There’s definitely more to The Netherlands than Amsterdam! In fact, it was only post the Dutch Golden Age that Amsterdam took over Utrecht in being the most prominent city.
Utrecht, right at the heart of the country, is a rather beautiful Dutch town. Canals crisscrossing the city with their docks and wharf cellars, vast spread of lush green landscapes, straight-out-of-fairy-tale castles and small and cosy quaint Dutch cafes; makes the city of Utrecht absolutely magic! The best part however is biking across all of this! This is especially so in the case of Spring. After a long winter wait, the flowers in the numerous parks finally bloom and the days when the sun is out, you’d find people flocking to the green spaces, parking their bikes and enjoying the day with some BBQs, beers and sun bathing. The Visit-Utrecht website explains the city quite perfectly, “A medieval city centre small enough to explore on foot. Large enough to enjoy world class festivals, modern architecture, trendy shops and interesting museums for days on end.”
STUDY IN UTRECHT
Being home to a few of the largest and well-renowned universities in the country, it hosts over 70,000 students. The University of Utrecht, in fact, is not only the largest in the Netherlands but also ranks 68th best University in the world according to the Times Higher Education Ranking. Apart from this, other popular choices amongst students are:
- University College Utrecht
- Hogeschool Utrecht
- Utrecht Summer School
- The Marnix Academie
- HKU Utrecht School of the Arts
- TiasNimbas Business School
BEING AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT IN UTRECHT
The city is extremely warm to its international students. As an international student with no knowledge of the language, you can still survive rather peacefully in the cosmopolitan city (although learning Dutch will help you integrate into the society better). With statistics stating that over 20% of Utrecht is occupied by students, you are sure to find your buddies very soon!
If you still can’t find them, various student bodies and societies keep the spirits of student culture extremely high, especially for the international folk; the biggest ones being the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and AISEC. Especially in the case of students on an Erasmus Exchange, everything is done in order to make their semester in Utrecht one they just can’t erase out of memory. In fact, they even have an International Student Night every Tuesday with drinks so affordable that you may not remember anything the next day!
COST OF LIVING IN UTRECHT
Netherlands, on the whole, is fairly on the expensive side of living. While Dutch students are at the receiving end with certain costs cut in terms of transport and accommodation, as an international student, you stand ineligible to the same.
Refer to the links below to get a better idea on your monthly, weekly and daily expenditure in Utrecht:
Unlike in other popular student cities where sharing a room with another person is common, it is not so in the Netherlands. It is rather difficult to find a room or even a roommate on sharing basis if you have plans on easing the rental costs. Also, as an international student without any knowledge of Dutch, it is fairly difficult (not impossible) to land a part time job. If luck favours you and you land up a job, you are permitted to work for either 10 hours/week through the year or unlimited period in Summer.
STAYING IN UTRECHT
First things first, start this process as early as possible. Many international students find it rather difficult to find themselves a room that is at a suitable distance from their university at an affordable price. The earlier you start, the higher chances of you finding something suitable. This is especially so if you are an international student on exchange. Make sure you get on to the task as soon as you receive your acceptance letter as you would have only limited rooms allotted for you.
Most students in the Netherlands stay off campus. A few opt to stay in student accommodations (especially international students during their first couple of years) and a few rent out private spaces.
A few tips to bear in mind:
- Most of these accommodations are gender neutral and if you are not comfortable with this environment, your search becomes a notch difficult.
- Make sure you find an accomodation that comes furnished with all amenities and facilities. It makes life much more easier
- As an international student, it is always better to find a room in an international student accommodation at least for the first two years. This could help in building a social circle.
- Check your contract to see what you are permitted and not permitted to do with/in your room.
- Make sure all your bills are included with the rent. It could otherwise create a huge hole in your budget
TRAVELLING AROUND UTRECHT
When you’re in the Netherlands, you just can’t not bike! The land is flat and biking is clearly the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to get around any city. Also, most cities in the country are fairly small and one could easily bike from one corner to the other. Bikes can be found at an affordable rate on various online platforms as well as second hand stores. However, make sure you find a bike that suits your height and comfort level as you would be using it extensively. Another point you need to be aware is that bike thefts are a rather common activity in the NL. Make sure you do not invest in a super expensive bike if you would be parking it on the streets often. If you end up buying one, ensure you also buy 2 strong bike lock for the front and bike wheel.
If you are still not convinced to purchase a bike, public transport is well organized in the city. The GVB is the public transport system that has a well connected network of buses, trams, metros and trains. This however varies from city to city and in Utrecht, buses and trams are used to travel within the city limits. An OV Chipkaart, that can be topped up with money as and when required, is a single transport card that allows you to travel by any mode of public transport to any corner of the country.
SAFETY IN UTRECHT
The Netherlands, in general, is a safe country and has nothing to particularly worry about. Except for bicycle thefts, street crimes and violence levels are very low. In the most unfortunate circumstances, feel free to reach out to the police, who are extremely approachable and speak English (and even if not, they will arrange for a translation service). A number to keep in handy during difficult situations, be it to reach out to the police, fire brigade or ambulance, is 112.
While EU nationals hardly have anything to worry about, the international students need to take some steps before they land up in Holland. Essentially, whether or not you require a visa and/or Dutch residence permit depends on 3 factors including your origin of birth as mentioned on your passport, the time period of your stay in the Netherlands and the purpose of your stay in the country.
As soon as you get your acceptance letter, make sure you get in touch with the International Office of your respective University. They will guide you in the same process. It is advisable that you start this process at least a couple of months in advance to have a smooth transition.
More information on the visas could be found here: