Welcome to the second blog post in our ‘Spotlight on the ESN!’ series. Meet Emily, final year History student and the current Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Vice-President and Welfare Representative at Queen Mary. She decided to get involved with ESN after her year abroad at VU Amsterdam, in which ESN played a huge part. Read the interview below to get the low-down on her experience with networks and societies during her time studying abroad!
What was your experience on your year abroad?
My year abroad in Amsterdam was one of the best decisions I have ever made! It gave me the opportunity to live in a new environment, opened up new experiences to me and let me meet people from all over the world. Not only did I have a fantastic time visiting new places (not to mention the clubs!), but it also broadened my outlook on the world and has made me realise I would like to live abroad in the future. To really make the most out of this experience, you have to dive right in and accept there will be some ups and downs, but in the end it is all worth it!
How did ESN help you settle into your new life abroad?
VU Amsterdam ESN was key to my experience from the start. They had lots of group chats and Facebook groups, so I was able to pick up tips even before arriving. On my first day on campus, ESN were there. Here, I became a member and bought an ESN Card (who wants to miss out on amazing discounts?!) and an ESN welcome weekend ticket. I would recommend this to everyone as it was lots of fun (think boat parties, red light walking tours and brunches) and I made friends who I still speak to now. They split us into groups encouraging us to get to know one another through ice-breaker activities such as ‘crazy 8’ challenges. The fun and friends I made this weekend continued throughout the year. There was always a day or weekend trip to go on such as to The Hague. This helped me to get to know both Amsterdam and the Netherlands, leading to me feeling more at home there. They also offered Dutch classes which are a great way to feel more comfortable in your new home.
I enjoyed the welcome weekend so much I became a coach for it in the second semester welcoming new exchange students! Even in the new role, it was still so much fun (if a little rainier). I wanted to do this as I felt ESN had given me so many opportunities that I wanted to help other new students settle in. It also inspired me to apply to become Vice-President and Welfare Representative at ESN QMUL once back in London.
What other clubs and societies did you join in Amsterdam to help you settle in?
I made sure I went to all the welcome events offered by the international office and the university. We did things such as canal tours and scavenger hunts across the city. Again, this was a great time to learn about the city and make new friends. Throughout the year, the international office staff were friendly and always happy to help with any issues. So definitely do not hesitate to get in touch with your host university if you have any problems!
I also took up a beginner jazz dance class on campus. This was a great chance to meet more Dutch students and integrate more into the community. Sports clubs are always a good way to get involved in university life so I could not recommend doing something like this enough. If sports isn’t your thing, look out for other societies to join whether that’s baking, art or politics!
Remember to take all the opportunities that come your way on your exchange whether that’s joining a society, travelling to a different country with new friends or getting more involved with ESN. This is what an international exchange is all about!