“Breda is a city, small enough one feels secure and doesn’t get lost and likewise it’s big enough one always knows something to do and never gets bored of the city.”
With this description of my current home town in the Netherlands my local coordinator of Breda University of Applied Sciences (BUAS) welcomed us exchange students during a first online meeting. After staying here now for more than two months, I can’t help but totally agree with her statement.
Already during the intro week, which took place a week before the official beginning of the fall semester, BUAS organised a programme for all first year and exchange students to get to know each other, the campus and the city. Of course, participation during the intro days was voluntarily but I’d highly recommend to attend them. Besides getting an overview of the campus and Breda’s city centre, it’s the perfect opportunity to meet other exchange students before the beginning of the semester and to ask your group guides all the questions you have regarding the uni or living in Breda in general.
Especially during the first weeks of the semester my schedule allowed me to do a lot of day trips at the weekend but also during the week. The Netherlands is a small country – approximately the size of Switzerland – and thus many of the known Dutch cities like Rotterdam, Den Haag or Utrecht can be reached within a maximum of a two hours train ride. Due to Breda’s location in the South, the city is also perfectly connected to Belgium, which enabled me to travel already twice to the beautiful city of Antwerp, which was definitely worth its visits and still remained one of my highlights.
Unfortunately, not only the distances are comparable to Switzerland but also the prices of public transport. One thing I can recommend though, is to travel in groups of a minimum of four people, so you are able to buy a group ticket, which makes the whole journey a lot cheaper. Also, when you’re often in the use of buses, it really pays off having a ov chipkaart, which allows you – in contrast when buying the ticket directly at the bus driver – to pay only for the stops you’re actually travelling instead of paying until the final destination. During fall break I made quite a lot of use of the public transport. Together with another exchange student I’ve met in Breda I travelled to and through the northern provinces of the Netherlands. We visited the typical Dutch wind mills, ancient harbours in traditional fisher villages, Friesland – the most northern province of the Netherlands – and the beautiful cities of Haarlem and Groningen.
Of course, I also had some concerns before my arrival but they were without any reason. Partly the smooth start of my exchange semester was due to my housing situation. Luckily, I’m sharing an apartment with two other exchange students in a residential area where many other flats are rented to students as well. And also fitting into the new class was easier than expected since they were all as helpful and open-minded as one expects from the Dutch.
I haven’t had a complete culture shock when I arrived, but it took me still some time to adapt to certain Dutch peculiarities, also regarding school routine. One of the welcome changes was that classes at uni tend to start in the late morning hours or at lunch time but thus presence and an active participation on campus is expected. It also took me some time to get used to always checking my timetable via the App, since the hours for the courses are different each day. But since one’s only attending three subjects each block it’s easy to keep track of the courses.
After everything I’ve experienced so far during my exchange semester, I can conclude by saying that I’m still enjoying my time here in Breda to the fullest and I’m looking forward to spending the second half of my exchange semester here!