Exchange student Markus

Markus is 22 years old, an exchange student from Austria and currently in his fourth semester. For his current study, he is on an exchange in Tilburg and is studying International Business with a specification on entrepreneurship and Innovation at Fontys Academy for Creative Industries. Markus enjoys climbing, hiking, cycling, and playing computer games.

What is your experience so far with studying and being in Tilburg?

“I like it quite a lot, the people here are very nice. You can meet a lot of people if you are open-minded and simply just ask questions. If you don’t ask things and don’t go out -given the current covid situation- you can’t really meet someone. That makes it a bit more challenging. However, if you have an open personality, there are a lot of people that you could meet and where you can grab a coffee or an ice cream with, or chill in the park. You can still do that!”

What made you decide to study abroad in the Tilburg?

“Actually, it is quite a long story so I will summarize it a bit. Originally, I wanted to study in Shanghai, but due to covid I could not go. After that, I found out that my school had a partner university in Ireland. Sadly, same yields for that university and the covid restrictions. Luckily, Fontys in Tilburg still accepted exchange students, so that’s why my choice was for Tilburg!

Normally, if there would be no possibility for me to study abroad, I would not be able to finish my bachelor. But due to the pandemic, if students did not feel safe for example going abroad, we did not have to finish the bachelor.”

How did you find your room?

“Luckily, Fontys gave me the opportunity to request accommodation via them. Then they send me a link to the housing agency, and via the agency I could have a clear overview over all the rooms that were available to choose.”

Did you have any experience with riding a bike?

“I love riding bikes in Austria, since Austria has a lot of mountains. Naturally, when I found out that there is a service called “Swapfiets” in the Netherlands, I rented a bike over there. It was a bit confusing at first since I am not used to so many people biking everywhere. Right now, I’m used to it and still have a Swapfiets. In my opinion it’s the easiest way for exchange students to drive around town, and the cheapest. For example: when you have a broken tire, you just have to call them or make an appointment via the app, and they will fix it for you. It’s all included in the price!”

What did you have to get used to most?

“I guess that I’m not completely used to the system that tracks the arrival- and department times of busses in the Netherlands. In addition, the ‘OV-kaart’ was also new for me. In Austria, you simply must buy a ticket, and someone would check if you did. However, if you do it a couple of times, it will save you some time eventually.

            Still, biking is hard for me here since bikers do not really watch out for you. You really have to take a good look to the left and to the right, to make sure you won’t have an accident!”

What is the weirdest thing in Tilburg which is normal for Dutch people and is strange for exchange students like you?

“Hmm, good question. Since I am from the mountains in Austria, I’m pretty much used to seeing people skiing and snowboarding. However, when I arrived in the Netherlands, it was snowing, and I saw people sliding down those few slopes in the city on a skateboard without tires, I found it quite amusing and pretty dangerous as I know what can happen when you fall while skiing.”

Can you relate to this question in the context of ‘food’?

“Absolutely. Everything in Holland is fried! One of the first things I learned when I came to the Netherlands, was that typical Dutch food is fried. For example: fried fish, never heard of before. That is not common in Austria at all, we have fried stuff but by far not as much as in the Netherlands.”

What kind of food did you like most and what kind of food did you like least?

“I like the fried fish a lot, ‘kibbeling’ (=fried fish)! The last time I was at the market in Tilburg, my buddy also told me that I should try ‘haring’ (=herring). That is also typical Dutch, especially the way you eat it. I really loved the fish in comparison to the fish you could buy in the store in Austria. There, it tastes like sh*t. Overall, the food in Tilburg is tasty! Next, I found that the sauces you can buy in the supermarket are good. Especially the combination of mayonnaise and ketchup with some sliced unions on top of French fries is gorgeous! That is a typical Dutch snack which I would recommend everyone.”

Which hotspot(s) in Tilburg do you prefer?

“I enjoy the Piushaven, especially when you go out there for a chill and the weather is good. And in addition, the Kempentoren in the Spoorpark, when the sun sets, was the nicest spot I’ve found out until now.”

What would you advice upcoming exchange students?

“Dare to ask! When you arrive in Tilburg (and study at Fontys), always make sure you have a buddy. Ask your buddies for stuff you don’t know. Don’t just lean back and let everything happen but be proactive! Ask questions about everything you want to know!

Further, if you have an option to request a room via Tilburg University or Fontys, request it via them. If you’re going to arrange it completely by yourself via websites or Facebook groups, you can. However, that is quite hard, unfortunately, especially as an exchange student.

Lastly, a good tip is to join the international student association I*ESN. It’s beneficial to join them, because you get to know a lot of new people in a relatively short time. They have various kind of events. In times of corona, there were a lot of online activities to have a nice time at nighttime. (Drinking) games like ‘werewolves’ and ‘seek and search’ are games I played with other people via I*ESN. So, joining this association makes it a lot easier for you to get to know other students. They did a great job, especially during corona times. There was system set up by the association, where you could apply for a walking buddy. You just had to fill in the Google Forms and they would look up in their members database to see if there was someone willing to attempt joining you as their buddy. Sadly, this program stopped when everything started to open up again.

Lastly, if you have to describe Tilburg in 3 words, which words would that be?

  1. Friendly – Freundlich
  2. Open minded – Offen
  3. Up for get aways – Auf für Ausflüge