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by Stefan Ouweneel
Student life in the Netherlands is not a typical experience for most people. When thinking of student life in general, many picture a large university campus where students live and study. While this is the case in Utrecht as well to some extent, there is more that meets the eye.
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Utrecht is a city located in the centre of the Netherlands, and is one of the most popular student cities of the country. The city itself is relatively small, but this by no means makes it a boring city. Utrecht houses one of the largest student populations of the Netherlands, and you will certainly be able to tell. Over 60.000 students make the city of Utrecht their home, which creates a unique atmosphere. While the population of Utrecht is relatively young due to the large amount of students. The historical city centre is one of the oldest of the Netherlands, which is clearly visible in the architecture of the city centre. The canals, docks, and little bars and restaurants alongside them create a very intimate feeling. Furthermore, the central position of the city within the country allows you to travel to several other major Dutch cities, such as Amsterdam, in little time.
The largest university campus in Utrecht, which includes the University of Utrecht, lies on the outskirts of the city, but in order to get a sense of the true student experience in Utrecht you have to be in the city centre. This is one of the main reasons students choose to live in the city itself, and is also the reason why it is become increasingly difficult finding accommodation. When choosing to study in Utrecht you will have many options to choose from when it comes to housing. International students often have the opportunity to live in university arranged accommodations, depending on your university, but you may also choose to live the way Dutch students do. However, when you choose to do so you might find it difficult finding appropriate housing. There are many things you will have to consider when choosing your accommodation in Utrecht, such as your budget, the location of the housing within the city, and other factors.The most common accommodation Dutch students live in is the student house, where a group of students lives together. Generally speaking these houses have been transformed to include several bedrooms, often a shared kitchen and bathroom, and sometimes a shared living room. The rent prices vary from the size of your bedroom, the features of the house itself, and the neighbourhood in which the house is located. When making these choices it is important to keep an eye on whether the rent includes costs such as electricity, gas, and water, or whether the room is furniture or not. Make sure you do your research before signing any contract, to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Student life is a special time in anyone's life regardless of where you are. However, in Utrecht you will find that the atmosphere of the city resembles a that of a university campus. On the university campus there are few bars, but the heart of the social life of Utrecht lies in the city centre itself. There is an abundance of bars, pubs, cafes, and clubs to choose from on any day of the week. The city caters heavily towards the students, which is not surprising as they make up the majority of the customers. Some clubs and bars specifically organise student nights, where you will only find students present.
Another typical element of the Dutch student life is the concept of student societies. These societies organise social events for its members. While most societies are focused on Dutch students, several societies also accept foreign students. When combined with living in a student's house, either from the society itself or separately, you will never be bored. Of course this is not mandatory, and if you choose to live independently the city still has much to offer for those who prefer not to join a student society.
Additionally, if you're looking to stay in shape during your study period, and you want to meet new likeminded fellow students, you can choose to join a sport's society. You will find that the Dutch are an active people, so virtually all sports are represented in the city, so there is no excuse not to get active! It is also a great way to make friends, so make sure to bring your sport's gear. Once again, not all societies accept foreign students, but there are plenty who do. One thing that you'll have to pay attention are the admittance dates. Some societies close their registration prior to the start of a school year. So if you're a new student coming to the Netherlands for your first year, make sure you do your research before you arrive here and potentially register for your society in advance.
For many practical matters you will be able to find sufficient information on the website of your university. But make sure you start with these matters well in advance of your arrival in Utrecht. Otherwise you might miss out on some opportunities. The city of Utrecht is a true students' city and has a lot to offer. There is something for everyone, from the party animal to the cultural enthusiast to the sports' freak.