Saturday, February 9, 2013

From China to the Netherlands

 - Tasting the European culture
                    a Chinese point of view

Alex recently finished successfully his Master programme in Utrecht. Due to his  great desire to explore and live  the European culture, he went back to China full of  experience, new ideas, views, friends and knowledge about the filed he is  interested in: Digital Culture. A greatly positive person that shares enthusiastically his Dutch experience.

Name:    Alex Jie You
Age:       24
From:     Hangzhou, China
To:         Utrecht, the Netherlands
For:        Master in New Media & Digital Culture

1. Why Utrecht?

"For me going to Utrecht for study is kind of “karma” that it looks like my destiny:

In the very beginning when I was making my study plan I choose Holland since the education is not as expensive as in the United States, nor are there too many Chinese which form small groups and might make me isolated from the Dutch, the local society. Then I found Utrecht University is a very good one, being in the top-3 universities of Holland. I was also impressed by the photo of the building in De Uithof with its wall decorated by many colorful pixels. I thought that studying and living in Utrecht will be like a very interesting, colorful and meaningful experience, so I chose UU".

2. What is your main academic interest and your career plan.

"As my major name suggests, I am very interested in the development of media and technologies as well as its influence to our society, daily. As a Chinese student, I planned to learn many western theories, and try to examine them with the characters of Chinese society, which I think would be very challenging but also bring fruitful results.

I am planning to work in some IT company, to organize online and offline activities and also the marketing parts. Though finding an ideal job in current China is not a very easy task, I will always try!"

3. The biggest difference between Chinese and Dutch university.

"Difference of Chinese and Dutch university, as far as I know, is the academic attitude.  Many Chinese students quit classes very often and only study in the last week before exam. Some of them have to cheat, and some others copy existing paper as their own final papers, hoping that the teacher will let them pass the exam. Many Chinese universities are not strict, either: even if you copy an online paper it’s possible to pass! This is not possible in a Dutch university. Moreover, Chinese academic atmosphere is less open and critical. I have downloaded some Chinese “Good Master Thesis” for my research, but they didn’t have references and quotes as if everything is made up by the student himself…
In one sentence, Dutch universities are much stricter than Chinese universities". 

4. Utrecht’s Chinese community. 

"I do have some good Chinese friends who are also studying here.. In the first half of my one-year programme. I didn’t hang out with them since I was living in a big dormitory with a lot of other international students. They always invited me to parties and other events. In the second half, I moved to De Uithof, a place which is a little bit far away from the city center and there are not as many international students as in my previous place, so I spent more time with Chinese friends.

My Chinese friends are all very hardworking because if Chinese people want to study in Holland, they have to pay far more than a Dutch, or a European student. Even a one-month postpone of graduation would cost a lot, so everyone is trying to graduate on time.

As far as I know, most Chinese students, when they first come to Utrecht University, they feel panic and stress because of the strict and critical requirements. After one or two months, they feel better because they get a mark from the teacher which makes them feel confident".

"Boxes" houses in De Uithof - 03

5. The most surprising thing about this country.

"Dutch people are very friendly and warm-hearted to others. Every time when I turn to some Dutch people for help somewhere in Utrecht, all of them gave me smiles and looked into my eyes, trying to help me to solve my problem. In the beginning I even felt a bit shy when they appear so enthusiastic and helpful to me".

6. The most difficult thing to get used to in this city.

"I would say that’s the general cultural difference between the two countries. As rice-eaters, we Chinese people, are never able to have profound opinions on the tastes of different types of bread, and similarly, all other cultural stuff like movies, music, books, internet memes, those different cultural backgrounds make it hard for Chinese students to have some common topic with Dutch students, so there is some difficulty for them to have a deep tie of friendship, as I suppose.

About the city, I would say the weird weather… And of course it is quite difficult to get used to the long day time in summer as well as the long dark time in winter here".

7. How did you find European nightlife compared to the Chinese one?

"Nightlife in Holland: go to a pub for some shots, some beer, and then go to a club to dance till late, until everyone is drunk.
Nightlife in China: go for a dinner and talk on the table, then go to a Karaoke to cry for several hours and go back home when everyone is exhausted.

My own experience shows my Chinese friends like to drink less than European friends do, while music is always a part of nightlife for both sides".

8. How do you find Utrecht compared to Amsterdam?

"I’ve been to Amsterdam many times. Indeed Amsterdam is the most famous city of Holland, with the two notorious symbols “sex” and “weed”. Objectively, these two things are quite a small part of the whole city. Amsterdam shows very beautiful scenery of a city on the canals, and also with a lot of nice architecture and museums. Compared to Utrecht, Amsterdam is nevertheless a bit too messy, and too commercial. You will have a strong feeling that Amsterdam is a city full of tourists, while in Utrecht I think you can have a quiet, peaceful life as a typical Dutch does. I prefer Utrecht since it is more like what I think as a Dutch city!"

Vlaamse frites - 07
9. The taste linked to Utrecht.

"I like the Vlaamse frites in the “Smullers”, with joppie saus alsjeblieft!"

   10. People in the Netherlands, in 3 words.

     "Curly hair, Relaxing, “Gedoog beleid”    (which means tolerance)"

11. Is freedom of expression different in China than it is in Europe?

"Difference focuses mainly on the political aspects; Chinese people might have a less freedom than Europeans, though the “freedom of speaking” is gradually improving in these years". 

Pisa - 08
12. European cities you visited. Which one did you like the most.

"I’ve been to Belgium, Holland, Italy, France and Germany in total, and among all cities, I like Dutch cities the most. First is my “second hometown” Utrecht, and Leiden comes second since it is a city full of humanities taste. I also like Roma, Koln... they all have their own attractiveness".

 13. What are you going to miss from European life?

   "The people I met here, and certainly – the food!!"


14. Would you choose to live in Europe?

         " If possible, why not?"

15. What did you miss from China in Utrecht.

"I missed my best friends in Hangzhou and also the Chinese food which cannot be found in Holland".

16. What do you think people do not know about China?

"Media tell you guys that in China it is forbidden to say any bad things about the government, but actually, we are all doing so every day on the internet! It’s not that strict as you have imagined and as the media have described! To be honest, I think that China is more democratic than what western media show".

Queen's day party - 10
 17. What you will keep forever.

"I bought two big coffee cups marked with “Utrecht” and “Nederland” from the Starbuck’s in Utrecht Central Station (though I found a “made in China” on the bottom of each cup after I paid =_=). I think I will use them for quite a long time.

In the long run, my one year experience of studying in Utrecht is like a beautiful dream, so short, but so colorful as I imagined, and I’m sure I will cherish this experience for ever".

Keukenhof Garden - 11

Memories linked to pictures

01: The “pixel” building in De Uithof is the first thing that leaves me a creative and interesting impression of the lifestyle in Utrecht.

 02: Dutch people like to drink energy drinks a lot. Before I came to Utrecht I think the tastes are terrible, but finally I became a bit addicted to the energy drink Monster and then there is this photo.

03: A glance from the window of my room.. 15th floor, makes it a perfect angle to shoot this picture. The snow covers everything, turning the place into an extremely white paradise.

04: A photo of bread and Printen taken in Aachen, Germany. As a Chinese who doesn’t eat bread often I feel want to buy them because they look so delicious...

05: Party culture is really amazing in Holland. I paid 50 euro to attend a local event called “Trance Energy” with several friends. We drank and danced a lot that night, it was really fantastic to experience the authentic Rave in Holland!

06: One of the sheep living on the grass under my 15th-floor room. Their “Meh~~~”  wake me up every morning..quite cute isn’t it?

08. The tower of Pisa in Italy! This is one of the most famous symbols in Italy. There are many tourists making a “supporting the tower” pose for pictures which are so hilarious..and yes, I did the same. I spent 300 Euro for a 8-days-trip in Italy, what a nice holiday!

09: The windmill in Utrecht, near the central station. Still in use, but it is used as a tiny concert hall, I guess.

10: Djs, Parties and Dance music is never absent in big days. This is a photo taken on the Queen’s days, when everyone is in the mood of relaxing and celebrating.

11: The Keukenhof! Sooooo many tulips in this garden! I am so lucky to catch the time to visit this garden, though the weather is not so great. Anyway the gorgeous flower field is never possible to fade away in my memory!

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