Hi Everybody! I am an exchange student from HEC Montréal in Canada (Québec). This is my first post, a bit late I agree, but I guess I’ll just have more stuff to say! I have been here for over three months now and of course a few aspects of my stay are more memorable than the others. Here are my impressions so far on a few subjects:
Hard. Probably one of the most difficult non-Asian languages I’ve ever tried to speak. Still, of course, as a matter of respect, I managed to learned a few words or sentences, starting from the name of the city (!) to how to order a beer. You know, the essential.
2. The food.
I came here with a pretty serious prejudice about Dutch food. It’s not necessary to say that when we think of the country, culinary speaking, it’s no France. The local specialties seem to be a mix of fried-everything, marinated fish, chocolate sticks and greasy pancakes. The most surprising thing: it’s (overall) not even bad! A simple question remains how locals manage to be so thin, especially from a North-American point of view (used to see overweighed people all the time).
Ahhhhh the Problem based learning. When I arrived, I read a few papers provided by the school on the subject and got introduced to the 7 jumps. I started my first period with a first year course, as well as a second year one. The first year course was the same as what I read, so I was prepared. The other one… No clue! Suggestion to improve the exchange students’ arrival: mention that from the second year and afterwards, it’s not the same – at all! I must admit though, after more than 3 months in this system, I never thought I would say that, but I – sometimes – enjoy it! It’s a good way to develop new skills and eventually not being afraid of doing a 10 minutes PowerPoint presentations per semester with a team of 4 (Canadian-style). It is also nice to see to what extend local students love arguing with the tutors and defend their (good are wrong) opinions, a clear difference from my home don’t-even-think-of-responding-to-a-teacher school system.
4. Cost of living.
For anyone from Canada, especially Montréal (one of the cheapest big North-American cities), the cost of living in Europe is expansive. The Netherlands are far from being the exception. Excluding beer and wine (so I guess about half of our groceries budget), everything is more expansive: clothes (this explains why I always wear the same stuff), food, furniture, visits… Plus the Euro-factor, times 1.33 of every transaction, no need to say my bank account is suffering.
‘Oh, you’re Canadian, so you’re never cold!’ Yes, the temperature is usually colder (or way colder) in Canada. But it is also drier. We are not used to humidity and at least from my point of view, 5 degrees with humidity is worse colder than a minus 5 but dry, especially when the isolation is so bad!
Of course, as an exchange student, travelling is a must. It’s probably even more attractive when, with 3 hours of train (an extremely short time when you come from a country of almost 10 000 000 km2), you can go by 5 countries! So far, I had the pleasure to visit Amsterdam (actually to visit, and not ONLY partying, although…), Rotterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag, Texel Island, Paris, Copenhagen, Riga, Vilnius, Liège, Brussels, Bruges, Luxembourg… I started to travel before the beginning of the semester, because we also should not forget we are here to study!
So basically, this is it! If I survive my second exam sessions, you’ll hear of me again. Cheers!