Rhianne W. Exchange Ambassador

What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:

Gezellig - Wageningen University

"The Dutch word "gezellig" doesn't translate easily but in the context of my exchange would be a feeling of peacefulness, homeliness, and light-hearted fun."

Rhianne W. on exchange



Exchange student at Wageningen University, the Netherlands
Winter semester
Studying Environmental Science

  1. What is the best thing that happened while you were studying abroad? 

I learned so much about myself and was able to explore a part of my identity I had not connected with much previously. I visited family I hadn’t seen in a long time and learned a lot more about Dutch language and history.

  1. What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make? 

I was familiar with a lot of Dutch culture through my mother’s side of the family but there were lots of small day-to-day things that added up to be big changes. As a morning person, it was a big adjustment that so many things happen late into the evenings. Adjusting to the very full-time schedule for classes was also difficult and I learned to relax a little and adapt to the work-life balance especially when it came to doing less work at the weekends and in the evenings.

  1. Where was the coolest place you travelled to during your study abroad experience? 

This is the hardest question to answer! I mostly travelled within the Netherlands and one of my favourite places was Gouda. I visited the stroopwafel factory and a museum to learn all about how the famous cheese is made. I also loved walking around the medieval city centre and learning some of the history of the Netherlands from the stained-glass windows of the Sint-Jan church. A close second was Kinderdijk, the UNESCO World Heritage site with more than a dozen windmills in one spot.

  1. What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew before you studied abroad? 

I wish I had known about museum passes in the country because I visited so many amazing museums and could have saved a lot of money with a pass.

  1. What was your best learning moment? 

I discovered I have a slight fear of heights… at the top of a 15th century church tower.

  1. Who was the hardest person to leave that you met while on exchange? How did you deal with that? ​

Leaving my family friends behind after several months of becoming their “bonus child” was really tough. The fact that we’re able to video call and exchange messages has helped. It’s hard not knowing when you’ll see the people you were with on exchange again, but the shared experience is something that connects you forever.

  1. If you were to recommend exchange to your best friend, what would you say?​ ​

It’s so amazing to get to live and breathe a different lifestyle for 4 months or more. I’d absolutely go abroad if you have the chance. You’ll have so much support from your home university and a community of other people in the same situation as you to connect with when you get there, so it’s less scary than you think and so incredibly life-changing.

  1. What are your packing recommendations?

Shoes take up space but you can stuff them with so many different things if you’re creative. That said, you need less shoes than you think and whatever you do bring, make sure you can walk and bike in them. The Dutch bike most places and Wageningen students definitely spend a lot of time enjoying walking the city centre. If you’re planning to go away at the weekends, it’s nice to have a small hand luggage piece for those trips. Do what you can to minimize the bulky items coming with you. And finally, don’t stress too much about getting everything in – you can survive with less than you think.

  1. Would it be helpful to learn another language for this exchange? 

You can get by with English everywhere on campus and most places in the city centre and the rest of the Netherlands. It would be good to learn basics for grocery stores, signs, or on public transport or have a means of translating while out and about. It’s also always nice to be able to say hello. There are several opportunities to pick up some Dutch either through the university or the international student clubs if you’re interested.

  1. Did you live on-campus or off-campus? Would you recommend it, and why? 

Wageningen doesn’t have university residences the same way that we do in Guelph. I lived in a building that was technically off-campus (run by a company external to the university) but was 5 minutes from one of my class buildings. I loved being close to campus and in a building with only other students, it made coming home from events on campus easy and was a good place to meet people. Occasionally the noise of a big building with a bar next-door was a bit much. It was also a little further from the city centre, but you can get almost everywhere in Wageningen within 20 mins by bike, so it wasn’t a big issue. I’d recommend being somewhere between the centre and campus, in whatever living situation feels right for you.

  1. How did you finance your study abroad experience? 

I relied on my savings from summer jobs before I went abroad. I also had help from my parents and a scholarship.

  1. What interesting courses did you get to take while studying abroad? What was the title of the course(s)? 

Environmental Psychology – this was a really cool course about different aspects of how the individual human mind perceives and responds to nature.
The 4th Dimension in Earth Sciences – I learned a lot about the geology of the Netherlands and different research techniques to understand the history of landscapes
Marine Life – this course had an amazing field trip to the north of France, and I learned so much about organisms in the oceans
Environmental Toxicology – I loved getting time in the lab and had two amazing teachers

  1. How do you see your exchange experiences benefiting your future career?

I took some interesting courses that I couldn’t take while at Guelph and it really helped me find what I was most interested in. I also found myself becoming more confident and a stronger communicator. I think the personal growth I had while abroad will help me tackle future uncertainty and challenges in any role.

  1. Is there any other helpful information you would like to share with future study abroad participants? ​

Lots of big cities in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe have free walking tours, which is a great way to learn more about the places you are visiting.

Adventures around the Netherlands

Ambassadors Homepage