Wetenschap - 4 oktober 2001

An Engelsman abroad

An Engelsman abroad

Leeds to London to Wageningen

About 11 months ago in Leeds I began an epic journey. It started with a few marks on a bit of paper and an assurance that everyone in Holland spoke perfect English. I was also tempted by the promise of 'practising' for my all-important final BSc Biology year in a consequence-free environment. Nine months later, back home in London I found myself being financially rewarded for my decision by my university, my student loans company and even the EU. It seemed everyone was fully behind me skipping off for a year to pastures new.

Did I say everybody? That would have been too simple, I forgot to mention Wageningen University, who even as I write this have not given me anything with my name on it confirming I am part of the university! More important to me personally was my outrageously beautiful girlfriend, who saw fit, around New Year to discover that she was 81/2 months pregnant, much to the shock of everyone involved. I'd only known Saskia for a few months but I cared and still care deeply for her so gave as much support as I could.

She gave birth one week later, to a perfect bouncing baby. She named him Oliver. The screaming terror did not dampen my feelings for the exquisite love of my life, in fact my respect for her grew if anything and this made leaving tremendously painful.

Just two weeks before I arrived I had nowhere to stay. Then all of a sudden, a bit of luck, lots of good-byes, a flight and before I knew it I was lost in Amsterdam.

I negotiated the efficient yet foreboding transport system and finally I had arrived in my home for the year. After some hesitation I chose a project in Botanic Genetics, avoiding the somewhat more difficult genetics aspect and arranged some easy lectures, allowing me to study for a few days a week.

Now the story begins in earnest. I'm looking out over an expanse of greenery, feeling utterly isolated in this unfamiliar place, full of impressively tall people and some interesting facial hair. My own experience of university has been great extravagance. Leeds is a student city 'up north' in England, and between September and July it plays host to around 40,000 fun-seeking hedonists. The contrast between WU and LU brings the English expression 'as different as chalk and cheese' to mind.

So that is the rather self-indulgent tale of my arrival. My task, while I'm here, is to absorb some Dutch culture and maybe share a few experiences with those who would like to listen...

David Hopkins

Re:ageer