Stubbornness and setbacks

The end of week one in Leiden already…. and I believe I used the words “there’s been loads of contact and every part of the process has been explained pretty well” in my last post. Ha. If only it lasted.

I arrived in Schiphol airport horrendously early in the morning, after getting up at 3am for the first flight of the day. Believe me, definitely not by choice – but the housing office closes really early and that was the only flight that would get me into the Netherlands at a time I could still collect my keys. Getting from Schiphol to Leiden was fairly uneventful, save an argument with a ticket machine which didn’t like ANY of my bank cards and only took coins. It took me two purchases and eventually sweet talking a guy at the ABN/AMRO bank to manage to get 5,20E in change. That done, I settled back for the 20 minute train journey to my new hometown.

The visitors’ centre, where I was to sign my housing contract and get my welcome pack was easy to find – straight ahead of the doors of the train station. I had about an hour to kill, so I ate some sort of bizarre but delicious sandwich and looked about, as much as I could with a 21kg suitcase in tow. The people in the office were friendly, and all seemed to be going fine until I asked exactly where IS my accommodation? The kind of thing you expect the housing office to be able to answer.

Blank look.

“….Er, hang on, I’ll check Google maps…..”

No-one in the office had a clue.

Google maps informed us that it was about 2 miles away on a tiny street which, it turned out, NO-ONE had heard of. I spent the best part of an hour trying to find a bus to take me there. The housing office told me one number, the driver of that number told me another, the next driver had no idea, but a passenger informed me of another number, and the driver of THAT one told me to try the first one I’d tried once again. Couple this with my atrocious Dutch and my complete incapability to say the unpronouncable ‘Oegstgeest’ and life’s going just grand. Anyway, finally I decided to screw any money-saving and get a taxi. I’m convinced my driver moonlighted as a boy racer, but nonetheless, he knew where my street was. One rather scary journey later (made more horrific than it really was by the fact that we were on the WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD and went round roundabouts the WRONG WAY)… I arrived. “It’ll be obvious that it’s student accommodation, don’t worry.” – the wise words of the housing office again. Erm…. no. It was a house. On a street full of identical houses. The only clue? My key fitted in the lock. Which isn’t really the best way to find out you live in a place… but luckily I got it right on the first try. Otherwise it’d have been very embarrassing.

The induction days were good fun – and I got myself a bike, something that’s completely a necessity in Leiden. I live so far out of the town that walking was taking way too long. There was also lots of interesting food, sports and a tour of the faculty. Also, I discovered another thing the visitor’s centre had completely neglected to do, which was give me my student ID and computer passwords. Luckily this was fairly easily sorted.

Now I’ve met some really great people, living with me, at the sports centre and from the induction days and I’ve FINALLY got my courses sorted…. another load of miscommunication and losing of transcripts later. Sheer stubbornness is needed to get by here. But it is possible.

Now, for a slightly less stressful week, please?!

Categories: Leiden, Netherlands

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