The 2016 Winter Aid started on Monday. Resource spoke to three people taking part in the winter introduction period, which is primarily for exchange students.
Who: Alexandra Dickson (19)
From: Massey University, New Zealand
‘It didn’t take me long to decide on Wageningen University. Exchange students from New Zealand traditionally go to Canada or Britain but I opted for the university with the best reputation in agriculture. I also wanted to go to a European country.
I originally planned to come for six months but I was advised to add on an extra six months. That way you experience more of the culture and you can take more modules. My parents totally supported my decision. They used to travel a lot themselves and they’re actually hoping to come to the Netherlands in the summer.
My main expectation is that students will be required to be more independent. I have been studying here for one period so far and I’ve already noticed this. In New Zealand you have lectures and often just one course book. In Wageningen they give you many more sources, which you are then supposed to examine critically. But even if they expect a lot of independence, I have noticed that teaching staff are still prepared to help you.’
Who: Martin Skjæveland (24)
From: Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway
‘I saw a Norwegian comedian do a sketch in which he spoke Dutch as if it was a kind of Norwegian dialect. I could understand what he was saying so I thought it wouldn’t be that difficult to learn Dutch. I tried to master the language using Duolingo, a language programme on the computer and smartphone. But it turned out to be quite tricky so that’s why I wanted to come to the Netherlands, to learn the language.
Wageningen University appealed to me because it’s a lot like my own university — small, with a focus on agriculture. But when I got here the university was much bigger than I had expected, in particular because the town itself is about the same size as my university town, Ås.
Now I have been here for about a month, I notice that the work pressure is higher than at my university. But the people here are very friendly and always willing to help you. I’m also amazed at how good the infrastructure is for cyclists. You often have priority.
What I like about Wageningen is that you don’t just learn about Dutch culture, you also come into contact with other cultures because of the many international students at the university.’
Who? Karl Kuzne (21)
From: Cornell University, United States
‘When I arrived in the Netherlands, I stayed in a hotel in Ede to start with. On my second day, I arrived at Idealis early to register for a room. I had to wait in the rain for an hour. At that point, sitting in the rain in the centre of Wageningen, I did think: what have I got myself into?
That was one month ago. Now I’ve gone to some classes and met some great people. So far, the weather is the only thing I don’t like about the Netherlands. The Dutch are very friendly. Some Americans might be a bit reserved when they come into contact with the Dutch, who can be very direct. But I actually like that. It makes communication a lot easier and more effective.
University life seems somewhat more relaxed here. At Cornell it can get rather stressful and it’s more competitive. One difference is that here your grade often depends only on a group project and an exam. In my university back home, you get marks for your contribution in the lessons and for homework too.’
Photos: Aart-Jan van de Glind