The Netherlands and its gezellig people

My very first windmill!

Greetings from this great land of windmills, clogs and tulips! Although, to be honest, I have only seen one windmill up close during my one month of living in the Netherlands. Clogs are mainly only visible in tourist shops and well, tulips are kind of a spring thing... So what is the Netherlands then, if not these three? Let me tell you: a pretty awesome country.
I have proof - Dutch people actually do wear these!

I don't really know what I was thinking when I chose to leave Finland behind and go on an exchange to a country I actually knew nothing about. So far it's been the most confusing, frustrating, exciting, fun and, above all, awesome month in my entire life. I have traveled a lot in the past but coming to live and study here is something completely different. In some way it's a refreshing feeling to meet people who have no idea who you are. I was lucky to get an apartment from a student who left for his own exchange for the autumn. I share the place with three Dutch guys who study Audio Design at my exchange school, Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht. Everybody has been very welcoming and I have gotten to know a lot of great people in such a short time.
Utrecht Dom Tower
The main campus is situated in Utrecht, 30 kilometers south from Hilversum, where I currently live and the technological campus resides. During my first week in the country HKU made sure all of its exchange students felt right at home and all had a place to live. We toured around Utrecht and visited some of the main sights, like the Dom Tower. Over 400 steps to the top, but we made it! We were also shown around the Hilversum campus a couple of weeks later when the studies actually kicked off. I have also visited a couple of other cities, and hopefully even more in the future. Train is fast and relatively cheap, at least when comparing to Finland. A bike is a must too, just like every tourist guide about the Netherlands says.
A beautiful sunset in Amsterdam on Saturday

My exchange studies consist solely of project work. Each third year student here is placed in a group and they work on a designed project until the end of January. Projects are given by an external client, and they can vary a lot depending on the year. I am really happy with the project I was assigned to, as it is about making a historical game for elementary students within three combining municipalities. It gives me a great opportunity to add more stuff to my portfolio and get experience in making a playable game in less than half a year.
My team getting ready to interview the school kids in one of the many schools in Schagen.
The kids wrote down which games they play the most... See any familiar ones?

One thing I didn't expect was the amount of Dutch I get to hear in everyday situations. Luckily I have been awake during my Swedish lessons, otherwise I would be in big trouble! Hopefully I will speak fluent Dutch once I come back to Finland. The first Dutch word everybody should learn is gezellig, since it doesn't actually have a translation in the English language. Here is the definition explained in one big post! It's the one you hear the most, so learn that and you are pretty much good to go!

To make adapting to a new culture easier I have been making comics about my everyday life in the Netherlands. You can find them all from my blog, if you get interested!
My latest Typical Dutch comic; How to learn to love the Dutch language.

So far so good, I hope the rest of my exchange goes smoothly as well. Missing Finland, but loving it here!
Greetings from the Medieval Torture Museum!

Story and pics:
Heidi Mäenpää

Read more about the IMP students
Degree Programme in Media (International Media Programme, IMP)