So, what happens next? Basically a lot of stuff in quick succession. We went through Budapest, Vienna, Prague, through Germany to visit relatives, into Belgium to see the capital of the EU in Brussels, and back to London (where we took a day trip to Stonehenge). We only spent about a day in each city so it was basically just speed dating with European cities.
And now, because I’m so far behind, I’m going to have to skip 8 weeks in which I went on various canoe trips in Northern Ontario. Some of the most beautiful landscapes are right in our backyards, you just have to go a little farther to see it. After those 8 weeks were up, I went home to my parents house, had a few days to pack, and then loaded up onto a plane and arrived in the Netherlands for the start of the Tilburg University Top Week.
Now I realize that I’ve just skipped 80 percent of my summer and have failed to elaborate on anything specific but I’m sure I can return to those in an eventual “throwback Thursday” because they are probably no longer super relevant, and in a society that idolizes the most current affairs, they’d be bad. Just wait for nostalgia to kick in and then it’s all good again, but I digress. Thus begins TOP week, which is the Dutch version of Orientation Week.
So I somehow managed to pack my life into a couple bags, get them on and off a plane followed by a train and into my new apartment. It’s kind of like living in residence because the entire building is exchange students (as well as all the surrounding buildings), but better because it feels more like apartments! The rooms come pre-furnished so all you need to do is bring school supplies and clothing. Or so I thought. The following is a list of things I wish I had brought:
- Rubber boots – Yay Rain!
- Pillows – One is not enough.
- Posters – Because empty walls suck.
- Lamps – I’m not a cat. I can’t see when it’s pitch black.
- Power Adaptors – Have one, need more.
- More towels – Because it’s mandatory to bring your own to the Gym. And I gym a lot.
- BAND AIDS.
- More band aids.
- I’m so cut up I’ll just say band aids one more time for good measure.
Now you’re wondering how on earth my body has become so demolished in under a week, and I promise I’ll explain, but first you need to understand how TOP week works.
Every day is divided into three. The morning, which hosts academic and orientation programs to help you figure out how Tilburg university works. The afternoon, which is basically just various activities, and the evening. Which runs from about 7pm to 4 am, EVERYDAY. You can probably guess the type of events that happen in the evening blocks, but it’s the afternoon ones that actually kill you. Combined with the evening activities, it’s probably a miracle that I’m still around to tell the tale.
Wake up early. This is the only day that we need to be awake for 9 am which should be the first indication of what’s to come, but we’re all excited so we’re up earlier. First thing up is a Program introduction. Basically you meet everyone you need to know for the year (Coordinators, Administrators, the Dean, a couple of Profs, etc…). Then you tromp around the library and learn how to use the weird dutch course enrolment system which is probably the most needlessly difficult thing in the world. It’s actually so pointlessly difficult I feel the need to explain this. Are you ready? First you choose your courses. Which sounds simple, but you have to go through them all and figure out what times they’re at to ensure none of your classes are at the same time (they also change times per week, so this part is hell). Then you need to figure out how to enrol in them. For some of them you need to enrol on Blackboard, others on a system only known as COMP, and then there are the special classes in which you need to email the prof an essay and letter and they’ll tell you if you’re worthy of having wisdom passed onto you. Once you’ve figured out if your enrolled you need to add them to your course shell thingy… I don’t even know how I did this part. I just frantically clicked on things until it worked. Finally, you need to register for exams. That’s right, just because you’re taking the course doesn’t mean you can take the exam. You have to go onto your student portal and sign up to take the exams for your classes (again making sure none of the times overlap). It’s absolute hell.
Now I’m enrolled (maybe? Who knows… fingers crossed) and know my way around the library, so it’s time for the BBQ! Food is always good, free food is better. Unfortunately it wasn’t free, but that didn’t stop it from being good!
After the BBQ finished up, everyone heads over to the student club, Carpe Diem, where you make new friends and dance the night away.
This morning there’s a quick class on learning basic dutch phrases and then it’s straight to games day.
Games day is basically just field games and inflatable bouncy castles. Seems legit yeah? Well, I actually didn’t end up going to either of these things because the bike saga had begun.
My roommate (Rupert) had yet to buy a bike so we took another friend’s bike (Katie) and rode (with the two of us on one bike) to go get the new bike. Because he was bikeless we also borrowed Katie’s bike the night before to two man into town for the BBQ. This is also coincidentally the reason that there’s such a high demand for band aids. Long story short balancing with two people on a road bike (the ones with the super skinny tires) proves to be incredibly challenging. It was also during this time that we broke Katie’s bike. Rupert and I then proceeded to spend the entire day trying to find Rupert a bike while looking to get Katie’s fixed (both of which proved to be insanely successful).
We met up with everyone that evening in Carpe Diem.
Today’s only event is the Beer Cantus. It’s basically a giant sing along in which a band plays popular (Dutch and English) songs and everyone looses their voices pretending they can sing. The Cantus starts at 12 pm and goes until 3 pm in which you’re not allowed to leave the spoorzone (an abandoned train lot that they use for all sorts of events). Don’t ask me why because I still haven’t figured it out. If you have to go to the bathroom you can’t get back in. They take these things very seriously.
In the spirit of the Bike Saga, Rupert broke his bike on the way to the Cantus. This time we used Megan’s bike to get around, and thankfully our biking is getting much better, because we didn’t break it this time, and no band aids are required.
But enough of that; Back to the Cantus. So how does it work? First, you sing the Dutch National anthem. Then maybe they’ll play a popular song like “Hey Jude” or something, quickly followed by some random Dutch song that only the mentors know. I would have never believed that techno accordion could sound so good.
Even though the Cantus was the only planned event for the day, everyone still ended up Carpe Diem that evening.
Rupert and I did not make it to a single event on Thursday (City Festival, followed by a Pub Crawl). Instead we managed to get ourselves out of bed and into the city to try and find a shop to fix his bike. Murphy’s law however, dictated that all the bike shops would be closed for the day, so we basically just went home, watched Netflix, and chilled with the gang.
The advantages of dual citizenship are unparalleled. Friday morning at 9 am any students on exchange from countries outside of the EU were required to go to an immigration meeting and tuberculosis screening. Everyone else slept in and had a lazy morning (aka me, #germanpassportswag). Eventually Rupert and I went to get his bike fixed, which turned out to be a great success. We then went directly to the main event of the day.
It was really far out of the city, but totally worth it. One of the local pools was only open for Tilburg students and it had a live DJ spinning tracks on the lawn. It was nice and sunny which was a nice change, because it tends to rain here a lot. Pools in Europe are intense. They’ve got multiple slides, hot tubs, water sports, etc… and the pool was packed.
After making it out of the pool and back into town, it was time for the final event. It began at 11 pm and went until 1 am at the spoorzone. Then you hop on a bus, get taken out of the city, and dance until dawn (I kid you not. The last return bus left at 9 am).
Have no fear; it was a quiet weekend.