Meet Romane at Radboud University in the Netherlands!

Name: Romane Fleury
Nationality: French
University: Radboud University
Degree: Arts and Culture Studies
Current Year of Study: 1st year

10 Questions:

Romane offers an interesting perspective as she has now completely changed her course after deciding that her initial degree programme wasn’t a good fit. Changing majors is not easy to do in the Netherlands and Romane gives insight into what this process has been like for her.

How did you choose your university destination and course of study?

Having grown up with the mindset that I would eventually move away and do my studies overseas is what really made me choose the Netherlands. I spent a long time trying to figure out what I wanted to study and I was always in doubt. I initially started studying History. I found out that it wasn’t for me only after having properly been on campus and taking classes. So, after 6/7 months, I decided to stop taking classes and switch to another programme of study.

But to come back to the initial question, I found my courses after having looked long and hard at university websites, attending webinars and also asking students around me what they thought of certain cities. I found that the best advice I got came from students who had experience living abroad.

What have been the highlights of your academic programme so far?

I think that each programme is able to provide interesting and extremely fun insights. Personally, I would have to say that the most exciting thing about my History academic program was the class trips. Although I didn’t take part in many, that was probably the academic highlight because it really turned every theoretical thing I learnt into a tangible reality. I genuinely think that each person will have different highlights on an academic program.

What do you enjoy most about living in The Netherlands?

I don’t think I was expecting to like the Netherlands as much as I do now. I guess that the people that surround you always make the setting you are in what it is. If I was to pick the most enjoyable thing about the Netherlands is how international it is and how easy it is to do things. I am surrounded by many international students who all come from different backgrounds and having the ability to meet these people is definitely one of my highlights.

Another thing that is a huge advantage of living in the Netherlands is travelling. The Netherlands has amazing public transport systems meaning that you can go anywhere in the country very easily. I have been able to travel to many places in the Netherlands and also in the rest of Europe because of how simple it is. To not take advantage of the simplicity of travelling in Europe would be a wasted opportunity.

How supportive is your university to international students and, in particular, during the pandemic?

Personally, Radboud University was very helpful when it came to my first year and helped me adapt to the new environment. When I had problems with my papers and my registration the University was a lot of help and did their best to support me.

The study advisors are also all extremely helpful; when I decided to change study, the university helped me make this decision and was very reassuring and understanding. Luckily, all my classes when I arrived were on campus because of the small class I had. But they were very careful and considerate of those who would not be able to make it to classes because of health reasons.

During the first semester the university was always jumping between open and closed – closed in the sense that all classes would be online – but all the times where classes were online the professors were very considerate of the difficulty and the exhaustion that it created upon students.

What have been 3 of the main challenges you have faced during your time at university?

  1. There are a couple things that were hard during my first 2 semesters in university. One of the main things is definitely time management. When you live with your parents and you have a proper routine and schedule, it is much easier to separate school work and leisure time. But one of the main things I struggled with when starting to live alone was balancing uni work, friends and time to myself. All of a sudden I had this immense freedom that I had never had before and so I wanted to do everything. That made things very hard for university, but after some time I got used to it and found myself a routine, which was extremely important to me.
  2. Secondly, definitely being far away from family and friends back home. This one is a given, or at least for me it was. I was expecting this to be one of the harder things to go through. I come from a very tight knit family and being far from them is one of the challenges that I still go through even after being away from them for almost a year.
  3. Lastly, this links to the previous point, but mental health was also a big challenge of mine. It’s good to know that now these things are much less of a taboo subject than they were 10 or so years ago. So you can easily talk to people about your problems – don’t be shy to do this because I found that it was the best way to get myself out of the darkness that was in my head.

What activities are you involved in outside of your academic programme?

I was part of several study associations, one being a concert committee, the other being the SGN committee, and I also work. Working takes a lot of time and energy so I only started this when I decided to stop studying history. It would have been a lot harder to juggle my job and university together, but I do suggest it at some point because I got to learn a different field of work than what I am used to and I also got to meet many new and interesting people.

The SGN committee took place to organise SGN Day – a day where many history students around the Netherlands gather to visit a city and do activities together. The concert committee is a committee that gives you access to big and small concerts and festivals around the Netherlands, you can volunteer for any festival you want.

How easy is it to find accommodation? Can you describe your living arrangements?

Accommodation is definitely one of the hardest things to find here. There is a huge accommodation shortage for students in the Netherlands, and I don’t think people understand how serious it is. In your first year, it is much easier, or at least for me it was. Universities tend to try and help first year students – especially international students- when it comes to housing. In my city we have an organisation called SSH& that holds a number of student housing complexes around the city.

In my student complex, I live with 15 other people on one floor. We share 3 showers, 3 toilets and a kitchen/ living room. It may seem like a lot and like it would be very busy and crowded but it really isn’t. I don’t think i’ve ever had to wait for the shower or the toilet and that’s because everyone has different timetables so we aren’t always here at the same time. I must say though that things can easily get messy and dirty depending on who you live with.

But one of the advantages in a student complex like this one is that there is always something happening, whether that is a party (there are so many of them in any type of student complex), a dinner, a movie night, anything you can think of, it’s happening.

Do you think your university experience is preparing you well for the working word and do they offer support with finding jobs and internships?

The university offers many job opportunities within the university which is what many students do during their studies. This slowly gets students incorporated into the working world. When it comes to internships, as a first year student there aren’t many options for you but 3rd and 4th year students have plenty. Universities tend to help students through the process of getting an internship mainly because it is part of university credits and in my university it is mandatory to graduate, in most programs.

What opportunities have you had to travel and explore during weekends and vacations?

So many, and I definitely encourage you to take as many trips as you can. In the Netherlands you have easy access to anywhere in Europe and when you are a part of an international friend group you have people from everywhere. Personally, I don’t think I’ve taken advantage of the travel opportunities enough but I did have the chance to go to Spain and Luxembourg, and it is easy for me to go back and forth between Paris and the Netherlands to see family.

Inside the Netherlands it is super easy to go around and visit different cities – the train system is amazing and as an 18 year old I am able to have a day ticket to go anywhere I want to for only 7.60 euros. When it comes to university and travelling, you do have to plan and organise things well but I do think that exploring is a must and is very doable.

What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would offer an international student thinking of coming to The Netherlands to study?

To be fair, I don’t really think there is much advice that can be given. Every person lives differently and will experience things differently and I think that all the events that will occur, whether they are good or bad, will end up being for the best. But for more practical things…

Get a bike. Whether you like it or not you will need it. Everything revolves around bicycles here and living without one is literally extremely difficult and not to mention expensive.

Try to surround yourself with a good group of people. If you’re coming from a country that is far away and you cannot go back to see family often, it’s always good to have a group of friends that you can lean on, be yourself around and most importantly people that make you grow as a person. Try to involve yourself in as many activities that you can, parties, sports or study associations. Also be aware of the amount of drugs and alcohol consumption that you will be around – that was a huge shock for me. You might be like me and not have the urge to try all these things but they will definitely be in your environment at some point. That’s why having a good friend group that supports the decisions you make and helps you if anything does happen is important

Housing. This is one of the biggest problems you will have here and you should already be aware of it. Start looking as soon as you know you have to leave your current place. I sound like I’m exaggerating but trust me on this, always be on a look out for available housing.

One last thing: try taking everything one step at a time.

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