Suzaan Hobson at Wageningen University, the Netherlands

Suzaan Hobson 

MSc in Food and Nutrition

Semester Exchange in the First Semester, 2022 at Wageningen University


From the start of my degree, it has been a dream of mine to do a semester exchange at Wageningen University since they are considered to be the best food and agriculture university in the world. Choosing a host institution was therefore a breeze, but there is so much admin and planning that happens predeparture that you almost neglect being excited. My exchange had been cancelled twice before due to Covid, so everything probably only really sunk in when I was sitting on my flight to the Netherlands. Till 2 days before I flew, I was required to quarantine, but luckily the rules changed by the time I landed.

A tip is to not waste energy on stressing about minor details and wondering whether everything will work out. Book your appointments early, and then focus on being present around the people you will soon have to greet. I booked my Visa appointment for my MVV visa 3 months before I flew. I would really recommend booking it ahead of time because I felt a lot less stress once my visa had been approved. The Dutch immigration office is super-efficient, and Wageningen University also guided the process. In my experience flight tickets only get more expensive the longer you wait, so prioritize that too.

I was very lucky to have been given a Zuid-Afrika huis bursary. However, I could only receive my first payment once I had arrived in the Netherlands and organized my Dutch bank account. It took me longer than expected to open my Dutch bank account as I had to wait for my BSN number. A tip is to organize a personalized OV chip card (their travel card) and Dutch bank account as soon as you arrive. I had to pay my first month’s rent and deposit, health insurance, flight tickets and visa costs before receiving my bursary. Stellenbosch University generously gives you a travel bursary which covers most of these start up fees. I would however advise that you plan to go overseas with a safety net of money. Spoiler: day to day life in the Netherlands is very expensive. Every train you take adds up fast. So, if you are doing an exchange to the Netherlands, you should most definitely apply for the Zuid-Afrika huis bursary.

Student accommodation, actually accommodation in general, in the Netherlands is viewed as a national crisis. Luckily, the university helps exchange students by giving us priority on the housing system called Idealis. I would recommend registering early on Ideal is and organizing accommodation through them instead of trying to sublet or get a room through Facebook groups. I chose a student room in a residence close to campus called Dijkgraaf. We are 12 in a corridor that share a kitchen and bathroom. I chose this set up because it is cheaper than self-contained rooms but also you get a chance to interact with your corridor mates while making food.

Experience at the Host University:

Wageningen University campus
Amsterdam, from Suzanne’s trip

Return to Stellenbosch:

Returning to Stellenbosch, it felt as if everything and nothing had changed at the same time. It was so lovely to see Stellenbosch as full of students as it was pre-covid. The first thing I did when I got home was go for a mountain bike ride with my mom (I missed the mountains in the Netherlands!) and bought an affordable post-ride cappuccino.