‘I’ve met friends for a lifetime here’

By Erasmus School of Economics

What is student life like when you study far away from home? Two international students of Erasmus School of Economics, Andreea Barbu and Sigita Lapina, tell us everything about it: ‘Apart from the weather, it’s perfect here.’

Throughout Europe there are quite some options for studying abroad. What made you choose the programme here?

Andreea: ‘Erasmus is very high in the rankings and a friend of mine who studied here told me about all the advantages. Additionally, I love travelling and had never been to the Netherlands before. It’s also very easy to visit other countries from here.’ Sigita: ‘For me it was just about the university. I wanted to do something with mathematics and not become a teacher, which is basically the only thing you can do in Latvia. Since you can’t study econometrics there, I looked for options abroad. I checked out possibilities in Amsterdam and Tilburg as well, but liked Rotterdam the most.’ Andreea: ‘I like the country as a whole, but out of all the places I’ve visited here Rotterdam is my favorite. Having both green and urban parts make it a really nice city.’

Andreea Barbu
Andreea Barbu is Romanian and moved from Râmnicu Vâlcea to Rotterdam three years ago. Aside from studying Economics and Business Economics with a major in Marketing, she work spart-time as a marketing officer. She is also active in the Eastern European Student Association and as ambassador for Erasmus School of Economics.

Is your experience so far what you expected beforehand?

Andreaa: ‘It’s more than I expected! I thought you’d just go to classes, study a lot and maybe have drinks with your friends every now and then. But I really made friends like back home in Romania, whom I’m sure I’ll be friends with for a long time.’ Sigita: ‘It was very challenging in the beginning: all these adjustments, meeting all these new people. It was overwhelming and exciting at the same time. But I quickly had a group of friends who had my back, I know that they’ll be friends for a lifetime.’

Andreea: ‘I found it challenging at first as well. I came alone here and had never lived by myself. It took a while to get to know people, but especially in my second year a steady group of friends emerged. I’ve had my ups and downs, but now I really enjoy it and I will do my Master here as well.’ Sigita: ‘I’m not sure what I expected exactly, but there is so much going on and that’s so cool. Every time I look at Facebook there’s a new event and at the university there are so many companies paying a visit to our campus.’

Packing up all your belongings, moving to a different country where you don’t know anyone – it’s no wonder that getting settled in requires some time and effort. Both Andreea and Sigita stress that there are plenty of people willing to help.

Andreea: ‘At first I focused mainly on my studies because the first two blocks were very challenging. Later I focused more on my social life, which helped me through periods of stress and homesickness.’ Sigita: ‘You have to remember: you’re never alone in this.’ Andreaa: ‘And you need to be motivated, that will help you through everything.’

How is student life here compared to your own country?

Sigita: ‘A cultural difference is that Latvians are very introvert, while Dutch people are more extrovert. Another thing is the beer drinking culture here, we Latvians drink other stuff. But I got used to it, haha. The food is also different, I gained weight at first. I tried all the fried things and when I had ‘stroopwafels’ I just had to finish the entire package!’

Sigita Lapina is from Latvia and moved from Sigulda to Rotterdam to follow two bachelors in Economics and Econometrics. She is also majoring in Marketing. Next to her studies, she is chairman of the Freshmen Committee of study association for econometrics students FAECTOR, project manager at the Happy Student Society, and works as a social media student assistant for Erasmus School of Economics.

Andreea: ‘What I hear from my Romanian friends is that they’re not internationally exposed, whereas at Erasmus School of Economics there are students with 91 different nationalities. I do feel like Romania is becoming more westernised and diverse. There are more festivals in the summer now, for example.’

Do you observe cultural differences within the Netherlands as well?

Sigita: ‘Only in the accents, the ‘g’ can be soft or hard.’ Andreea: ‘And weather-wise, some parts are a bit colder. There’s so much wind here by the way, we don’t have that in Romania. Apart from that everything’s perfect here.’

Andreea finds it funny to be interviewed about studying abroad, since as an Erasmus School of Economics ambassador she’s normally the one to interview possible new students about why they consider coming here. As chairman of study organisation FAECTOR, Sigita is involved in organising events for freshmen.

What advice do you give aspiring or freshly arrived international students?

Sigita: ‘Whether it’s just going to the gym, joining a student association, or taking dancing classes – don’t focus on studying only. Sometimes I feel like I should prioritise my studies more, but I prefer a good life to finishing everything in time. And if you take care of having a plan and time management, you’ll come a long way.’ Andreea: ‘I agree, it’s like Sigita read my mind. Maybe pick just one activity in the beginning. You have to find a balance between your education and your social life. Otherwise you’ll either miss out on making friends or you’ll get kicked out of the programme. Activities help you to get to know yourself, which will help you later in life as well. For example, working in different organisations has improved both my soft and hard skills a lot.’

Would they recommend studying abroad here?

The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Sigita: ‘It’s going to be amazing.’ Andreea: ‘It doesn’t have to be Erasmus School of Economics necessarily, you have to choose what inspires you. But I do recommend Erasmus University highly. The fact that you’re exposed to so many cultures here is so exciting!’

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