Leisure & Events Management student Keren Hewett always wanted to travel. That's the reason she flew over from England to The Netherlands in the first place. She knew she wanted to take the Grand Tour before starting her studies here and actually chose to study here because of it. "Travel is conta-gious. It tests you. It shows your strengths and weaknesses. The whole process made me much more independent, open-minded, and culturally more sensitive. It showed me what I'm capable of. There really isn't anything like it." She went to Thailand, and more recently, Qatar, both for two and a half months. For her, it's the perfect way to travel. "Coming from a small English village, I just grew up wanting to explore. I wanted to see what's beyond the farm. I genuinely believe you get such a differ-ent experience if you visit a place and meet the locals and dive into the culture. I met one of my best friends in Qatar. It can't be compared honestly.”
Keren, now 21 years old and in her fourth and final year ("working on my thesis"), chose NHL Stenden by faith. "I actually saw a tiny stand of Stenden at the Study Abroad Fair in London, amongst all these stands from all over the world. It stood out to me for some reason." She wanted to study abroad but wasn't quite sure what she was interested in. NHL Stenden offered exactly the right amount of freedom and travel opportunity for her.
In her second year, she chose to do the Grand Tour. "Everything is organized. There's information about flights, everything you might need." Moreover, it allowed her two travel to two countries, which was im-portant.
In picking her travel destinations, she initially focussed on what minors to study. "I didn't mind where I went." Two minors stood out: international relations and international destination branding. One was in Thailand, the other in Qatar. "Thailand was really easy to choose for me; it's a relatively safe place. Eve-rybody in the West knows about it, and there it has been a travel destination for a long time." What about Qatar? "Sure, Qatar is in the news, but that makes me even more interested. I don't believe a uni-versity would offer a course in a place that wasn't safe. I did have to explain this to my mother initially," she adds, laughing.
Thailand offered lots of travel opportunities, which Keren really recommends doing when you're over there. "In Thailand, we really were lucky with the minor. We had Fridays off, and straight away, we con-nected really well. We all just gelled together super well. Every day, twenty people were hanging out to-gether. I'm not even exaggerating." Even the teachers promoted weekend travel. They told her to take advantage of it while she's here. "We had a lot of weekend traveling and 10 days off for the autumn break. I also did some solo traveling up North.”
Qatar was the lucky hit. "I suppose I didn't expect I'd enjoy it so much." Sure, there are differences in culture, but not what you'd expect. "Prior to the whole Grand Tour experience, I worried it was a sexist society; that I wouldn't be able to leave the house and there'd be nothing to do."
Turns out, it's quite the opposite. "The culture is actually really friendly, and there's lots to do. There's less travel opportunity than in Thailand though since it's mostly desert.”
In Qatar, the lifestyle, in general, is very calm and relaxed. You can also feel it in business: there's no rush. "Of course, there are deadlines. But things will happen when they happen. They have this saying here: 'Inshallah' - or 'if God wants it. Will he respond to that email? If God wants it.”
If Keren has to give advice to other Grand Tour students, it's this: "Really take advantage of all the op-portunities, you just don't know what comes of it. In Qatar, for example, it's all about connections. We really put ourselves out there. Once, we actually volunteered at this burger festival. Then, there was this guy, which turned out to become one of my best friends.”
If you decide to go to Qatar, here's a tip. "Go during the winter semester, from November till the end of January. I really recommend that time of year to visit." There are more things to do then, as it's cool enough outside, at around 20 - 26 degrees Celcius.
Of course, there are downsides to traveling alone. But they are little. When asked whether she felt inse-cure or down while studying abroad, it remains quite. After a while, she responds: "Sure, upon arriving. You're like: I have to make friends now. But it depends on your personality. To me, that's just the usual thing; the first three days are always overwhelming. And about halfway, I was maybe homesick, which is odd since I don't see my family often. It probably was some sort of culture shock, longing for the lifestyle I had back in The Netherlands.”
But that's what travel does to you. "It shows your strengths and weaknesses. The whole process made me much more independent, open-minded, and culturally more sensitive. It showed me what I'm capa-ble of," she says. "When I first came to uni, I was this shy eighteen-year-old. That's completely different now. I look back at that process with pride.”
But now, she took with her that exact lifestyle that made her homesick in the first place. She'll continue traveling in the coming years while keeping a home base in The Netherlands. "Maybe I'll move to the Dutch Islands (Curacao, Aruba) after that. I have no plan, and I'm okay with that. It will happen when it happens." Or, as they say in Qatar: if faith wants it.
If you want to read more about Keren's travels, go over to the blog English Girl Abroad .
Are you currently studying abroad? Or did you use to, at one of our foreign campuses with the Grand Tour, or at one of our partner universities? Want to share your story, just like Keren? Let us know. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you currently studying abroad? Or did you use to, at one of our foreign campuses with the Grand Tour, or at one of our partner universities? Want to share your story, just like Keren? Let us know.