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5 steps to becoming an independent student in The Netherlands

September marked the month I turned 21. Both legally and officially, I’m now considered an adult; a word that still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Me, an adult? But I still watch Disney movies and get a kick from a day out at the zoo.

Surely my time facing the grey abyss of mortgage and taxes hasn’t reached me yet? My 18th birthday still seems in the recent past and I’m starting to wonder how on earth time is flying by so quickly.

Unfortunately, I can’t answer this question – Stephen Hawking may be better suited – but I can help by advising on some of the obstacles I’ve encountered and how best to deal with them.

Finding your feet

Watching my mum drive away for the final time, leaving me in a new country to begin this chapter of my life independently, I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more afraid in my life. I had lived without my family a number of times before this for short stints while travelling, but knowing I wouldn’t be coming home again left me terrified. The way I dealt with this fear was to form a new base of people around me – a brand-new family – the difference being I could choose them.


Getting involved

I was super lucky to move into an international student house full of some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Within a week I had lost the insecurity of being alone, knowing that I was now a part of this fab, if slightly dysfunctional, family.

If you are not moving into a large student accommodation though, fear not. When I say there are hundreds of student societies – varying from theater societies to kite flying – I’m not exaggerating. Each of them is full of those wanting to branch out and meet more people with the same interests so that they can welcome you into their community.


Starting afresh

A particularly interesting aspect of moving to university, especially in a brand-new country, was that nobody knew who I was and in turn; I had no idea who they were. Everyone was on a level playing ground – no one could form opinions based on things they had already heard about you.

This was such a big difference for me, having grown up in a small London suburb where everyone knows each other’s life stories. This gave me the freedom to start afresh and be whoever I fancied, without anyone batting an eyelid if I wanted to take on a brand-new hobby like hip-hop dancing.



When it comes to cooking, the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that with enough time and practice, anyone can create a decent meal. Be it an exquisite steak or a plain pasta salad, you just have to set aside the time to do so, something I still struggle with. Of key importance here is patience, a trait I have recently figured must have skipped me  at birth. I find myself looking from the ingredients to the clock, then thinking of all the deadlines I have looming and resort to jam on toast instead. Admittedly I still have some way to go in the kitchen department…


I like to compare university for young adults to that of a child entering a sweet shop. Instead of eyeing up the sugary treats, we tend to pay more attention to the human ones. Everywhere I went I was surrounded by tall, gorgeous beings and I caught myself off-guard, mouth wide open on more occasions than I wish to admit.

One month into university and I found myself head over heels with a South African student and we’ve been going strong for the past six months.

Maybe growing up isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Written by Anna Blake, studying at the University of Groningen, Netherlands