Tilburg is increasingly internationally oriented. This is reflected at the university, given the large increase in international students in recent years. How do they experience Tilburg as a city, the university, and the Dutch culture in the vibrant province of Brabant? This time we spoke with Angelo, exchange student who is staying in Tilburg until July 2021.
Angelo is from Torino, is studying law at Tilburg University and will be staying here from February to July 2021. He is currently in his fourth year right now. Angelo is living in a mixed house with a few students and a couple of working people. In Italy, you obtain your degree after completing your fifth study year in law. There is no such thing as a bachelor’s or master’s program for this study. Angelo is following the Erasmus exchange program. “One of the reasons I came here is because I heard that this city is very well university orientated. Besides, I heard a lot of positive rumors about the compact size and the ambiance in the city. That made me decide to do my abroad studying in Tilburg!”
Of course, due to corona, Angelo has experienced his limitations. “When I started at Tilburg University, I knew I would have an experience like this. But anyway, I’m still enjoying this city even when corona is around. I’ve learned a lot in this city and got to know many new people, so that is really nice! I feel that the community is still here, there are a lot of internationals here. It is nice to share this experience when actually being here. Most of the lectures are online and so far I feel like an international community, sharing my experience, my difficulties and problems we share together with my fellow exchange students since everyone is having the same experience. I am enjoying it even if it is still limited somehow.”
Pros and Cons: Living in Tilburg?
“In my opinion, the main pro in is that Tilburg is a university-oriented city. The city is in my perception smaller than other cities, but very tailored for students. Everything is close by and reachable by bike. I really enjoy that, and I was not used to that before visiting the Netherlands. In Torino, it’s not even close to how it is here.
For the cons, it doesn’t have a canal through the city, where other cities do have this. Tilburg is not the ‘classical idea’ I had in mind of a Dutch city, but nevertheless it is still beautiful. I enjoy going to the local markets during the week and doing my groceries over there. It is a very citizen friendly city. Everything is bikeable and I like the general vibe the city has.”
Was it easy to find your way in the city?
“I used Google Maps and other navigation systems a lot to help me go throughout the city. I was not used to using these kinds of apps while and driving my bike simultaneously. In Italy, it is not common to do this. The ‘bike option’ has only just recently been added to Google maps in Italy, so I find it amazing that it works so good here. You quickly learn what the main roads are in the city, and you sometimes can go off-road. After only a couple of weeks, I was able to go to certain places without checking my phone.”
Did you already have some experience with riding a bike?
“I already had experience with riding a bike. It’s healthy and enjoyable to do this in Tilburg. In Torino it’s more common to drive busses or cars, especially when it’s bad weather. When it’s bad weather in the Netherlands, even when it is snowing (!), people still ride their bike. I find that amazing!”
What was the thing you had to get used to most in Tilburg?
“I guess the traffic road- and lights for bicycles. We don’t have that in my home country.”
What is the strangest you’ve seen in the Netherlands, in Tilburg, which is found to be normal right here?
“I actually find it strange, though I like it, that people constant buy flowers over here. There are always flowers over here, in the supermarket, in local shops. You can almost buy them everywhere! That is not common in my country, but I enjoy the bright colors of the flowers. After doing groceries, Dutch people buy flowers, and they bring them home. That is very nice; I really like that! I do that occasionally in Italy, but I figured people here are more used to doing this more commonly than I would do it.”
What kind of food did you prefer most and which did you like least?
“Luckily, I am very passionate about food, so I did my research on this topic. I enjoy poffertjes (very small pancakes). Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to go to the restaurant since corona. I also really like kibbeling (fried fish species), that is very nice.
What I didn’t like are bitterballen. I don’t like them because I find them weird. The first time I tried them, I was expecting to get more a kind of bite, but to me it tasted like tooth paste with a crispy crust around it.”
What is your most favorable spot in the city?
“The Piushaven is my favorite place in Tilburg, especially at sunset. Sometimes I bike towards north and watch the sunset over there. Furthermore, I like the Spoorpark, which is a common park in the center of the city. I feel like everybody goes over there.”
What kind of tips would you give upcoming students in Tilburg?
“First of all: learn how to bike! How traffic lights work and what kind of rules apply to bikes comes in quite handy. After that, enjoy the local activities. Go to the market because I think it’s a nice activity and if you are an international, you have the chance to see a new market. Try new experiences, try new food. I tried to eat something different every time I went there actually.
And for houses: I found mine on Facebook. Check all the internet options, different kinds of groups. Be on time and do not postpone and underestimate this!”
To finish: how would you describe Tilburg in your own words?
- Accogliente: literally translated in welcoming as in a city where you feel like you are welcomed to live in
- Internazionale: of course, translated in international due to the strong and solid international community active in the city
- Vivace: literally translated in lively or vibrant in the sense that you feel that the city is alive, and its inhabitants enjoy spending time in it, therefore making it alive.