The Dutchess Diaries: the story of an Erasmus student in Notts

May anne header

As part of the Erasmus exchange programme, I have left the Erasmus University Rotterdam (the Netherlands) for one semester to study here at Nottingham Trent University.

When I set foot in Nottingham for the very first time about two months ago, one of the first thoughts I had was ‘’I want to go home’’, while I simultaneously found myself thinking ‘’I never want to leave’’. Walking around town – feeling kind of lost – with all my luggage and an overenthusiastic dad by my side, I wondered why I had wanted to do this whole exchange-thing again…

Only a few hours earlier, I had been standing at Schiphol Airport – and now I was here, while my family and friends were still at the other side of the channel. At the same time, however, I found myself staring in astonishment: from the pretty facades and the stately Council House to the hilly streets – I was enthralled by the city that would be my home for the coming months. The thought of having to leave the Netherlands for almost half a year was something that had both frightened as well as delighted me ever since I found out that I would be going to Nottingham last February. However, maybe even more intimidating than leaving my home country was the thought of having to live on my own for the first time… Yet, I have been living on my own for three weeks now and I have –yay!- not died from homesickness, malnutrition or any other terrible condition. In fact, you could say that the opposite is true: I really love everything here!

My first week in Nottingham really went by in the blink of an eye. The first thing I needed to sort out during my first days here was finding housing. Before coming here, I had been quite stressed about this and I had jokingly told friends I would probably end up bankrupting myself by living in a hotel for half a year. Fortunately, I found a room right in the city centre after a few days, meaning I could explore the city during the remaining days before Welcome Week. I say ’exploring’’ I really mean shopping, but my shopping tour remained restricted to Wilko and Primark .

My welcome week kicked off on Thursday September 18 with an ‘’Early Arrivals Welcome for International Students’’: an event that consisted of an introductory talk about studying at NTU and an afternoon tea. It was a great way to be introduced to the university whilst also meeting other international students. For the rest of Welcome Week, I had already made a list of activities that I wanted to participate in to make sure I would get the most out of every day. In the end I attended only two activities because rather than getting the most out of my days, my Welcome Week-programme mainly revolved around the nights. ‘’We’’ – which includes the amazing people I have met here plus myself – made ‘’siesta antes de fiesta’’ (which means ‘sleeping and then partying’ in Spanish) our Welcome Week motto. Because let’s be honest: there simply is no better way to bond with new friends than dancing until 3 AM and ending the night at a cheap, over-lit fast food restaurant (on a side note: I definitely recommend Maryland Chicken!). For the greatest part of Welcome Week, I had no clue which day it was or even what time, and I really felt as if I were on a holiday. Too soon, Welcome Week was over and I found myself walking on the Clifton campus with a campus-map in one hand and a notebook in the other.

In Rotterdam I am studying International Communication and Media, and here at NTU I am taking three modules from different disciplines: philosophy, journalism and social theory. We are in the third week of the term now, and so far I like my classes. Only philosophy can be a bit tough at times, but maybe that has more to do with the fact that all philosophy-classes take place at 9 in the morning… Other than the occasional struggle of getting up for a class at 9 (#firstworldproblems), life in Nottingham is treating me well. So far, I have already been on a daytrip to Oxford, organized a ‘’Dutch pancake party’’ for the internationals with three fellow Dutchies and had one of the best cocktails ever at Coco Tang (in case you’re curious: ask for a ‘Toblerone’). Of course I also miss home at times, but I have discovered the perfect remedy to deal with that: Whatsapp-stalking my family and friends while listening to Dutch radio. Above all, I am determined to make my time here unforgettable. There is so much to see and to experience, and I am keen on seeing and experiencing it all!


May-Anne Oltmans