Doing an international study provides great opportunity to explore new cultures and meet new and different people. This is exactly what I did, I wanted to know what a few friends of mine think about The Netherlands and Radboud University. The fact that I lived in Vossenveld luckily didn’t make this too hard to accomplish. Meet Mauricio and Davide, who are born and raised in Costa Rica and Italy respectively. Both are in their first year of Business Administration.
First of all I wanted to know why they chose for the Netherlands, and Nijmegen in particular. For Mauricio it wasn’t a difficult decision to make, since he already had a Dutch nationality as well: ‘’Education here is better than in Costa Rica, but more importantly the government support to go studying is more prevalent. I wanted to experience new things, be more independent and live on my own.’’ Davide: ‘’I read good things about this university and I liked the environment. I felt extra affection because Nijmegen is built by the Romans of course.’’
The people here
Of course coming to a new country can come with great surprises and difficulties, which is why I asked what they really had to accustom to when they first came here. Davide: ‘’Luckily Radboud University and SSHN helped me to find a room before I started my studies. They helped me applying so I could start in peace. At first the people here were really different, they act in a more rigid way. Socially, I perceive people to be more individualistic. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just something I had to get used to. The way people interact is different compared to where I come from, but overall I would say everyone is kind, open and respectful.’’ Mauricio: ‘’ Even the way we greet each other is different. As I come from a warm culture, I prefer to hug people for example. Not everyone here was used to that I noticed; of course these are little things, no big issues. I think it has a lot to do with personal space.’’ Davide: ‘’Exactly, they really appreciate it! Also the way of joking is different here, people didn’t really get my jokes at first! What I also notice is that there are less couples around. In Italy you can notice a couple very clear, the bond is really emotional. I see that less here, everything seems more formal.’’
It might have something to do with the environment of course, especially the working environment. People work from 9 to 5, they pick up their children after school, cook, name it.
Davide: ‘’I recognise this lifestyle in the North of Europe. I notice big differences between North and South however; In Italy life seems less strict and fast-paced, but on the other hand life is filled with more risks, especially regarding unemployment. It used to be 40 percent a few years ago. Overall, people in Italy are more laid-back, and I miss that sometimes.’’ Mauricio: ‘’Both the Dutch and Costa Ricans are hardworking, but in Costa Rica we have a different perspective towards work. I feel like people here follow some sort of system and struggle with that. People here are sometimes really worried about what’s way ahead of them, a pension for example. In Costa Rica we live more relaxed, less concerned with the future. I think that the pressure here in The Netherlands is mainly cased by the density as well as the aging of the population.’’
Of course the tendency can be quite high to ‘avoid’ natives when entering a strange environment. Segregation is not a weird event to occur. I wondered if they noticed those tendencies too, if they sought for people from the same country a lot. Davide: ‘’I don’t want to say yes, but of course when you see fellow Italians you stick with them for longer. When I see an Italian I just start a conversation; we probably talk more outside of Italy than in Italy! However, the thing is I have already been living outside of Italy; I already experienced the emotions of being in a strange environment, away from your parents. Mauricio: ‘’ In my case, I didn’t set any plan as in meeting only Spanish or American people. I came here with an open mentality and to just find out who I have chemistry with. Most of my friends are Dutch actually, and I feel good about it. There is a pretty international environment.’’
How did Radboud University and Synergy help you to get accustomed here?
Mauricio: ‘’The introduction week was a good way to start; most people I met there are still close friends. Everyone was eager to stick with each other and blend together. Meets and greets from the university and other associations helped me to socialise even more.’’ Davide: ‘’I know that Synergy organises events to try and get everyone to know each other, to blend in. I must say that although I am a member, I didn’t really have the time to go to those events. Especially the first semester I was more focussed on passing my courses. I think I will be more involved in the future, but at the same time I notice an age gap between me and my fellow students.’’ Mauricio: ‘’Around the end of the first semester, you notice that a lot of groups have already been formed; they stick together more and interact little with others. A good solution is having events in which groups become mixed, such as a pub crawl or pub quiz. It helps students socialise more.’’
What they miss most from home
Mauricio: ‘’I miss the warm weather, surfing and my family of course. But I think I have made a good decision to come here, since I can build myself and develop as a person in every aspect.’’ Davide: ‘’Obviously the food, especially pizza. Not Domino’s, not Pizza Hut, but the real thing! I sometimes miss the customs of Italy, such as an aperitivo. It’s about the small moments with your family, I really appreciate them.’’
At the end of the line
Every study has an end, so I wanted to know their future plans. Davide was quick to respond, he cannot wait to get home one day. Mauricio had a different opinion: ‘’After having my bachelor degree I want to do a master’s degree. I’m not sure whether that will be here or abroad. Next to that I would like to work part-time for some extra money. After graduating I will likely work here for a few years, reinforcing my CV. Someday I would like to go back to Costa Rica, but you never know what the future brings.’’
This interview made me realise how big of a step it must be to leave everything behind and start in a new country. It takes some courage to actually study and live abroad, but it pays off. It made me realise the importance of receiving exchange students well, and integrate them within our culture while respecting theirs too.