever been on. It hardly even felt like we were moving. At the other side the car continued to the campsite while the public transport people took a route via the shops to get some snacks for the evening.

An Anton imposter

The campsite was not what I was expecting. It was actually on the sand dunes and you got to camp amongst them!  This was a little weird as other times I had been to some Dutch dunes they had been protected – meaning that you couldn’t even walk on the them, let alone camp. But I wasn’t complaining. We found a nice pitch and had just started setting up when the others arrived. We made camp and then walked back to the entrance to get some pizza.

We grabbed the bag of drink and snacks on the way back and walked the two minutes from our campsite to the beach. The weather was glorious and we enjoyed the late sun and ate. We played a bit of ultimate frisbee, flew a kite and some even had a swim in the sea. Our night was cut short though as there was a huge lightning storm on the horizon so being in the sea and on the beach was very dangerous. Unfortunately a very sad thing had also happened and my camera had broken so I am not able to provide you with footage of this storm, but it was incredible. It never rained on us and we couldn’t hear any loud cracks of thunder, but the lightning was beautiful with lots of fork lightning lighting up the dark sky. We watched, chatted and went to bed.

Thursday

We had to wake up early again as had to be off the pitch by 11am, but this wasn’t so bad as we could still park the car on the site until 4pm. This meant we had a whole day to spend on the beach. It was another day of blue skies and heat. We played more frisbee, sang, sun-bathed and went paddling in the sea. It was very relaxing and crazy that two days ago we were all stressing over exams and deadlines. The sun turned out to be a bit too hot for some and as it approached 4pm Veerle and I were under our towels with Myrte sitting in the shadow of the chair. The aftermath of this day would last the whole week – Tina’s feet are still burnt now. Myrte also had problems as she burnt the back of her legs. So, a lot more red than before, we departed for Myrte’s house.

Here everyone met Myrte’s dog James and Myrte’s parents who kindly bought us Chinese for dinner which we really enjoyed. Sofie joined us afterwards. We all put our bedding down and got attacked by James who thought it was all a very fun game.

Friday

Klementina and Gerrianne had another early morning as they had to return to Utrecht for a SIFE competition. Veerle was to join them and Myrte needed to drive them to the station. So sadly Anton, Sofie and I had to sleep-in longer!  We awoke at 11 and had a late breakfast. We then played Jack Straws (Mikado) and Cluedo. I chanced it and decided to guess – even though I wasn’t sure of the item – as Anton was very confident. It back fired, though I had the other two correct, and many turns went by where I could’ve discovered the item easily. The game ended with Anton winning. Sad times.

Anton and Sofie then left to get the train to Anton’s where Gerrianne would join them. Myrte and I were first going to go to town to try to rescue my camera, and if not to get a replacement. The shop said it would be €65  just to look at the camera, and then more on top to get a new lens if that was causing the ‘zoom error’. So, with that being a ridiculous amount, and with the fact I would be missing a lot if I didn’t have one, I got a shiny new one!  Expect many pictures from now on…

Today was the weekend before Pentecost, which is a holiday in the Netherlands so people have the Monday off work. Hence this is a time for everyone to go on holiday and thus we sat in a massive traffic jam for three hours on what was supposed to be an hour’s journey, plus we had to make a detour to campus to collect Klementina and Linda who had decided to join us for this part of the trip.

Anton’s house was beautiful and the garden vast. We were treated to a BBQ even though we had missed eating with the family, like we were supposed to. We spent the evening in the garden, swinging in the hammocks and sitting by the candlelight.  We said “hi” to the miniature ponies next door and, when we went inside, played with Anton’s very cute bunny. Sofie, Myrte, Anton and Klementina played a game about trading animals that was very long and got very serious, which was quite dull in the end for Gerrianne and I. We then retired to our respective sleeping places.

Saturday

When I arrived downstairs Linda and Klementina were doing work and I was offered a nice breakfast. We then got into a game of DVD Cluedo which was interesting. In this version, you also had to work out what time of day it was and you could do things like ask the butler for a clue and look up a secret message in the rule book. In the end I thought it ran too long and preferred the original.

After the game Linda headed home and we continued onto Gerrianne’s. Here we met her dog Jackie, her chickens and her many cows as she lives on a farm. It reminded me a lot of my Grandma’s house with the sounds and the atmosphere, though she doesn’t have a herd of cows to milk every day. We were introduced to the family and had some drinks whilst we waited for the public transport people to arrive as they had missed their train.

We stopped on the way for ice-cream and I introduced people to the amazing Wich

We made pancakes for dinner and set up the tent as this is where we would be sleeping tonight.

Jackie Gerriane’s dog


The professional pancake makers


I then sat in the living room as Eurovision was to be starting soon.

I like Eurovision and was looking forward to it coming along all year as I thought it would be fun to watch with other nationalities. However, I have gathered that the Netherlands are into it even less than people in Britain are. I also learned they have boring, optimistic, serious commentators and not funny ones like us. As a nation they also do not take the competition seriously, and have not made the final in the eight years that there has been a semi-final.

Klementina was also not that interested which left me being the only one who thought that it was fun. Myrte and Sofie watched a lot with me, but it was not the same atmosphere as normal, even though I appreciate their effort. I was in fact a little torn as those who weren’t watching Eurovision were doing my other favourite thing sitting around a fire.

For those who are interested the UK entry was as terrible as to be expected (but we didn’t lose, coming second to last to Norway!). My favourites were Sweden, Germany, Iceland and Denmark. Sweden was obviously going to do very well and indeed did win, thankfully beating the grannies of Russia, and Serbia – who I do not remember at all. My lasting favourite, though, is Denmark as I still have their song in my head now – even though they did badly, for some unknown reason, in the results. Politics!

Germany

Iceland

Sweden

Denmark

Sunday

Breakfast was freshly baked rolls with strawberries and spread. After this we then left for church where Gerrianne was to have her confirmation. Attending church – which is something I don’t do – and in another language, is a very interesting experience. Even with some translations from Sofie I didn’t entirely follow what was happening, but Gerrianne enjoyed it which was the main thing. We returned to the house where we were joined by some of Gerrianne’s friends and family. We ate some very nice home-made soup and salad.

We were also in for a treat. One of the cows was giving birth! It was her first calf, and after a few hours she needed to be assisted. This involved quite a scary device that cranked the calf out of the mother. Thankfully it was attached to the calf’s hooves and wasn’t used to crank something else, as others first thought. It looked scary at first, but soon the calf was breathing. It was a boy and so was named after Anton, which we all found amusing.

After this we left Anton and Gerrianne behind, whilst the rest continued to Sofie’s where we would be joined by Christina and Linda. Here we felt very relaxed as we didn’t have to feel so awkward about not speaking Dutch as Sofie’s mum is an English translator, so it was easy. We were treated to Maltesers and ice cream and watched Calendar Girls and Alice, now that the boy of the group was no longer with us. The Alice series was on too late for me (hence I fell asleep) but everyone else enjoyed it and talked about it over breakfast in the morning.

Monday

After breakfast we had a tour by car of Sofie’s beautiful town Apeldoorn where we dropped Linda at the station. We then continued to Paleis Het Loo where William III, who was one of the few to conquer England (so people like to tell me a lot) had his summer house, but now the Dutch royal family only occasionally has parties there.

It was very beautiful, though to my eyes was just like another big stately home, or similar building, like at home. The gardens were very impressive and as the sun was shinning all day like it had been for the whole of the week, we happily dipped our feet in the fountain – something that Sofie said she had never seen any of the times she had been there before. We were true trend setters! After this we laid around on the grass admiring the trees around us.

The Paleis closed at 5pm so we headed to the outer grounds to try to find the maze. It was a terrible maze, as you enter there are 4 paths, one leads to a dead-end, two lead in 30 seconds to the centre and the last actually gets you to do the maze. Tina took the last and as a consequence took some short cuts through the hedges to reach the centre. A big disappointment.

Back at Sofie’s house we had the first proper meal of our week (as in the meat potatoes and vegetables kind) and a huge slice of Vienetta.   We were then to take a detour on the way back to campus to the Veluwe. Driving through it was very pretty with lots of thick forest on each side and small roads. We eventually got to the place Sofie wanted, even with a turn into a dead-end in a field. It was 7.5km of sand to the coast with heather growing amongst it. We are told to return there in August where everything will be transformed to purple thanks to the heather. It was truly gorgeous and definitely a secret place to visit that I’m sure many foreigners don’t know about.

This was the end for us as we arrived back at UCU to close with a trip after-party, where we chatted and looked at photos of the trip. It was a great week.

Now to some conclusions I have drawn from this. It might be the houses that I visited here, or it might be the houses that I have visited at home, but Dutch houses are much more modern and families keep them much more organised. Lots of things match, Ikea is a favourite, and open plan is preferred. People are very proud of their homes. Of course they are all of a different style to our own, with big sloping roofs making them look like toy houses. A sentiment that is mutual as Sofie says the same about the houses in England.

A typical Dutch House

And if you are wondering how cheap this cheap holiday is, €40! All-inclusive. Definitely worth it!!

Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day)

In my opinion the best holiday of the year! I will do a little explaining for those who don’t know.

Koninginnedag is a special day in the Dutch calendar (May 30th) where the Dutch go a little bit crazy. They all wear orange and start to disregard many well established rules (i.e. that bikes go in the bike path and people go on the pavement, so you end up riding into everyone). The reason for this is it is a day of patriotism where they celebrate their beloved Queen Beatrix (or rather her mum’s birthday – Juliana – as Beatrix’s birthday is in January, which is too cold for proper celebrations). This is why they wear Orange, the national colour, as the royal family is the house of Orange – the name originating from France with William of Orange (the first King after the Dutch stopped being a republic). “Discovering the Dutch” class is handy sometimes! Mostly, though, it is an excuse for everyone to get together and have a big party, as unlike for us when it’s our Queen’s birthday, everyone gets the day off!

Queen Beatrix

Another aspect to this day is the Vrijmark (or “free market” for direct translation). Most of the time bureaucracy is very strict and people are not allowed to play music in the street or sell their things without a permit. However this day is different which means everyone saves up their unwanted things for a year and, on this day, sell it in the city centre. Utrecht is particularly special for this as it’s Vrijmarkt is open 24 hours, from 6pm on May 29th to 6pm May 30th.

Map of Utrecht for Koninginnedag and Nacht, Vrijmarkt area in light orange

Now, I knew before I arrived in the Netherlands that this day was a big deal as a person who had visited UCU before from Exeter had gone on about it when we had a meeting with him. So I was already planning on going to Amsterdam this day. Tina was also very keen as she’d been here as long as I have now (nearly a year) and hadn’t visited Amsterdam yet. Hence we could easily kill two birds with one stone on this one. A plan was vaguely coming together a week beforehand. The 29th is also a day to be celebrated, Koninginnenacht, where music plays in the street and everyone grabs a beer and has a good time. So our plan was to go to Utrecht for Koninginnenacht and Amsterdam for Koninginnedag. Crazily, though, many of the Dutchies did not have a clue what to do on this day. There were many debates between me and Myrte about if it would be best to go to Amsterdam. Even her friends that lived in Amsterdam had no idea! I don’t see how you couldn’t know as even if you haven’t been, which sounds ludicrous, then it must be on the News and things. Crazy.

The 29th finally came around. Myrte, Tina and I were going to go to the Vrijmarkt ay 7pm to check it out (we couldn’t go at 6 as this is when dining hall opens so we may have missed some of the best bargains), come back, change and head into town again for some partying. However Tina and her computer had other ideas, after a hugely unproductive Saturday by Tina – where she spent the whole day watching Tim Minchin videos, organizing and making her photos better and skyping – she had an article to write for the Boomerang (UCUs student newspaper) to do. But she was to prove to me she could be super productive this Sunday. Her computer and Word, however, had decide to crash at 5pm and not save all her work. She now had to do all her work again which meant she couldn’t go to dinner or to the market. She would be done later though, and so me and Myrte biked away to town.

The Vrijmarkt was huuge and seemed never-ending. A whole big area of town was sectioned off for it and as we walked around it we realised we now had no idea where we were. Unfortunately I didn’t take my camera for this part so excuse the lack of photos. I really enjoyed looking round though. In the end we didn’t buy anything, just some doughnuts from a stall. I saw some pokemon DVDs and books that I encouraged Myrte to buy, but they were in Dutch so it wouldn’t have been fun to watch them. I was also on the look out for Miffy, my favourite cartoon character who happens to be from Utrecht. I spotted her on a blanket and picked her up. Myrte told me to buy it but then the owner said something “Oh you can have it for free”, “Seriously?!”. I was not going to turn that offer down and I feel it was a very good purchase, even though she may be naked, but I think it’s supposed to be like that.

We decided to start getting back as the sun was starting to set, but first we had to deal with a huge people-jam. Whilst we were amongst it all, we thought we would never get out. I was very convinced it was a dead-end as there could be no other reason for all these people also struggling to move in the opposite direction to us. 15 minutes of my life wasted later and we were out. I felt successful. On the way back to the bikes I saw a scout stall selling t-shirts which I regret not buying. They said “I crown(in picture form) NL”. I don’t have a t-shirt to signify my stay in the Netherlands, and this one seemed very nice in comparison to the ones we would see the next day in Amsterdam. I also want the one in town that says “I rain cloud (in picture form) NL”. However they only stock this in XL and man size. The burden of being a women.

We got back at exactly the right time. Tina had just finished her article and Linda was also round telling us about all the goings on around campus. “It’s such a nice atmosphere, everyone wants to do stuff together and off-campus. We’ve already been invited to three parties”. It sounded like we were in for a good night. Tina needed to shower and change and Linda went back to her unit so Sofie and I introduced Myrte to some Tim Minchin videos and we all got flagged up.

When we were set to leave it turned out that Linda had fallen asleep and so her and her orange trousers would not be joining us on our Koninngenach escapades. We decided to meet some people on pub golf, but in the end they were just drinking outside kromhout, but we had bigger issues as one of our friend was a bit too drunk and so had to be looked after. It was all fine in the end and we set off for town.

Two bottles Tina

I taught Myrte the art of stealing peoples drinks and hats. She was a good pupil. But then as we reached the centre the inevitable “big group thing” happened and we lost everyone we had come with. Oh well we would be fine by ourselves. We walked around the music stage and checked out beer prices. They were €2.50 here where as on the way in they were €1.50 so we decided to walk back. On the way Tina was hungry and we started eyeing up New York Pizza. We decide to buy some. Whilst they were waiting I went down the street and grabbed some beers. I came back and enjoyed the Pizza. It was very good. However something odd was happening, it appeared the pizza place was turning into some kind of dance off. It was very spontaneous and weird and Tina and Myrte decided to join in. I filmed the scene for your pleasure, but we decided to leave when some of the guys got a bit touchy feely.

http://www.facebook.com/v/10151576252505696 – video of New York Pizza

We then walked around some more, I’m not quite sure what we did as we didn’t watch any music but we had a good time. We talked to some locals who were amused by our inability to speak Dutch. We then decided to walk home playing “kiss, marry, push off a cliff” on the way back.

Myrte stealing hats from locals

The Dom in the background

We waved off Myrte and I then proceeded to have a half hour conversation across the hallway to Tina about how it was not an option not to go to Queens day tomorrow. She said she wasn’t able to after her unproductiveness on Saturday and only managing the Boomerang article today. I was saying that it was planned for so long and it is the thing to do when your living in the Netherlands, especially as it combined with going to Amsterdam, which she also wanted to do. She eventually left, I would have to try again in the morning.

We were to leave campus at 9.30am as Amsterdam was supposed to crowded and hence we wanted to not get caught up in a packed train. Myrte however was late (the stereotype of Dutch punctuality does not hold at UC). I had already tried to get Tina up that morning and even with Myrte and as much guilt tripping as I could reasonably give we had to leave without. We flagged up once again and headed for the train station. Myrte commented on my not orange but actually pink shirt which I was very sad about. It’s definitely tie-dye orange though I agree it wasn’t as orange as I remembered. Myrte was wearing a blue stripy top so she could hardly talk anyway.

The station was not as full as expected, but the train was and me and Myrte enjoyed the train to Amsterdam sitting on the stairs (the trains are double deckerd so they have stairs!). Some people got off at an earlier station whilst we got off at Centraal. A sea of orange awaited us, we got a map from a lady and walked towards Dam Square.

On the way were many stalls with orange t-shirts where Myrte and I looked for a suitable purchase. Unfortunately none were that great and so we remained less orange than most other people. We didn’t know where to go so we just walked around where the crowds were. The scene is like how Rhythms of the World used to be (a music festival in the town over from me). Where there are many stages set up all over town and you can just wonder between them, listen to the music and enjoy a beverage. With the added bonus of looking out for a bargain. However with the differences that the music being played not being varied, they were all DJs, and the few grassy parts we found were not near a stage. Apparently they had changed it this year as Radio 538 used to do a festival on Museumplein, but now they had decided to split up all the venues more. This didn’t really bother me I was still really enjoying myself.

We got some ice-cream, had a chat on the grass, drank some Queen’s Day themed beer, ate some noodles, listened to an awesome guitarist play in Rembrandt Square and walked across Amsterdam trying to find the Vrijmarkt and getting lost in the process. We found the children’s vrijmarkt and a local showed us how to get there on the map. Though his response to our question was the “free market is everywhere”, so by that I would guess the section on the map would not be as impressive as in Utrecht. I said we should go to another park as the local said it was nice there as there was a lot of children their playing violins and stuff.

Here we learned even more that Amsterdam is a big place as, after walking down a quiet street which suddenly turned into a DJ set, we stumbled across Museumplein. We decided to stop here as it was very beautiful and there was a huge picture of the Queen on the Rijksmuseum. We chilled here for a bit and got attacked by footballs, frisbees and lions (a cuddly toy from a small child). It was nice to see all different types of people and families joining together on an immaculate day. We should have days like this in the UK.

We walked back to the station again, as Myrte had to get back to practice a presentation for 9am tomorrow. It was 2.6km away, as the sign told us. On the way we had to walk through the crowds of two DJ stages including a really cool one where someone was playing saxophone along with the track by the DJ. We made it back and it hadn’t taken that long, we checked over the stalls for a good t-shirt again, but no joy.

The I amsterdam sign with orange embellishment

We got on the train and received a text from Lujain saying sorry she couldn’t come but to have a nice time. We had texted her at 10am and it was now 6pm. We chatted about how it didn’t make sense for people to miss this day and especially to bail at the last-minute. What will Myrte do without me next year?

Amsterdam Centraal station

Overall I really loved Queens Day and wish we had something similar – the Jubilee is not going to be remotely the same! How could you not love just wondering around a city where everyone is happy, there is such a great atmosphere and there is music to listen to while you chill with those around you. I can hardly think of anything better. Well maybe if there was a bonfire..

Queens Day – I will certainly be coming back to join you again though I don’t think it will be next year as I’m sure I will have exams 😦

01/05/2012

Today was also a fun day and I will add a little on the end of this post. This afternoon ArtsCo did “Pimp My Bike”. Obviously in the Netherlands you are very attached to your bike, and if you live in the city then generally your bike is old and looking very sorry for itself. Hence people sometimes decorate their bikes and give them a new look. I had been very excited about this event too as my bike is brown. But not anymore. Now it’s super pretty and I am very pleased with the outcome 😀

Before


After

And safely home

UCU Proms in the Castle

Five weeks in, where does the time go?

Last week was very hectic with two tests, a presentation and an assignment. It’s busier than my midterm week! At least we had Prom at the weekend to make up for it.

Prom at UCU is an annual event where the people of UC actually put an effort in when planning a night out. Usually at the bar it is OK to go in the same clothes that you went to class, no one minds. Whilst this is refreshing from the having-to-change-to-your-evening-clothes mentality when heading out in Exeter, it’s nice to dress up sometimes. However this did mean that I was a little disappointed when I saw what others had chosen to wear. Prom has a certain style of dress, the kind you can only wear to a fancy event. These were the kind I was expecting. Yet I guess as UCUers don’t get to wear going out dresses to the bar they wear them to Prom instead. Essentially I felt a lot more shiny than others.

However everyone still looked good and it was exciting to get outside the bubble together. Unfortunately we were not the entire friendship group we would have like to have been. Most of the Dutchies (not including Linda, Myrte you’re awesome (; ) had decided not to go. For these kind of uni events I have the mentality that you should always go to them as if you don’t go you’ll just consider what it would’ve been like if you did and if you do go and it’s not good at least you experienced it and will know what it was like – in essence there is a smaller risk of regret in going than not. I hypothesized it had something to do with the much stronger home life they have as in their mind they see us uni people all the time. When really this isn’t the case and when we are a group it is often only in Dining Hall and at these times we are thinking of other things “Oh no I have class in an hour”, “I have so much reading to do”, “I’m so tired” etc. Not time just going out and having fun, plus this will be the only UCU Prom I can go to so I am sad that now I will never go with everyone.

The theme of Prom was “Once Upon A Time”, but in typical UCU style I did not see any of this reflected in what people had chosen to wear or inside the venue. The venue did appear to fit the theme as it was in a castle, however when we arrived all we could see around us was houses and it turned out to just be in the middle of a housing estate. It was not very castle-like and actually more like a big house. We entered anyway and made our way to the dance floor. The rest of the evening consisted of toing and froing from the bar to the dance floor. We we’re interrupted a few times for the announcements of Prom Kings and Queens, which is to be expected from an Americanised system such as that of UCU. I am not really a fan of this Prom King and Queen stuff. 1. because it dented the atmosphere every time there was an announcement and 2. you had to give your vote in before the Prom, hence it was nothing but a pure popularity contest.

The waltz came on latter which for me detracted a bit too as I remained partner-less. I was hot though so I tried to go outside to cool down, but ridiculously we were being forcibly trapped there. You were not allowed out unless you pleaded with the guy on the door to go get something from your coat at which point you had to return immediately anyway. This was the most ridiculous thing of the prom.

I realise in this I am being quite negative, but that is not what I thought of Prom. It was a fun night out it was just not what you imagine a Prom to be like. It was a good party.

I have concluded since that I am not that big a fan of Prom – I enjoy the pre-Prom part but when actually there I am a little disappointed. I think I will stick to the more creative ones at Exeter such as the Adventure Ball (It is held in a children’s soft play area!).

I also had company in my room for one night this week, “named” Figaro.

You Sunk My BattleShot

Sadly the inevitable has occurred and the first day of term arrived. My courses for this term (after mean administration didn’t let me do organizational psychology, like I really wanted) are Discovering the Dutch (apparently they are a particular rare creature and quite hard to find), Psycholinguistics, Introduction to Sociology and Evolution, Culture and Human Nature.

Minus the coffee, of course

This is what I think of them so far.

Discovering the Dutch will be the fun I expect it to be, with the added bonus I get to learn a little Dutch – yay! This was particularly amusing as I learned the Dutch are quite depressing when they introduce themselves.

  • “Hoe heet je?” (“What’s your name” pronounced similarly too ‘who hates you?’)
  • “Ik heet *[insert name here]*” (i.e. I hate myself).

They really need to get some more self-esteem! What is more, they didn’t even realise that’s what it sounds like so I have since enlightened Dutch society.

Psycholinguistics seems like it will also be fun, though we’ve only had one class so far as it was cancelled on Wednesday. The guy is Russian and funny, so, after we get through the dull neurons and brain structure stuff and onto the language disorders, it’ll be much more my thing.

Evolution, Culture and Human Nature, as we have discovered with a lot of UC courses, is not as inter-departmental as it claims to be. Mostly it will be about biological evolution, to the point where the teacher said “If you have done the human and animal biology course before then, you are welcome in the class, but I don’t think you will learn anything”. So that sucks a bit, but I have done some of the readings and it’s reasonably interesting and they will hopefully get onto the social science perspective sometime.

 

Sociology was not what I was expecting in the first class. I thought it would be similar to psychology – but I was wrong!  It’s a lot of theory and no experiments. The intro is basically a history lesson on the big sociologists who have been – Marx, Weber, Tocqueville. All except Marx I have never heard of. I don’t like history that much and having a lot of theory doesn’t sound very scientific to me, though of course it claims it is a science. I didn’t really learn anything so left disappointed. However in the next class it became a little more interesting as we learned what Tocqueville thought about democracy so I think and hope it will be OK.

Now to more important things, the non academic stuff. On Monday, even though they complained it was so bad Myrte, Sofie and I had a mini Tru Calling marathon so hopefully we can start disc 3 soon and start watching the episodes I haven’t seen many times over. Tuesday I tried to sort out Linda’s life by planning her courses for her, though this turned out to be complicated as she wanted to do so much and hadn’t planned her priorities, e.g. she wanted an Anthropology track at the beginning and near the end we had crossed out quite a few courses.

The next day Gerrianne and I discussed this further and though the liberal arts and sciences syllabus seems so free it’s actually quite restricting. So you take four courses a term:

4 courses x 2 terms per year x 3 years = 24 possible courses.

However there are quite a few requirements you have to factor into this:

  • First you have to take ‘Academic Skills and practice’ (now 23 courses).
  • Do the language requirement – take another language class (22) and when you know no others languages (like me), you will have to take two to get to the UCU standard wanted (21).
  • You also have to do methods and statistics (20) and the follow-up statistics courses in your discipline area, humanities, social science or science (19).
  • You also have to do a breadth requirement – take at least one course in all three departments, so this assumes two are not useful to your overall degree of Science, Humanities or Social Science (17).
  • Now to what you really want to do at university! To gain your degree title you have to take 10 classes in your desired department, which includes at least two tracks – a level 100, 200 and 300 in a subject e.g. psychology, history, physics (7).
  • So you are left with 7 free choices of course that you would like to do for fun – that’s the reason you chose this kind of degree anyway.  Well what if you want to do a semester abroad (and who doesn’t it’s awesome), that’s a semester away (3).
  • Not much to play with anymore! What about your thesis at the end? That takes up two courses (1).
  • Then, with all the clashes, and courses only running in one particular term, this final option may be taken up by your tutor putting you on a course as you didn’t have the priority for other courses you wanted, e.g. me and sociology.

So too bad on choice really, especially if you want to do a minor- a track in another subject – or something else like that.

There are summer courses that run however to ease the burden (one in spring and one in summer per year=6) and not all courses are run in the summer and you have to do a level 100 before you can do the 200 etc. In the end it’s nowhere as flexible as you would’ve liked it to be. Similar to my flexible combine honours degree really…

I also drew an excellent picture of her bedroom with a certain Mr. Right as Mr. Philosophy serenading her, her pet dolphin a pool, Mr. Grizzly the bear protecting her, a whole chicken on the floor for breakfast, the EU flag on the wall and her dreaming of French guy flying round the world and back for her in the love ship. Too bad she didn’t see it that way but it was awesome.

Wednesday, and I went to Student Scouts and Guides Utrecht (StudentenStam Utrecht). Princess Maxima had lost her teddy bear so we had to split up into two teams and follow clues around the city to find out the captors name, which country he fled too and of course the location of the bear. It was quite fun though it wasn’t the evening for being outside as it was super cold.

We ended in Havana, a bar where we had hot chocolate and played a game. It was called ‘Becker’ and the aim was to discover the famous person a player was thinking of. First of all they gave you the first letter of their name. From here on you had to describe a famous person to everyone in the group beginning with the same letter. If a non-describing player knows the answer then they would call “Becker” count to three and both describer and guesser would say who they were thinking of. If you got this right then you earned the next letter of the initial famous person, for which you then have to describe a new famous person starting with those first two letters. However the person who knows the initial famous person can jump in and guess the description without counting. If they get it right you have to describe a new person. If you describe the initial famous person then the knower can’t jump in and you win. It sounds complicated but it’s really fun so I taught it to my unit mates when I got back and we played till 1am!

Thursday was the opening of something really cool, UCU’s very own ice skating rink. The football pitch had been sprayed with water and left to freeze in the cold temperatures. Sadly I, coming from a less skating enthusiastic country, don’t own my own skates but hopefully one of the Dutchies will bring an extra pair back from home at the weekend. I also don’t agree well with the Dutch ideals of skating. If you hear the Dutch say skating you have to learn this means speed skating and not figure skating which comes to mind when heard through English ears. When I skate (which is rarely, twice in my whole life) I like to just have fun by playing tag, pushing people over and crashing into the barrier. I am also not a fan of speed, the same as I wasn’t when skiing in Macedonia. We decided it makes sense though with it being flat everywhere and water abundant!

Myrte and I had other exciting plans, that day, we were going to buy Advocaat from the store and drink this instead of the usual beer before Lujain’s birthday party. This is because it is her favourite alcoholic drink and yet it is not the one she drinks. I was like why not? My friends drink it at home and it’s really cheap, so that was the plan. Unfortunately we thought everyone else was going but it just turned out to be us two and we chatted to Klementina till 12am so had to go straight to the bar. Oddly Lujain wasn’t there but Gerrianne, Linda and Veerle were so we had a dance and went home when Veerle and Linda decided they wanted to watch Vampire Diaries.

Friday was the big day of the week. We were going to cook again and Klementina, Veerle, Reinder and I had decided that evening we were going to play Battleshots. It is similar to battleships except when your boat get’s hit you have to take a shot. It’s quite heavy going with 23 shots per side. Hence we had teamed up, but it was still going to be a lot. We had got some Sambucca and vodka in especially for the occasion. Even better it had been snowing all day so our plan was to play and then have a snowball fight and make snow angels afterwards. This is exactly what we did.

Veerle and Klementina were ahead at the beginning, hitting four of our boats in quick succession,  though in the end we won as they could not find our two boat. Off into the -18 degrees night we went where we fell about in the snow and made some perfect snow angels. However we had decided to finish off the rest of the vodka too and as we still weren’t really feeling the effects added a bottle of beer. This did not agree and one of us had an accident by the bar and had to go to bed where they promptly made more mess as I looked after them. So it was an experience and one I’m not sure we will repeat – if we do perhaps without finishing the vodka and extra beer.

The Sambucca after 20 minutes

In the morning we we’re a little delicate and Klementina’s couch surfer friend was over for the weekend, but I was boring and spent most of the weekend reading – got to love UCU! The chapter on Marx for sociology took a particularly long time to get through, i.e. most of Saturday. Luckily there is still snow on the ground so UCU has been transformed and looks beautiful. Plus the UK only had some yesterday and none fell in Exeter, so well done the Netherlands!

Exeter Social, Exams and Excitement

The “Exeter Social” went really well, though not as many games were played as wanted. I guess the Dutch don’t feel it so necessary a thing before going out. Apart from that we all sat around and chatted and it was pretty much like at Exeter. The Pimms went down just as well as it did when I showed my family. I’m sure Pimms could do a good deal in export as even the complicated people who don’t really like alcohol enjoy it. The next morning people complained to me how their head hurt and how they weren’t going near Amaretto again, but also how they had a really good time. It was an unquestioned success. I would defiantly like to do it again.

This was actually my last time going out as Exams were on the horizon. It is not fun and I am definitely not used to having classes whilst revising for exams. It was a hard slog as I had two exams on the Thursday (Maths and Lifespan Developmental Psychology) and on Friday, Social Psychology – the former two being straight after each other. There should be some kind of rule about not allowing exams of such different topics to be next to each other. Even I, who I guess should have had much practice at transferring between maths and psychology, cannot – in fifteen minutes – make the switch properly. Logic and numbers to factual and essays does not work.

Luckily the maths went quite well so I wasn’t too traumatized by it. However Lifespan was particularly hard and I have learnt that multiple choice is also not one of my strong points. Especially as I marked the answer on the question paper and then wrote the letter on the part to be handed in – and when I checked back, these two wouldn’t match up. I guess it’s just an extension of the schoolboy errors that drag my mathematics grades down, such as putting plus when you mean minus. At the end of the class the teacher gave out the key to the multiple choice. I got 19/30 so in Exeter this would be a 2.1. However he had set this mark as a C which is a 2.2 (i.e. a grade lower). Stupid conversions.

However the Social Psychology exam on Friday went much better and I was pretty confident with it. His multiple-choice was much nicer and far less specific. Plus there was less material in general to cover. I’m also glad linguistics was a few weeks earlier as in the winter having three exams in one day is going to be horrendous.

Klementina and I planned to go to the bar for end of exams but in the end we only went for a bit. I hadn’t packed anything for the hitchhike and my ten days away so I was doing this. This also included planning a vague route and trying to find a whiteboard in town, but failing and so using a plastic sleeve instead. This worked quite well as a whiteboard so a tip for budding hitchhikers: a plastic wallet with some white paper inside and a whiteboard pen is far cheaper and just as good as a proper whiteboard. We also bought loads of food and so when I had finally packed everything, the food bag was bigger than my actual bag.

Most of the evening was spent making a map of San Sebastian courtesy of Google maps. This was so when they announced the hostel address the next day we could run to the room and mark it. Then when we were dropped off randomly in San Sebastian we would know vaguely where to go.

We set the alarms so we still had time to go to town again, as Klementina hadn’t gone to the supermarket as she forgot she had a meeting yesterday and she needed to get money out. The big adventure was drawing near and it was starting to get a bit surreal.

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!