Moving abroad in a pandemic (with mandatory quarantine!)

By Holly Fieldsend, Geography with German
International Year at Wageningen University, Netherlands

Goedendag! I am Holly and I study Geography with German at Keele. I have always wanted to study abroad; in fact, it was a substantial aspect to choosing which university to originally come too. Keele really stood out to me with such a vast array of partner institutions and the fact I could continue to study German alongside my main subject was music to my ears. Fast forward to now (August 2021) I have completed 2 years at Keele and just arrived in the Netherlands!

Of the people I know going on a study abroad year (I got to meet lots of new people at the predeparture study abroad picnic), I am the first to leave which was definitely daunting to say the least! I never anticipated being the first to leave either, especially as I only just managed to secure accommodation a few weeks before now (not because I was slow but it’s just how the room system works here), so everything was very last minute with booking flights, getting vaccinated and getting tested for covid etc.

The day of travel finally came around and I flew from Bristol airport to Schiphol in Amsterdam. I am very fortunate that I have experienced lots of travelling before so flying certainly wasn’t foreign to me, however I don’t think I anticipated how bad my nerves would be on that journey. Thankfully I arrived safely and collected my cases. I’ve noticed that many people worry about how much stuff you can take with you, especially if you are going for a whole year in all seasons, but if you vacuum pack your clothes, take eco-friendly shampoo bars and don’t bother with kitchen equipment you honestly have nothing to be concerned over.

Going through customs was easier than I predicted too, because although the Netherlands currently has a travel ban, my negative covid test, residence permit approval and university acceptance letter was enough to get me through.

The next step was catching a train for an hour to Ede and then I wanted to take a 20-minute taxi from the station to my room key collection point. The train journey was great (especially as it was a double decker train!) but I realised there were no taxis outside the station. I have now learnt early on to think on my feet, so I got on a bus heading to campus instead. After getting lost and becoming very aware I had been walking in a bike lane, I eventually arrived at Bornsesteeg to collect my keys just in time before they closed!

The current rules for quarantine in the Netherlands if you are from the UK are quite strict. You must stay at your address indicated on your quarantine declaration for 5 days and then have a PCR test and wait for the result to be clear, or quarantine for 10 days with no test. The police also call and/or visit you to check you have not left your address. That being said Wageningen University have been so supportive of the international students that have to quarantine. I was allocated Gerben my quarantine buddy who has been shopping for me and I even got given a welcome package with a €10 shopping voucher and tasty Dutch treats such as ‘appel-perensap’ and ‘hazelnootwafels’. It has been nice to meet some of my housemates at a distance in the kitchen but not all my quarantine has been as smooth as I wanted.

I planned to keep myself busy with learning Dutch on a few apps, video calling friends, creating my SMART targets (part of the criteria for passing the international year) and maybe watching a film, however when I arrived at my room there was no internet which meant the first few days I did a lot of staring out the window… (I do have an amazing view though!)

The most important point I am trying to get across here is don’t be afraid to ask for help, because if you don’t ask then you don’t get. Gerben gave me his spare internet router and despite it not working it shows just how kind everyone here is. I am now able to use the internet because my housemate has shared his own Wi-Fi with me and I now have curtains because I was able to ask the housing manager, so again asking for help easily sorted the issues I had. Although quarantine has meant I have missed some opportunities already such as the annual introduction days (like a mini festival for new students which was in person too!), I realise just how fortunate I am to be here. I have a new journey ahead of me, one that not many have regardless of the ongoing pandemic. Quarantine has made me so excited to go out and explore and shown just how good-natured strangers can be.

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