Science - April 28, 2005

Dutch experience / Watching snowflakes

Irene Chulia Lizondo (23) from Torrent in Spain likes the quiet life in Wageningen. She even missed her bike when she visited her family at Christmas. ‘Not all Spanish like to cook, smoke, drink and party’.

Irene came to Wageningen as an Erasmus student. What she knew about the Netherlands was that it is easy to get marihuana to smoke. ‘But here I smoke even less than I did at home. The stuff can be quite heavy and I’m nuts enough myself.’ She was also a bit worried about the weather. ‘But it’s better than I expected. Even when it’s cold, you’re always comfortably warm when you’re inside. I also loved the snow in March. I opened my window to have a good look at the snowflakes. It was amazing to see how everything turned white.’

Her reason to come to Wageningen was the study programme. In Spain she studied Food science and technology. ‘I wanted to improve my English and here I can choose all kinds of subjects in English.’ In Wageningen she discovered the bike. ‘You’re out of town in five minutes. I miss the arts scene in Valencia, where I’m from, but here I discovered nature. I regularly go for walks in the parks around Wageningen: Blauwe Kamer, the Rhine, Veluwe, and I went camping on the isle of Texel. But even in town you can hear the birds and the sound of the trees in the wind. When I return to Valencia, I’ll have to get used to the city noise again.’

Irene arrived in September, but has already had three bikes stolen. ‘I don’t know how. Of course they were locked. Now I only have a really rickety old bike.’ What she also likes are the second-hand shops. ‘We don’t have them, but they are good for the people and the environment.’

One of the best things that happened to her in the past few months was that she got into a dancing group in Wageningen. ‘I don’t miss my family, but I do miss my dance teacher back home. I like to move, to express myself, feel the music. At first I joined a group at the sports centre, but later I discovered the group from ’t Venster, which is more into theatre and dance. There I learned a lot, first because we start with improvisation, second because we worked together on producing a performance. I also liked the difference in age of group members. Some are my mother’s age. I’m not afraid of getting older, but it’s good to see that you can dance your whole life. Age doesn’t matter.’

In the group she also discovered other ways of thinking. ‘The Dutch think in straight lines, we see more side turns and alternative ways.’ Further she found out that Dutch people are stricter: on time means on time. ‘And if they say they will do something, they stick to it. When we say so there may be a but. There’s always a chance we won’t do it.’

The main thing she discovered in Wageningen is that she doesn’t want to work in her field of study. ‘The things I most like are dance and theatre. But I will definitely finish my studies within a year when I return to Spain after the summer.’

Finally, she remarks several times that she doesn’t like to generalisations. ‘People seem to think that all Spanish smoke and drink a lot, like to cook and love parties. Well, then I’m not typically Spanish. Like my mother, I don’t like cooking for example.’ / Yvonne de Hilster

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