E. Bouma Als de dag van gisteren kan ik mij herinneren dat ik te horen kreeg dat ik voor mijn exchange naar de andere kant van de wereld zou gaan. De eerste...
Having been to summer schools at Universities in Germany, Czech Republic and Azerbaijan where I met an amazing amount of friends from all over the world with whom I’m still in regular contact, I became quite addicted to new experiences so I firmly decided I should up the stakes and do something more for my education: an LLM abroad. The choice fell on the Netherlands, as a country with a high level of education, internationally oriented and very advanced both economically and from a social standpoint. Specifically I have chosen Tilburg University as it had the unique LLM program Law and Technology that contains a mixture of all my interests (IP law, ICT law, Data protection…) in one place.
Having arrived to the Netherlands suitably prepared, I was still quite shocked by the unrealistic number of bikes everywhere, biblical amounts of rain and periods of time without seeing the sun and by the fact that everything in the country functions almost perfectly to a degree that was borderline uneasy for a person used to the mild chaos and general lack of system in the Balkans. Most importantly I heard a lot of stories about the Dutch being cold unapproachable and sometimes downright weird. As someone who doesn’t take things for granted I set out to explore and boy those assumptions were very wrong (especially for the Brabant region).
Tilburg, a small town formerly an important center of textile industry, is a seemingly unremarkable place and one could even say boring with not that many cultural happenings, sights to see or a good nightlife. Another wrong assumption. Given the right people Tilburg can become a very entertaining place to spend your University years. As I’ve mentioned the assumptions about Dutch people were very wrong. The Brabanders are very friendly and warm people, enjoying what life gives them and it rubs off on most of the other Dutch students studying at Tilburg University who take up many of the unique Brabant characteristics. Mix this all up with international students from all around the globe and the results are astounding. The amazing and indescribable Carnaval in February, the unique La Trappe Monastery with the most amazing beers on the planet, Beekse Bergen Safari Park, social and academic events organized by student organisation, lots of smaller festivals of food around town, very good restaurants make the town a perfect mixture between calm and cosy but also entertaining and lively. During my time in Tilburg I have come to understand why King Willem II, deeply in love with Tilburg, said the words “Here I can breathe freely and I feel happy”.
Tilburg University is the pulse of the town, and all of the students living in Tilburg make the city very pleasant to live in. The education offered here coupled with all of the extra facilities (study areas, Sports center etc) is several levels above everything I have seen elsewhere, with lecturers that are well known and respected in their respective fields and most importantly very approachable and ready to help and give advices when needed. Having experienced the Law and Technology LLM and the way TILT functions, I have really gained invaluable knowledge that is directly and easily applicable in todays competitive world. Though all of this does come with a heavy workload, hectic schedule and a need for supreme time-organization skills which resulted in the end with a lot of sacrificed sleeping hours, but it is just how it is and the mild sleep-depravation was well worth it in the end.
As a previous member of the ELSA student association during my Bachelor studies I decided, apart from simply studying, to have another different experience, one that is authentic Dutch. Being overwhelmingly Dutch, Magister JFT faculty association seemed as the perfect opportunity to blend into the Dutch culture through both academic and social events. Although I was one of the few international students active in Magister JFT sometimes even the only non-Dutch student present at events I have never felt out of place. I have really felt at home from the first moment and being part of this organization opened the doors for me to meet truly awesome people from all over the Netherlands who all share a common mentality that has been perfectly described in the song of Andre Hazes Jr. “Leef”, with Magister students achieving a perfect balance of high academic ambition and career goals with an equally demanding social life. Together we built lasting friendships and amazing memories that will last forever and I’m deeply thankful to everyone who made my stay thoroughly enjoyable.
To cap it all off, this year was absolutely amazing and coming to Tilburg was one of those decisions that I will cherish forever. I would advise fellow students to never back down from challenges, new unforgettable experiences lurk everywhere for you to explore. As the famous old Jewish poverb says “Whoever does not try does not learn”, so go out there make the extra effort it will all be worth it in the end.
 such is my admiration for these people I even learned quite a number of Dutch songs during my time as a Magister member.