Summer 2017

Sharing by the Participants of Utrecht Summer Programme 2017

By NG Wai Lam Emily (Year 2, Hotel and Tourism Management) 

Utrecht Summer School was founded in 1987 and offers courses in all disciplines, including culture, healthcare, business and science. It also organizes many social programs for students to have an unforgettable international experience. Utrecht is the Netherlands’ fourth largest and most central city, where people can find the recognizable landmark as the Dom Tower. It is a place for shopping, pubs and cafes, and school. And it is full of beautiful architecture, old as well as modern.

I took the European Cultures and Identities during the program period. It offers us an introduction to Europe, a continent of great diversity. Each of its countries and peoples carry their own cultures, religions, traditions and languages, yet the majority of them are now engaged in a joint project aimed at political and economic integration in the European Union. This course aims to introduce students to the main challenges and opportunities facing this project. Students will analyze topics such as the emergence and construction of national identity and culture; processes of globalization and internationalization, and their effects on local cultures; citizenship in a European context and different national approaches to social issues. They will also examine the structure and institutions of the European Union and learn how national cultures are affected by and react to supranational developments. The program offers an excursion to Brussels, which includes a visit to the European Parliament.

Every night, a social program was held. I joined a one-day field trip to National Park Hoge Veluwe and Kroller-Muller Museum on 9 July 2017. Located in the middle of the national park, the Kroller-Muller Museum is a museum for modern art, including the second largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh paintings in the world. De Hoge Veluwe National Park is the largest actively managed conservation area in the Netherlands. In the morning, we visited the museum and sculpture park. After that, we biked and explored the surroundings of the national park. On the way, we met myriads of cyclists and we were astonished by the large scale of grassland.

One of the most frequent difficulties was transport. As every word on the bus, train, tram is in Dutch, we spent quite a lot of time on translation, on using the app suggested and on guessing at the beginning of our stay. Sometimes, we even had to use google map to find the location of the bus stop. Fortunately, we did not get on the wrong bus but that really caused inconvenience to non-Dutch people, in particular to those who came for their first time. And as we took the same route every day, we promptly got used to it and we can go further in Utrecht.

7 July 2017 was the excursion day. We visited the European Parliament and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels. We were grateful to meet an excellent tour guide. He was eager and passionate to study arts and history of Europe, so whenever he introduced a painting to us, he can vividly describe the stories behind and the history. He also taught us to discover the elements in which we can distinguish who made that because painters had different styles and they lived in different decades. Thus, the way they drew can be unlike to each other. Despite the fact that we do not study arts or history, we were captivated by his lively description.

Another memorable experience happened at the National Park Hoge Veluwe on 9 July 2017. as I have not been biked for years and the bikes there are much bigger than those in Hong Kong, I spent quite much time on trying to make balance. one of the student helper, Famke, taught me how to do it. I kept falling and retrying but she was patient and always encouraged me, ‘keep going…you are doing well…good job…’ she is so nice and warm. when I was cycling along the path where the Park streches to the horizon, she even took pictures for me! that was what I wanted to do and she helped me without I spoke out. until now, I still remember her voice and how helpful she was.

During the two weeks, though I did not make any Dutch friends, every day after class, my friend and I wandered in the streets and saw all restaurants crowded with people. No matter it is on weekday or weekend, they all enjoy afternoon tea. It seems like they get a good work-life balance and life is very enjoyable and leisurable.

Besides, they live so environmentally-friendly. Inside many big supermarkets, such as Albert Heijn, a tall yellow machine can be found. It collects the large glass bottles and plastic bottles, then people get a receipt and they can refund at the cashier. This helps develop their habits not to be wasteful. Hong Kong people sometimes do recycle too but passively as we may believe the recyclable materials will be disposed of in the landfills. More recycling machines imported and cash benefits, more people are willing to recycle.

Another point is the Dutch bike wherever they go. Bikes have been integrated into their life that statistically, each Dutch citizen possesses one bike or more and they learn cycling early since they were little. In spite of the area of the Netherlands, Dutch people always bike to school, to work, or elsewhere. It is appreciative that the government generously pours resources into building a vast network of cycling paths. The paths are clearly marked, have smooth surfaces, separate signs and lights for those on two wheels, and wide enough to allow side-by-side cycling and overtaking. And they can enjoy a secure communal parking lot everywhere. Cycling may be a local culture to them. For those under 18, they cannot drive without supervision, so they get a bike as an alternative form of freedom.

During the trip, I learnt more about Europe through seminars, lectures and museum visits. Religion is dominant and influential in Europe that it has been existing when this continent was changing and progressing. Almost every European is Christian or Islamic or faithful to other religions. Therefore, when we got there, we were cautious and tried to avoid religious conflicts with people. Europe is a mix continent accommodating different religions and different nationalities. Though they are white people and speak the same language, they can be from different countries. Still they get along with each other peacefully and harmoniously.

How to use money wisely is what I deeply learn from others in the trip. Being able to go on exchange does not mean I can spend money whenever I want to. The longer period, the thriftier and more saving I should be. the price level in Europe is very high that an ordinary burger can cost more than €5 while a formal dinner in a high-end restaurant can be priced over €20. If I dined out every night, I would have got bankrupted soon. Fortunately, I met friends who do not spend money like water. We dined in hostel almost every night and we shared the food together. Therefore, we cooked anything we like and each one only paid around €1.5. That helped reduce our expenditure a lot. And sometimes we shopped in the supermarkets to see what food items were on discounts. Those were inexpensive but in great amount. Even though they offer a buy-one-get-one-free discount, the food was fresh and we can eat for days. More than that, every night I recorded down my spending on that day to see which portion cost me the most. And I found the transport cost captured the biggest part while the part for meals was the second smallest.

Firstly, be more proactive. There are many fascinating and exciting activities per night, such as night canoeing and cycling, which students can experience the Dutch people’s life and try the popular and common sports. However, I was so hesitative and did not join much as I could not find people to accompany with and some of them were pricey. As a matter of fact, we usually say that, ‘once in a lifetime’, we should be bold and try something new that we may not have the chance after. That is why people always try the dangerous activities but worthy trying abroad. So if I could more actively enroll the activities, perhaps I could have made more friends of different nationalities and enriched my life experience.

One of the reasons why I joined this summer exchange program is to get a taste of studying abroad to see whether to apply for a one term exchange next year. Overall speaking, this trip is unforgettable as I have experienced a lot that I cannot try in Hong Kong. Yet, I found myself some problems to avoid or abilities to strengthen. For example, my listening skill is still weak that I cannot fully understand the lecturer’s speech. And sometimes, I can be easily distracted from the class, so I often get confused and cannot catch up with the teacher. To avoid that, I believe I should talk more with foreigners and watching more news report. More than that, as usual, I should prepare for the lesson the day before because the lecturer talked slightly fast and we would be unclear which part we understood without reading the articles.

I would appreciate if the course can be longer. Normally, summer exchange programs last longer than one month but the trip to Utrecht took only 2 weeks. The longer period, the more lessons we can have. It was a bit rush to include many topics in 10 school days, not to mention sometimes we only had morning class for 2 hours. At first, I felt fortunate and relaxed because we got fewer lessons and can leave earlier than those studying other course. However, I was totally wrong because I would need more time to reread the articles and to search online for more information and better understanding. And just a few days later, we needed to complete a written exam and tackle a group presentation. If the program can last longer, at least we have more time on reading while the lecturer can explain more on details with plenty of examples. That would help us better understand.

Emily (First row middle) visited to National Park Hoge Veluwe and Kroller-Muller Museum

Emily (Left) and her roommate

By WONG Wing Ki Linda (Year 3, Psychology)

In 1-15 July 2017, I participated in a two-week summer course at Utrecht University, the Netherlands through C.W.Chu College. The summer program was launched by the Globe-Oriented Active Learning Program of the United College, with a view to providing the students from the Chinese University chances to live and interact with people from different parts of the world through engaging in various academic and cultural settings.

Universiteit Utrecht is one of Europe’s leading research universities, recognized internationally for its high quality, innovative approach to both research and teaching. The University is located in the Utrecht city, which is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands. Utrecht is at the central part of the Netherlands, a low-lying country and is therefore highly accessible to the capital city Amsterdam and famous cities such as The Hague, and Rotterdam etc.

As for the summer course, we could choose between two courses, either European Cultures and Identities or European Politics and Economy. My major is psychology and I have been working on a lot of humanity subjects over the past years, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and enroll in the politics and economy course to gain novel and different insights from the European lecturers, politicians and students in Utrecht University. The summer course consisted of lectures, seminar sessions and excursions to Brussels. For the assessment, we had to submit two individual assignments (one intellectual diary and one essay), a group project on a given topic and a final exam on the entire content of the course. This course has covered rich content of the European political and economic situation, historical backgrounds and relationships with other countries. We learnt more on different institutions of the European Union (EU), the policy-making process and issues such as the Refugee Crisis, terrorism, counterterrorism, climate change and international migration etc.

A special highlight of this summer program was the excursion to Brussels, the Capital city of Belgium. We travelled on a shuttle bus and it took about an hour to arrive the European Parliament building. The European Parliament is one of the formal institutions of the European Union. The European Parliament is the directly elected European Union body with legislative, supervisory and budgetary responsibilities. In addition, it has 751 members from 28 member states (including the United Kingdom). We also paid a visit to the House of European History, which was a museum recording different periods of the European history. I learnt a lot about the history in World War I and II, and also the post-war period.

Besides enrolling in the above summer course, European Politics and Economy during the two-week exchange journey in Utrecht, we also participated in various social activities organized by the Summer School Office by Utrecht University. I visited the National Park Hoge Veluwe and Kröller-Müller Museum with other international students. It was a memorable and exciting social event to us. The national park was the largest one in the Netherlands, and we took a ride on the special and free White Bicycle there. We cycled around the park and to a castle nearby. I met two South African students, they were senior medical students and we shared our home culture to each other. It was great fun hanging out with students from different parts of the world as I could practice more on spoken English and understand each other’s culture and worldviews better. Besides, another social activity that I joined was the Night Canoeing. Utrecht was renowned for its long-history canals. During the night canoeing, we were instructed to do canoeing in one of the canals. It was my first time playing this water sports and therefore my partner and I found it very difficult to control the boat. Eventually, we had to communicate and cooperate quite a lot during the 2-hour session. However, it was really a challenging yet eye-opening experience for all the students.

Overall, this overseas summer program in Utrecht was fruitful and inspiring to me and other Hong Kong students. Yet, I encountered some difficulties that made me reflect and managed to achieve self-growth after the journey. As it was my first time leaving China and to study and live in a foreign country, I experienced some cultural shock when I just arrived, which made me quite upset and even wanted to leave as soon as possible. Yet, it was a precious time for me to grow and handle problems independently. In addition, I have not studied in an academic environment full of international students back in the Chinese University campus. In Utrecht, my classmates came from more than twenty countries. Even though our level of proficiency in English was different, we managed to express our views and ideas, communicating with the lecturers and to other classmates with patience and determination.

Throughout the summer program, there were numerous memorable and exciting moments. One of the course assessment was to work on a group project on a given topic related to the European Union. In order to engage more with the newly met international friends, I worked on the group work with an American student and a French student. They were studying Mechanical Engineering and English Literature respectively. Apart from interacting with them during the lectures and seminar sessions, I also dined with them to know more about themselves, their home countries and their culture. I had a better understanding with the United States and French through talking to them. It was a novel experience studying with International students and we could practice English more. Besides, I have heard some European students sharing to us that their English level was not satisfactory enough therefore they went to Utrecht University for the summer school to gain extra exposure and learn English at the same time.

Travelling to Europe for the first time, the experience of going to Utrecht Summer School gave me insights about the European culture and the people of the Netherlands. From our observation, English was very commonly spoken in the country. (While their native language is Dutch) Their English language proficiency was satisfactory and we felt welcomed as both summer school students and tourists in many parts of the country. When we went to various restaurants and shops, the people there were welcoming and attempted their best to serve us. We felt quite heartwarming as students and tourists there.

In addition, I found the pace of living quite different between Hong Kong and the Netherlands. In Hong Kong, people are used to efficient and effective public services. For example, our Mass Transit Railway (MTR) transport is often convenient and fast-paced. Unlike this, the public transport was not as convenient in the Netherlands; we had to wait much longer for the trains and trams, and the public transport service there was much more expensive. Therefore, the Dutch tended to ride a bike or drive to school and work. Biking was extremely popular in the country, we heard people saying that nearly everyone had their own bikes. In Utrecht, we could see people riding bikes to school and to the working places. That was one of the special features in the Netherlands, which was not commonly seen in Hong Kong, as our city has not developed so well on using bikes as transport means.

As for the academic environment in Utrecht University, we could not experience the normal school life as we only studied there for the summer program instead of a normal academic term. Nevertheless, we could still experience a little bit of the taste of studying abroad when we lived in the campus dormitory.

I was extremely grateful for being offered a chance to join the GOAL Program, which was organized by the United College. Being a year three student of CUHK, I have tasted the ordinary university life in Hong Kong. In our society, academic results and the performance on various tasks are often the indicators of success, in both the campus and in the workplace. As a university student, I used to have busy schedule occupied with assessments: mid-terms, group projects, essays, examinations etc. I barely had time to consider joining some extra-curricular activities to broaden my horizons and develop other skills such as interpersonal, communication, decision-making, self-care etc. Therefore, I was inspired that apart from developing a serious attitude on studies, I should also participate in suitable and meaningful activities that could give me novel experiences and insights. I believe the experiences of engaging in those programs could make me a more experienced and therefore well-prepared individual to enter the workplace.

Therefore, I decide that in this semester, my third year study in CUHK, I would participate in various collegial and university activities. I am applying for the Peer Mentoring Program, hoping to be a mentor for the newly arrived freshmen as a senior student of C.W.Chu College. Besides, I would try like to join uBuddies, a counselling program held by the Wellness and Counselling Centre of Office of Student Affairs. As I am also fond of various kinds of sports, I would participate in the C.W.Chu volleyball team as well. However, I am always reminded that university students should manage their time well to achieve a work-life balance. ‘Work hard, play hard.’ is always what I believe in and I will try my best to make my remaining university life a fruitful time!

In conclusion, the experience of studying abroad in the Netherlands this summer offered me many exciting moments and opportunities to learn. Through studying a two-week course on European Politics and Culture, engaging in various social activities with international students and travelling around Utrecht and Amsterdam. Back in university campus in September of 2017, I am adapting again in normal campus life in CUHK, with a lot of novel experiences and learning opportunities as well! My roommate is an exchange student coming from Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It is so amazing that I could know and live with someone coming from the Netherlands, after having some exposure and knowledge of this loving country in summer. As a student from the host institution, I would attempt my best to treat her with patience and hospitality, and this actually benefits me a lot because I could have much more chances to practice my spoken English through making friends with her and other exchange students in from different parts of the world.

I am planning to study abroad again next summer, and my next destination is probably Europe again to experience more about other European countries. As I am learning Japanese and French this semester, it would be a good idea to start thinking of going to a summer program in France next year, and this would likely to be another meaningful and fruitful learning experience for me! I really learnt a lot in both academic and social aspects through the Utrecht Summer Program by participating actively and learning from other fellows, I would definitely recommend this learning experience to other students of C.W.Chu and the United College.

Linda (Left) worked on a group project on Refugee Crisis
with students from American (middle) and French (right)

Linda participated in several social activities in Utrecht and she paid a visit with the bicycle to the National Park

Besides studying, Linda (Left 2) also travelled around Utrecht and Amsterdam. She experienced a lot on European culture through the food, accommodation, transport and interacting with the Dutch

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