Sandra Krevová comes from Slovakia and studies ICT - Software Engineering at Saxion. From preparing for her departure to culture shock moments, Sandra tells all about her experience as an international student in the Netherlands.
Can you describe what you went through before arriving to the Netherlands?
I discovered Saxion through an agency back in Slovakia. I joined the Digital Discovery Day to know more about the study programme and got to know more about Saxion through videos and Instagram. Then I applied to Saxion, passed the English test, and finally got accepted. I arrived in August in the Netherlands, just before my programme (ICT – Software Engineering) starts in September. The summer before moving to the Netherlands, I was excited and scared, since it is a big step to take.
The only difficult thing was the accommodation. I couldn’t find anything in Deventer because finding housing in the Netherlands is tricky. I reached out to the International Office and they found a place for me in student housing in Enschede. At first, I thought it would be difficult to study in and live and different cities, as my study is in Deventer and I live in Enschede. But the train ride is actually really doable: public transportation is really efficient in the Netherlands! And now I have the extra advantage to live and study in different cities since I get to know more people.
How was your start at Saxion?
I participated in the introduction week, called INTRO. It happens in August, just before school starts. It’s a whole week of activities with classmates and teachers, it’s pretty cool! I remember there was bowling and a lot of other things to do. I met a lot of people from different nationalities, it was intense but it’s a good way to connect and make new friends before school starts.
I like the people, the connection, and how the Dutch accept everyone. I feel really comfortable here in the Netherlands. In this country, it feels like nothing is in your way.
How is it to build a social life in the Netherlands?
Because I am an extrovert, I am talkative so it’s easy to connect with people. Compared to Slovakia, building connections in the Netherlands is easier, even without knowing the language. Everybody here speaks English and is very friendly. For instance, I have a part-time job in a restaurant in Deventer called La Cubanita, and every time I enter the room my Dutch colleagues switch to English. They understand that if they keep speaking Dutch I won’t understand, and therefore be excluded. I am always amazed and so grateful for this awareness of switching to English when I’m around. It’s not about speaking the most perfect English but about connecting with people.
Do you want to learn Dutch?
I plan on staying in the Netherlands after I graduate, so learning Dutch is something I want. I heard that Dutch is really hard to learn, so I’m a bit afraid, but let’s try!
How is it to study in English?
I speak three languages: Slovak, Czech, and English. I love English, I have been to a language exchange in Cardiff when I was in high school. But when I arrived in the Netherlands my brain was still in Slovak mode, so the first days were funny. I would speak sometimes Slovak out of the blue or text an English speaker in Slovak by mistake! But now it is the opposite: I live every day in my third language, English. Switching back to Slovak is sometimes hard, I forget words.
Do you experience culture shocks with the Dutch culture?
I had a few culture shocks for sure, from the beginning. I was first surprised when I arrived in the city, with the number of bikes there are! Another one is the communication with the Dutch: they are very direct, sometimes too much! But I don’t get offended easily and got used to it. Time management is also different from what I know: the trains are on time, by the minute! Of course, sometimes trains can be a few minutes late, but in Slovakia being late means that you can wait up to two hours for your train. In the Netherlands, things are mostly very organised, efficient, and ordered. When I arrived at Saxion, I did not have issues finding my way into the building because I could see the directions indicated on signs everywhere. Another culture shock I still have is the Dutch lunch. The custom is to eat a small sandwich quickly (and sometimes take a walk around the block at the same time). I am used to warm meals where we sit down and take time to enjoy the food. Where I come from the food is not just to eat but really to connect with people. And a small detail that makes me laugh every time I go to a Dutch house: the birthday calendar in the toilets! Why is it in this part of the house? It’s a mystery to me.
What do you like the most about living in the Netherlands?
I like the people, the connection, and how the Dutch accept everyone. I feel really comfortable here. I would also say that I like public transportation in the Netherlands: you can cross the whole country by train very easily, even cross borders and visit Europe! In this country, it feels like nothing is in your way.
What piece of advice would you give to future students who might think about studying in the Netherlands?
Research everything you can. Pay attention to what the school is offering: go to the university’s Instagram account and watch their videos on YouTube. If you want to study at Saxion, get a student buddy or ask questions to current students! But overall, take everything the school has to offer to help you out.