So I managed to attend all my classes for the first week and avoid getting disastrously lost! If that’s not an achievement I don’t know what is! So the first difference between university in Utrecht and university in Adelaide is the buildings. The buildings I study in here are absolutely beautiful. One of the buildings I study in used to be a palace for the Dutch Royal Family which makes the surroundings lovely (but I must admit a little distracting) the other disadvantage to studying in these beautiful buildings is the copious amount of stairs! (I guess they didn’t have escalators when they built the palace….) After reading my blogs I may come across as incredibly lazy but after all the bike riding trust me the last thing you want is to walk up a million stairs! The next major difference I have noticed so far at university is I had my first class for “Dutch Present-day Society” on Wednesday- our first assignment was due on Friday (so we had less than 48 hours to write and submit our first essay). I know if that had happened in Australia everyone in the class would have complained and said the dead line wasn’t realistic “we have jobs, families…. Blah, blah, blah”. Being the argumentative little brat I am, I wanted to say the deadline was ridiculous but when in Rome…. In my other class “Dutch Law” my teacher just decided to change one of the times of our lectures with 2 days notice and we were all expected to attend. So it seems here that University plays more of a large role in students’ lives. That said my classes are very interesting and they are making me think more critically about Australian law and culture. Currently I am working on a presentation in Dutch law with a Polish girl, a French girl and an American girl. We are researching the Criminal law processes in the Netherlands and comparing them to our own jurisdictions. So far it is very interesting I actually happily spent all Friday afternoon researching and it was rather refreshing to work in a quiet library (no offence intended Flinders) and what a beautiful library it is! As nerdy as it is I really do need to take photos the ceilings are very high with books stacked all up against the walls … just gorgeous. While researching it seems to me that Dutch law protects the accused less than in Australian law (there is more of a focus on the rights of the victim). But due to not wanting to risk over simplifying Dutch Criminal Procedure and generalizing I’ll get back to you all on that one when I have finished my research. In summary I’m being challenged everyday, I am being forced to question whether Australia’s common law system is superior to the Dutch civil law system and it is incredibly interesting.
This week I am starting my Dutch language classes and I can’t wait to get a basic understanding of the language because I am sick of feeling like an ignorant Australian! An example of this ignorance occurred at muay thai this week. In the class we take it in turns in counting out loud when we do push ups or sit ups. Thankfully I hadn’t been asked to count before until Friday (I still don’t know my Dutch numbers after being here nearly 3 weeks) disgraceful I know! I started the numbers in Dutch but when I got to 4 I realised I had changed to German. So yeah I can’t wait to know a bit of Dutch so I can say thank you with correct pronunciation and actually say good morning to people when I pass them on my morning jogs.
Wow! Without a doubt the strangest city I have ever visited. In my opinion it is sad that a city with so much history has become famous for prostitution and marijuana. I’ll be honest I wasn’t expecting to be educated with the history of Amsterdam when I went there, in fact I didn’t expect history to be even mentioned because when someone mentions Amsterdam they only ever mention marijuana and the Red Light District. During the day we went on a city tour and learnt about why there is a church placed ‘smack bang’ in the middle of the Red Light District. The sailors that used to come to Amsterdam to make use of the services there would pay to confess their sins the next morning at the church. We learnt about the gruesome ways people would be executed for crimes and about the Jewish sector of the city and our tour guide explained why all the trees in Amsterdam are relatively young (because of the long winter after WWII that was so cold and long that all the trees in the city were cut down for fire wood along with much of the furniture in the Jewish district that was much less populated after the war). We went to the National Museum and saw Rembrandt’s famous painting ‘the night watch’ along with the beautiful Dutch Doll houses (that I would’ve killed for when I was about 5). We finished the day light hours (although there were few of them given that it was raining ALL day) with a canal cruise. We then had pizza for dinner and hit the night clubs and Amsterdam definitely does come alive at night! After we had partied in Amsterdam we caught the train back to Utrecht (30 mins) and then we rode our bikes from Utrecht to Zeist in the dark and rain (wearing my trusty rain suit of course) and that was the most interesting bike ride of my life. I slept well that night.
I’ve noticed that it is really easy to spot an Australian in your class. In my first Dutch Present-day Society class a girl on the other side of the room and myself kept having the same reactions to certain comments and I thought ‘that girl must be Australian” we talked after class and surprise, surprise she was!
On Thursday it was the Danish election (and I’m not one to shy away from a little education about international politics) so I watched the election with two of my new Danish friends we all cooked and ate dinner together and watched democracy in action… it was beautiful (yes, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again- I’m a nerd).
That’s it for now guys; I have a big week ahead.