Phoebe – Exchange, Netherlands

Phoebe went on Exchange to the Netherlands in Semester 2 2016. She is also one of our Global Scholars, a scholarship program available to selected Bachelor of Global Studies students.

She talks about her experience:

Food stalls lined every street in the city centre and carnival rides seemed to have popped out of nowhere

On the first weekend of October, the population of the Dutch city of Leiden grew in a way that I had never seen before and would never see again. Food stalls lined every street in the city centre and carnival rides seemed to have popped out of nowhere. This was because from September 30th to October 3rd, the small city that I had chosen to spend my semester abroad was celebrating its 3 October festival.

The story behind the festival, which has been celebrated since 1886, is an interesting one. In the 16th century, the Spanish sought to annex the Netherlands and make it part of the Hapsburg Empire. This led to the Dutch Revolt beginning in 1568. In April 1572, the Spanish tried to lay a second siege on the city of Leiden, after their first one was unsuccessful. Unlike the previous year, there was not enough food in Leiden so the situation became very dire for the people of the city. As the borders of the city were blocked, neither people nor food could get in or out, which led to the starvation of thousands. But eventually the second siege of the Spanish failed and the city was relieved. Celebrated as a very heroic event, with the Dutch asserting that they fought the Spanish away, I later learnt that this was not necessarily the case. My Dutch studies teacher made it very clear that the reason why the Spanish had left was actually because the dikes of the city had been pierced and water spilled over to their camp. This prompted them to depart because they couldn’t stand their feet getting wet. But despite these minor details, October 3rd warranted a festival that drew in people from all over the Netherlands.

The whole weekend was filled with music, food and all sorts of festivities. On the morning of October 3rd, bread and raw herring were given out to the people of the city and a marching band played all afternoon. Their tunes could be heard from the other side of town. The rain didn’t keep the crowds away as my friends and I struggled at times to make our way through the crowded streets. But despite that, we managed to make the most of our very first 3 October festival. Pop up concerts that played popular Dutch songs seemed to appear in every second street, and we found ourselves dancing along and singing to Dutch classics that we didn’t know the words to. We snacked on popular Dutch treats and desserts, like stroopwaffels, and sipped on sangria as we made our way through the boisterous town. We spent far too much money on rollercoasters that definitely did not need to be ridden four times, and managed to catch a perfect glimpse of our new Dutch home from the Ferris wheel that was placed in the city centre. Elated and a little bit sleepy, we ended the night gazing up at the fireworks that marked the end of a weekend of celebrations. My first 3 October festival will definitely be one of the highlights of my exchange experience and I hope it will be the first of many 3 October festivals to come.