Marcus - Universiteit Utrecht

Bachelor of Commerce/Laws
Semester 2, 2017 and Semester 1, 2018
I feel I have gained an appreciation of cultural nuances that will allow me to communicate effectively with international colleagues.

Academic experience

I studied courses in place of seven law electives and a finance elective. My courses at Utrecht ranged from Public International Law to Gender and International. The most obvious difference to UQ is a stronger emphasis on history and sociological context to the subject, even if the course is focused on black-letter law.

Personal experience

I made the best choice to stay in Utrecht for a whole year, which meant I really felt like a local by the time I left. Along the way, I made lifelong friends from around the world - but also best friends from other areas of Australia that I would not have otherwise met. 

I had plenty of opportunities to travel across Europe, but I'd have to say that my favourite destination was Georgia. I went once to explore Tblisi and had to go back to do some snowboarding!

Accommodation

I was homeless for the first two months of exchange, which was in itself an important experience. Because on-campus accommodation is extremely limited at UU, I had to find a place on the private market, which is equally squeezed at the moment.

Thankfully, I ended up in an apartment with Dutch students that were more than welcoming. I was very lucky in that I paid a much lower price than those on-campus, and I got to live with locals! 

The host university didn't provide any real support and I participated in various protests in relation to the issues in Utrecht. My advice would be to get in contact with locals through social media and start searching for a place as soon as possible. In saying that, you should get to Utrecht with time to spare before university starts because you often won't be able to apply for a place unless you're physically there.

Costs

I lived very comfortably during my time on exchange, and didn't hesitate to travel whenever I got the chance. Thankfully, living expenses in the Netherlands are relatively low when compared to other countries in western and northern Europe.

Rent was very low at €295/month. I ate very well and probably spent on average €20/day, but a meal out would cost on average €15. Rent a bike for €12/month and use it whenever you can within Utrecht. Trains to Amsterdam are around €7 each way, which can get expensive if you're going there often. Eindhoven is accessible by train and is a major hub for budget airlines across Europe. I think that you will be comfortable if you budget for at least €1000/month.

Professional Development

I am more self-confident than I have ever been. I feel comfortable in (literally) foreign situations and can easily navigate unexpected challenges. Further, I feel I have gained an appreciation of cultural nuances that will allow me to communicate effectively with international colleagues.

Highlight

I hired a Fiat 500 and for 10 days or so drove through the north of Italy, Austria, Switzerland and the south of France. I got to taste some amazing food, see some incredible landscapes and appreciate some beautiful architecture.

Top tips

(1) Do not underestimate the housing situation. SSH is a great option, but if you miss out, don't give up. Spend lots of time preparing so that when you get there you can find a place on the private market quickly.
(2) Get a bike on your first day. You will use it to go to the corner store, or to move house (like I did).