When people back in Greece learn that I am studying in The Netherlands the first thing that they think is that my student life is a never ending party. A typical day might include walks, hanging out with multi-cultural friends and the stereotypical partying and drinking all night long. It sounds so perfect, but it is too perfect to be even remotely true.
The ugly truth
When I came to The Netherlands to get my Masters Degree I was excited. I was meeting people from all over the world. I was out day and night, having fun, without any cares. Reality caught up with me two weeks later when the courses started and my free time vanished!
Suddenly I was terrified and I started making thoughts like “What on earth am I doing here?”, or “I need my friends, now!”, “I have no more personal life...” and several more dramatic scenarios and thoughts. I was prepared to study for the courses, but I wasn't prepared to sacrifice a huge chunk of my social life.
Fast forward to six months later and everything is different. I have an active social life, fun and even free time. I still do go to my classes, study hard and I almost constantly have an assignment or a paper to hand in, but what do you expect? I did come here to study, I just wasn't prepared to study the way it’s done here.
All I needed was to follow a bit of Dutch reasoning and get organized. I started scheduling everything and checking things off as soon as possible. That is when my personal life came back as well. That was my first lesson from the Dutch and one of the things i like about The Netherlands.
My second lesson here was not to be too fast to judge people. Especially the Dutch. When you first meet a Dutch person, you might feel a bit like a fool. He might make you believe that he is a know it all, you might even think that he feels that you are sort of inferior to him and maybe even that you have no future in this country. But is that really the way Dutch are? Or are we so biased from the stereotypical rumors?
Now, we have to take a moment here and think what the other people in Europe believe about Greeks for instance. There are stereotypes for everyone. But, this does not mean that we have to be biased by them; we could just try to base our perspectives on our personal experiences. And once you do that in the Netherlands, you can realize that the Dutch people are not rude, but direct; they are not arrogant, but mostly stressful, because of their limited time; they are not selfish, but just they try to do the best for themselves. Of course they are different from you! However this does not necessarily pose a problem.
Study in the Netherlands
If you want to study in the Netherlands you need to anticipate that your student life will not be what you are used in, especially if you are from Greece. You won't be able to party all day long, simply because you will never obtain your degree! However, this is how I finally appreciated a beautiful night, drinking beers and hanging out with my friends, as it is not something granted anymore.
Also, you have to get used in working with the organized and direct Dutch people; this simply means that you need to buy an agenda. You will have to make appointments for every case, like meeting with your teachers or fellow students in order to work on your assignments. The weird thing is that in the end you will realize that this is the only way to survive here and achieve your goals, so you are going to love it. Trust me!.
How to survive in the Netherlands
Personally, I am really satisfied as a student in The Netherlands. And of course it wasn't easy to adapt here; I had to try hard. It is really simple for me now, so take a tip: Don’t be a Greek that simply lives in the Netherlands, be a Dutch person, who simply comes from Greece. Try to speak Dutch, to make fun with your Dutch fellow students, to hang out with them after the class hours and if this won’t work, you don’t have to worry – Just do what you have to do in the university and then hang out with other Greeks; there are hundreds and thousands here anyways!
Photos by _dChris, Moyan_Brenn, Abeeeer, maurobrock, Tyler-Sanford-Photography