Kevin Scott – International Hospitality & Tourism Management – Level 3
Saxion University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands
Although studying abroad and moving away to another country may seem like a daunting task, I would definitely recommend it. Travelling and living in a different country and experiencing a different culture is very beneficial, that’s why going on exchange is an opportunity that should not be missed. Studying abroad allows you to meet new people and experience things you may otherwise not have had the opportunity to experience.
I participated in the Erasmus program this year and I chose to study in the Netherlands, in a small town called Deventer, just one hour from Amsterdam. I studied at Saxion University of Applied Sciences for the second semester of my third year at Queen Margaret University. The idea of studying abroad was something I had always wanted to do since applying for the International Hospitality and Tourism Management program at Queen Margaret. However when the idea became reality, it seemed to be quite a big decision. Due to personal reasons and things that were going on in my life, this made me question whether or not, I should apply to study abroad. However, although there may seem like issues and obstacles in the way, whether it is personal or financial, this is a unique and important, once in a lifetime opportunity and sacrifices may need to be made. In terms of financial issues, I funded my study abroad with my student loan and the Erasmus grant which helped a lot and allowed me to participate on my exchange program. So although it seemed like an important and scary decision to move to a different country all alone, it was definitely worth it.
When arriving in the Netherlands, I made my own way from Amsterdam airport to Deventer, the city where I would be living and studying for the next six months. I lived in the International student housing, which was located off campus. The first few weeks, everything was new and unfamiliar. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know the language and so it took time to settle in. However, the university organised various events for all exchange students which provided opportunity to socialise and meet other people. The university also provided exchange students with a “buddy” who would organise social events and was there to help if needed. In my opinion, when you move to a new place where you do not know anyone, the best way to meet people is to make an effort by being friendly and outgoing and to always say YES. Although I’m not the most extroverted person, this was my approach and it worked well for me and allowed me to make new friends fairly quickly.
Throughout my exchange, I became close friends with people from all over the world. I made friends from Finland, Greece and Turkey to China, Indonesia and Korea. Looking back this was a very unique experience living in such an international environment with so many nationalities and cultures. In terms of social life, the city where I was living was fairly small and quiet, however there were many bars and restaurants and a few night clubs. In my free time, I would hang out with friends and we would travel together. The Netherlands is a fairly small country and therefore the ability to travel throughout the nation, is pretty easy. I travelled with friends to all the major cities in the Netherlands, from Rotterdam to Utrecht and of course Amsterdam. As Amsterdam was a mere 1 hour train journey away from Deventer, we often visited the capital. During vacation weeks, myself and friends would take this opportunity to travel to other countries in Europe. We travelled to many places during this time, including Germany, France, Belgium and Luxemburg.
Although it is important to have fun, meet new friends and travel when on exchange, it is also important to study as well. When reflecting on university life in the Netherlands, it was very different to Queen Margaret. The semester was much longer and there were more classes. However the fact that there were more classes, this was a great learning opportunity which allowed me to gain insight into more subjects. My classes included Events, Business Models, Research Methods and Accounting. The learning system was very different in that the class sizes were fairly small and there were no large lectures. All classes involved participation and felt more like seminars. The teachers would constantly give feedback to every individual on their work progress. At the beginning I did not like this as I was used to being very independent in completing my assignments. However, this was very useful as it allowed me to improve my work before the submission deadline and receive prompt and personalised feedback throughout the semester. The classes were also very international and included people from all over Europe and the world. Throughout my whole time on exchange, I never met any other student from the UK.
The fact that this experience was so international allowed me to gain an understanding and an appreciation for other countries cultures. In relation, living in the Netherlands allowed me to experience the Dutch culture. From Dutch food like kapsalon (a kind of kebab) and stroopwafels (a type of biscuit), to the insane amount of bikes. During my 6 months in the Netherlands I experienced many cultural differences. My favourite aspect of Dutch life was the cycling! I had my own bike and I would cycle everywhere, to university, to the shops and even to the nightclub! Cycling is such a normal aspect of Dutch life and I can see why…it is so convenient! Living in the Netherlands meant I naturally learnt a few simple Dutch phrases. Although most people could speak English, this became useful, especially when shopping at the supermarket! Simply being able to say thankyou and understanding that the cashier was asking if I wanted a receipt was very helpful to know.
As my exchange drew closer to an end and after successfully passing my exchange program, myself and a few other friends decided that we wanted to travel around Europe before returning home! We travelled to many countries in Europe from Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary to Austria, Switzerland and Italy. We travelled around Europe for a whole 5 weeks! This was a lot of fun and allowed me to visit so many places I had always wanted to! Looking back on my study abroad experience, I had such a great time. I met so many amazing friends from all over the world; I experienced a different learning environment, new cultures and travelled to so many new places. All of this would not have been possible without participating in the Erasmus program. I gained so much from studying abroad, from increasing my independence and confidence to broadening my mind and way of thinking. Many people participate on the Erasmus program to improve their English language and therefore this may be why studying abroad is not as common in Scotland and the UK as it is in other European countries. However, it is an incredible opportunity, a great life experience and can enhance your future prospects. I had an incredible time on my Erasmus exchange, I learned a lot, met great friends and made amazing memories that I will remember and cherish forever.