By Joshua Griffin, EC Scholar and Honors College Senior
Celebrating over 2000 years of history, Nijmegen is a legacy. With an integrated train system, flexible scheduling in the university, and a couple euros of course, this city is a dream for any study abroad student. As a student here, I ride my second-hand bicycle every day to class and around the city. There are bike paths everywhere and strict “it’s always the drivers’ fault” laws to protect cyclists so this city is really easy to get around as an exchange student.
There are a lot of differences comparing Greenville and Nijmegen. In addition to the bike culture, recycling programs and other environmentally responsible policies help keep the city and the country clean. Also, everything is in Dutch. If you have never heard Dutch spoken, there are a lot of hard G sounds and more guttural sounds. While there are some similarities to English, like melk (milk), tradizionale (traditional), and pastasaus (pasta sauce), there are very stark differences too. Kip is chicken, wortel is carrot, and kaas is cheese. And yes, I did learn most of those from the supermarket, so do not underestimate how much time you will need to learn the differences between US and NL markets.
Another major difference is that you have the freedom to travel to another country, particularly within the EU, incredibly easy. I just got back from Belgium this past weekend, and didn’t buy the train tickets to go until this past Thursday, and the total cost of the trip was about 100 euros, including the cost of the tickets, the hostels, Belgian chocolate and Belgian waffles! Additionally, France, Germany, Spain, the UK, Denmark, and the rest of Scandinavia are all close enough for weekend trips. I would recommend setting up a Dutch bank account though; group tickets only cost 7 euros per person for a full group (10 people/group) to most cities in the Netherlands, and the train ticket into Belgium was only 7.10 euros for individual purchase.
Lastly, the Dutch experience has been amazing. With all the travel freedoms offered to exchange students, the Dutch cities are not to be overlooked. I flew into Amsterdam early and have visited the city since my stay in Nijmegen with a third trip planned for this weekend to see a reggae band in the gorgeous canal city. Additionally, I have been to Rotterdam and cruised the massive port, saw the Cube Houses, and saw the Euromast tower. One night after class, I heard of a live music festival called Appel Pop in a town over (Tiel) and simply hopped on a train there to enjoy the live music for several hours that night. These and other cities cost less than 10 euros to visit and are perfect for spontaneous trips when you aren’t in class. Even better, you can read your literature on the train if you aren’t staring out the window at the gorgeous Netherlands countryside and quaint houses passing by!