Angela: First week at Utrecht

Hello! Welcome to my first post for Utrecht University the Netherlands.

I’ve landed at Schipol airport 10 days ago. However, I’m still finding it hard to believe that I’m in the Europe. 

The classic tourist photo outside the Schipol airport 🙂

To be honest, the first impression I had for The Netherlands was kinda like New Zealand – not too many people, quite a lot natural resources and relaxed lifestyle. However, it is never too late to be amazed by all the little things such as canals everywhere, people and the old buildings. 

Saying that the country has the same vibe as New Zealand at the first sight. I still feel everything here is so new to me. So I just can’t stop wandering around (and also taking A LOT OF photos). Utrecht university is located in Utrecht and is the largest university in the country. Utrecht is a city which is 30-min away from Amsterdam. It is the hub of the Netherlands( yea, it is extremely easy for us- exchange students to travel around.) I’ve been spending a week in Utrecht. Being completely honest, I’m falling in love with Utrecht. It is a city full of young, lively and energetic vibes. 

canal+bikes=the Netherlands (@Utrecht city centre)

The first week of uni was basically like what we did in UoA- heaps of orientation events. On the mandatory orientation, they assigned us to different groups where you get to know quite a lot of international students who are also under the same faculty. It is really fun to meet people all over the world!! If you ever hesitated to come to the Netherlands to do your exchange because of the language. Don’t be worried at all. It is really common to hear people speaking English in the campus. Outside the campus, most of them are usually speaking Dutch. However, when you talk to them in English they are usually really nice and respond in English. Some interesting fact that the Netherlands is actually ranked as the European country that speaks English the best. (except the fact that THERE ARE NO ENGLISH LABELS IN THE SUPERMARKETS. I’m struggling every time when I do grocery shopping)

The view after the mandatory orientation while I was waiting for the bus

These are some thoughts and some note-worthy things I’ve experienced in my first week at Utrecht. (although other trivial moments are still special to me in some ways haha). Thank you for reading my first blog! Stay tuned for more!

What I’m Packing: Freya

So lately I have been hitting up all the travel blogs and all my traveler friends to boil down the ultimate packing list. It will have to see me through the cold, cold Northern Europe winter, and then seven months of unplanned adventure. The main advice to come out of this research is to pack light and pack smart. Only take clothes that are versatile and easy wearing. Only pack items with high utility value.  Seeing as I won’t be heading off until January 29, I still have a month and a half to scrutinize and inevitably alter my packing list. So instead of giving you a well researched packing list that I probably won’t end up sticking to myself, here are five key essentials that no limitation on space and common sense can stop me from bringing…

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Bullet Journal and Notebook

For those who don’t know about the bullet journal, it’s essentially a DIY life planner that works great for people who constantly find themselves making lists and jotting notes etc. down on loose paper. You start with a blank notebook, and following the guidance of the adaptable bullet journal system (Google it), you can plan out your months, weeks, days, along with any events, thoughts, goals, plans, lists and ideas that may enter your brain. I already have a series of pages dedicated to the locations I intend to visit, where I am noting down the advice the internet and real-life friends are giving me. I also use it to track money, which will be an absolute necessity when travelling. The blogs also tell me to bring a notebook to keep a travel diary, so I’m bringing a second notebook along too.

Laptop and Unlocked Cellphone

Pretty reasonable travel essential. Technology has revolutionized the way we see the world. There are so many necessary apps and websites that I can’t imagine getting by a year without, for both study and exploration. My year away is ideally about going out and experiencing new things, meeting new people and seeing all that the world has to offer. And, while it’s fun to imagine this as guided by spontaneous adventure, how I travel, where I go and what I do will inevitably be the product of extensive online research.

Diana Mini Camera

So hipster. But so much fun. Every now and again I’ll bring an analogue camera along to an outing and take some quick, sporadic snaps. It takes a few months to finish a roll of film, which means that when I eventually get the film developed, it has a beautifully random and candid assortment of memories. I have a small collection of film cameras, out of which the Diana made the final cut because it is small, light, basic and durable. What’s more, the exposure sometimes is a little off, which distorts the images in various ways. Often the colours come out much richer or hazier than they actually were. So, while my phone will be put to work in full tourist mode while I’m away, the Diana will make the trip as well.

Merino Everything

The main thing I’m nervous about travelling to the Netherlands is the cold. Amsterdam will be at its coldest when I arrive, and I want to be prepared. Because I am sticking to the mantra of packing light, my lovely winter coat and thick, warm jumpers aren’t going to be around to keep me toasty. Instead I’m opting for wool and merino, which are effective at keeping in the warmth while also being light and breathable. With this in mind I am making the most of the winter clothing sales on right now and stocking up on merino layers of every description. I was also able to score some epic deals courtesy of my friend’s staff discount at Macpac, so now there is nothing from stopping me from exploring the city in negative degrees.

Statement Tops

The main rule of travel fashion is stay basic, compact, and stay away from wacky everyday pieces, as you soon get tired of wearing them. Unfortunately, my personal fashion style tends to stray in the opposite direction. My wardrobe is filled with large statement tops, all of which have acquired some sort of sentimental story (#hoarder). While I’m fully aware that these are not the type of items I see on any travel blogger’s Ultimate Packing List, I can’t imagine going a year without them. So rules be damned, at least some of them are coming with me. Sometimes you just gotta find out what you’ll regret for yourself.

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What I’m Packing: Olivier

I left Auckland for 7 months on Sunday afternoon – off to the USA en route to Amsterdam! Fitting 7 months into a suitcase is a difficult exercise, but I ended up having a suitcase weighing less than 18 kgs due to taking only the following essentials (in my mind anyway!)

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  • Warm clothes – including but not limited to the beanie, the scarf, the woollen socks, the thermal top and the puffer jacket. Don’t worry too much about the fact that the puffer jacket looks uncool overseas – it’s super warm and it’s better to buy nice stuff when you arrive overseas!
  • Electronic essentials including the laptop, the headphones and the kindle. I seriously can’t stress how awesome a kindle is – I just downloaded 7 books on it for around $30 in total and that should last me for the whole trip.
  • Sports shoes – great way to keep fit and meet locals.
  • Swiss Army Knife – excellent for travelling, doubles as cutlery and often helps me out of a jam. Just remember to put it in your suitcase, not your carry on or else there could be interesting results.
  • Tie – always handy to have just in case you need it for a formal occasion.
  • Loved items – my wolf Chasseuse was given to me by my girlfriend and she travels with me everywhere I go – look out for her later in my blog! (alternatively look out for her in my blog about travelling through the USA – olivieroverseas.wordpress.com)

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