With many (international) student associations on campus and even a Chinese Student Association, Erasmus University is the place to stay for Chinese students whether you are an exchange student, an LL.M. student or a PhD student. Please read the testimonials written by students about their first experiences in Rotterdam and the Netherlands!
Testimonials of PhD Students
Several years ago I ran into a saying that ‘or travel, or reading, body and soul always have one on the road’. By then I did not fully understand the meaning of this sentence, while now, I am satisfied because both my body and my soul are on the road.
For the last eight months, travel and reading are the theme of my melody.
Travelling always provides me with inspirations. Embedding me into a different country, I can find sparkles every day. The azure blue of seawater, the spilt sunshine from the clouds, the thoughts provoking exhibitions in museums and even the pigeons on streets are weaved into the beauty of my life. Of course there was unenjoyably experience as well. For example, my friends and I were caught by a heavy rain when cycling in a national park. While during the rain, we laughed a lot even though we got wet in less than 3 minutes. In a trip like this, even my fall from the bicycle became a wonderful memory.
With the inspirations from travel, the academic life turns into the Price Charming riding a white horse. Reading is a journey for my soul. Before I came here, many of my friends told me being a Ph. D was a lonely and boring journey, especially alone in an unknown world. While for me, reading a good book is like talking with an extremely brilliant man. Erasmus University has a good library, and I borrowed a lot of books there. When reading them, I feel myself on the scene that several scholars discussing with each other. With the company of books, life can never be boring.
Now I am in the Netherlands, and have been here for more than 200 days. Immersed in a foreign culture, every ‘tomorrow’ is like a chocolate in the box. I can never know what surprise is waiting for me until trying it. There are a lot of possibilities in different journeys, and these various possibilities will lead to diverse futures. After making my decision to be a Ph. D candidate, I was at sea and wondering what my life would be. While this journey, this experience, this choice, can provide new possibilities to my life. Therefore, I am still on my road.
The Life of a law PhD student could be as wonderful as you can imagine here. With the curiosity, the open attitude and the passion in research and life, many wonderful things could be done during these years. For research, one can get unlimited resources and various opportunities. For culture exploring, there are so many high-status museums, cinemas, interesting festivals and traditional religious events waiting for experiencing. For interests and hobbies, painting, piano playing and sports, people get everything they want. For self-sustain skill training, a PhD could be a cook as creative as a researcher. Besides, something particular in Netherlands, you always get the weather as a wonder of life.
In 2011, as a newcomer to both the Western society and the city of Rotterdam, on the one hand, I was stunned by the questions inevitably popped up from time to time: when I should greet a passer-by, how many times of kiss are expected in cheek kissing, the amount of a tip that is proper for certain kind of service, etc. On the other hand, I was also touched by the minutiae in the daily life: an oncoming car giving way to a pedestrian, a young parent riding a clutch of kids, or a disabled person looks comfortable with what he / she can get in a crowded market.
In my opinion, the best thing that Rotterdam offers, during my first year here, is the encouragement of slow down. You would not feel guilty to enjoy the sunshine for a while on a bright workday, and it is impossible to find a shop that is open twenty-four seven. By contrast, there are beautiful flowers on the balconies or in the gardens; and people who are jogging, cycling or sailing (as for me, I am cooking). The bonus of slow down also manifests itself when I travelled around: the obligatory destinations (and the restaurants) always turned out to be less satisfactory than those that I stumbled into when I was lost (which I flattered myself as being discovered following my curiosity and intuition).
At the beginning of my second year here, sometimes I would wonder, according to the famous ‘W-curve’ theory in culture shock, which stage I am in. Am I embracing a ‘honeymoon stage’ that is abnormally long, or am I struggling with the ‘re-integration stage’ now and then just the way I treat with the weather in Rotterdam? And just the next second, I would tell myself: que sera, sera.
In the Sunday morning’s sunshine, I got refreshed with a cup of espresso, which is recommended by my Italian office mate, who once played in the Italian national teenage volleyball team. Listening to a Serbian song, which is my Serbian friend’s favourite, I quickly scanned through my mailbox and unexpectedly found a useful advice from the feedback of an Albanian classmate, who could tell you all the background whatever the topic was. After a shower, I got confused by the Indian cuisine which is just taught by a brilliant Indian youngster. Picking up my phone to say sorry to my new Brazilian soccer teammate that I couldn’t show up in the coming match, for my paper was still unfinished and the deadline was drawing near. Throwing myself into the afternoon’s work on my draft chapter, I become exhausted by the sunset. However, I still decided to join the birthday party of my German classmate which I couldn’t miss. I wanted to give my best wishes as well as the birthday present to her. Not surprisingly, I found all my classmates from the graduate school of Erasmus School of Law in the “Pencil House”, which ultimately turned to a wonderful place for the mixed cultures: Poland, Malaysia, Turkey, Slovenia, Greece…
Yes, it is internationalization which really impressed me in the eight months’ PhD life in the Netherlands. Can you imagine what does the office look like with four young PhDs from four countries of two continents; what does the class comes to with ten countries’ young talents; what does the weekly seminar changes to with different voices from twenty countries? The international atmosphere in Rotterdam does not only make your life into a colourful world, but also fundamentally inspired your research. Undoubtedly, you will receive different opinions on your research from different backgrounds; certainly, the feedback from different cultures can truly release the idea from the restricted mind; absolutely, the gates which block you will be opened with the help of your colleagues whenever it is necessary.
For me, the internationalization is not only a tool to enhance your language skills, experience different cultures and opens your horizons. The internationalization is actually reconstructing my understandings. I start to think in a brand new way on the research, the life and the future. The internationalization in ESL, in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands has gradually brought me to a new place, where I can observe the world with new angles.
Find yourself internationalized! That is my answer.
Life in the Netherlands as a PhD Candidate
Since I was young I have been attracted by the culture of Europe, which was epitomized in their countless museums. I had heard of the reputation of some of the most famous museums while I was a student in China, like the Musée du Louvre, and the British Museum. Even in the Netherlands there are more than 400 national museums, and the essence of the national history, culture, social life, and the people’s aesthetic appreciation is embodied in those paintings, statues, and historical and cultural relics.
Four years as a PhD candidate in Erasmus Law School will provide me with the ideal opportunity to get an in-depth insight into this country, and I decided to start with its museums. With a museum card costing only 40 Euros per year, the entire nation of museums is open to me. Since winter 2011 almost every Saturday has become my special museum day. The most famous museum in the Netherlands must be the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. This museum, designed by the Dutch architect and furniture designer Gerrit Rietveld and completed in 1973, has the largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpieces, such as Sunflowers, Self-Portrait, the Potato Eaters, and the Yellow House.
Not far from the Van Gogh Museum is another famous museum: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Here the artworks of Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Vermeer, Frans Hals, and Jan Steen are collected. Then where are the beautiful girl with pearl earring and Dr. Nicolaes Tulp situated? Well, you have to go to the Mauritshuis in Den Haag to find these representatives of Dutch art: Het meisje met de parel (The Girl with the Pearl Earring), and De anatomische les van Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp). Beside these marvellous art museums, there are also some museums with special themes, like the Gevangenpoort Museum in Den Haag. In this museum the ancient wards and instruments for torture are exhibited. Every Saturday afternoon the Gevangenpoort Museum offers a guidance trip. For me the only way the experience could have been made better is if I spoke more Dutch.
Want to know about the Netherlands? Start from its museums.
As one of the first batch of PhD candidates in the ECLC, I have so far spent nearly eight months in the Netherlands, a country I was quite unfamiliar with and about which I even felt anxious, for its weather, language and the well-known culture, such as "going Dutch", before I stepped on its territory. However, at this moment, when looking back over the past 200 days, I do feel lucky that I have benefited so much - much more than I expected - from the university, the city and also the country itself.
EUR, as an international and leading university in Europe and with so much literature, both paper and electronic, conveniently available, has largely nourished the ideas, breadth and depth of my research. The environment of frequent international academic communication which is of high quality has also broadened my horizons and provided me with opportunities to easily observe the diversity of national legal systems within Europe and also around the world, especially in such a globalization era.
Rotterdam, an innovative, vibrant and cosmopolitan port city, has made itself into the optimal place for students and scholars to pursue their studies and research. Academic innovations and interdisciplinary researches are highly encouraged herein; this can be seen from the leading role of ESL in conducting research and education in the fields of Law and Economics around Europe.
The Netherlands, though a country comparatively small in size, is famous for its openness, freedom and multiculturalism. The compulsory learning of foreign languages in its primary education system and the high rate of English-speaking coverage in this country have made the Dutch people highly competitive in the global environment and the country itself an ideal place to study, work and trade with. The unique nature of the Dutch legal system also presents high value for deep research and academic attention, not only in Chinese academia, but also to scholars worldwide.
The final appreciation would definitely be reserved for my supervisors: Professor Roel de Lange and Professor Yuwen Li who on the one hand have given me adequate space to personally develop my academic interests and on the other have guided me to maintain a focus on the central issues pertinent to my thesis. My last words go to the Erasmus China Law Centre, a small but unique institution within the ESL. Although we are thousands of miles away in reality, in ECLC, I and the other PhD students feel at home. I can surely imagine how loath I will be when I shall really have to say goodbye to these persons I have come to truly appreciate and this piece of land where four years of my youth will have simply flown by.
Since Erasmus School of Law has a global reputation for its high quality of academic research, I made the decision to pursue my PhD research here. Working in the Rotterdam Institute of Law and Economics (RILE) as well as Erasmus China Law Center (ECLC) for almost one year, I have progressed substantially in a number of areas.
Professor Michael Faure, an eminent expert on economic analysis of civil law, and Professor Yuwen Li, the director of Erasmus China Law Center, have both given me constructive guidance in designing my PhD research plan. We hold regular meetings to discuss the detailed contents of my writing such as theory structure and logical consistency as well as the academic way of writing in English. There have been times where I was confused with the abundant reading on various economic theories and their application in legal areas, however my supervisors could always enlighten me on ways in which to organize my thoughts and truly enjoy and benefit from other academic work. Besides their profound academic strengths, I am certainly stimulated by their diligent and meticulous attitude towards academic research. With their introductions and encouragement, I have also had access to other professors who specialize in economic analysis of corporate governance or corporate law, which is the subject of my PhD thesis; with this in mind, you can imagine how fortunate I feel to be at ESL.
Erasmus China Law Centre provides us with opportunities to participate in the research projects co-held by scholars in ESL and those from renowned universities in China, from which we obtain unique comparative views of the legal system and economic development in China. On the other hand, with well-built knowledge of Chinese law and updated information of legal issues in practice, we try to contribute to a better understanding of the legal system in academic circles, legal practice and the business community in the Netherlands. Hopefully, after four years’ academic training, I will have a good command of comparative law and be competent enough to take a job for which my experience in China and the Netherlands can be a special advantage.
It is often said that PhD research can only be conducted in a single room alone, but at the ESL we have many opportunities to attend weekly seminars and international conferences to keep us abreast of the most updated research developments in various fields. Every Thursday afternoon is RILE’s seminar time. We usually have two PhD candidates to present their research, followed by a group discussion. Professors and other PhD candidates are all active in raising questions and commenting on the candidates’ writing and this is indeed a remarkable source of inspiration and guidance. By attending international conferences we get to know people from all over Europe who have similar academic interests. Apart from formal events I must note that we also have plenty of informal occasions, such as lunch talks and monthly drinks with colleagues from all over the world. I really do feel I am working in an ‘international institution’.
Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands and one of the largest ports in the world. Although I have lived here for seven months, I feel that I already fall in love with so many aspects of the city – its natural scenery, art and history, the Dutch attitude toward life and mixture of different cultures. During this time, surprises, challenges, problems and new experiences have come into my world one after another and I could hardly forget any single thing. For me, all experiences will leave me with deep impression and give me inspiration and strength in the future.
At present, I am a PhD candidate at Erasmus School of Law. At the beginning of the academic year, I attended some lectures on company law and English writing. These have enriched my professional knowledge, which are not only useful for my research but also for improving my English. I have also attended some of the activities held by the Erasmus School of Law for PhD candidates. For example, lunch lectures, which occur twice a month. Every time, a PhD candidate presents his or her research, participants are able to give their opinions on the research and discuss freely. There are also a lot of opportunities for us to learn methodology on theoretical and empirical study: we went to Maastricht University to attend a course on empirical study in February; There are often academic seminars organized by ESL: professors from different universities of different countries are invited to give lectures. At ESL, the PhD association holds social drinks once a month. At these evenings, I have the chance to make friends with people from all over the world and discover interesting topics of their research.
Outside of my research, my life is very pleasant. One passion that I have recently discovered is travel; if you come to Europe, how could you not travel? Same currency, no boundaries, cheap airlines, numerous attractions... So far I have been to Barcelona, Madrid and Brussels, cities that once only appeared in my dreams. Until now, I have learned about their very different European cultures, tasted typical Dutch food, and have enjoyed seeing all the local architectures. People here are so friendly and they all speak English well, so thankfully there is no language barrier when we speak English with them. One thing I don’t like, however, is the strong wind. Although I think I will miss Rotterdam when I go back to China, it does not include the wind!
Testimonials of LL.M. Students
I am a Chinese student from Tianjin, where Xiangshen - known as comic dialogue- originated. I studied at and graduated from the Tianjin University of Commerce with a law degree and international economy and trade degree in 2009. I was an intern in the District People’s Procuratorate in China. After graduation, I worked in a law firm as a lawyer's assistant. My responsibility was to conduct legal research, assist in drafting briefs, maintain case files, and help keep records concentrating on civil, administrative, and criminal cases. Within this period, and an independent agent, conducted three civil cases involving debt and legacy inheritance. Before I came to the Netherlands, I had studied the Dutch language for nearly seven months, which gave me a general idea about the local language, life, and culture. Now, I am a master's student in Commercial Law at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
The Netherlands is an open, free, and multi-cultural country, and it also has a long history in the development of international law. The Erasmus School of Law, especially commercial law, is famous for its high-quality education and global academic influence. Additionally, since Rotterdam as a port city is vibrant and cosmopolitan, all of this provides me with sufficient opportunities to obtain theoretical as well as practical knowledge and to boost my career, which is the main reason I am studying here.
The university also supplies us with a good environment to enjoy student life and to programme our future. I have applied to do Dutch and Spanish language courses in the language and training center. At the same time, many kinds of organisations on the campus, such as ESN, the Erasmus Debating Club, Erasmus Culture, and the Chinese Student Association also provide me with the means to meet people from different countries and to learn something about their unique cultures. Thus far, I have travelled around Amsterdam and Rotterdam, tasted typical Dutch food and beverages, such as pannenkoek and Heineken, and have enjoyed seeing the European historic buildings, for instance, the Cube House and Euromast. I have also gained a detailed and systematic knowledge about the history of Rotterdam from the Rotterdam Historic Museum. My life has undergone a huge and positive change in many areas as a result of the exciting student life in the Netherlands. The most impressive thing is that Dutch friends have helped me a lot. I am deeply impressed by Dutch people’s enthusiasm and their frank way of looking at things. I am looking forward to the rest of my student life in the Netherlands and to making more friends.
Jingyuan Tian, Commercial Law student
It has been an amazing month since the first day I arrived in the Netherlands at Schiphol airport and got on a train to Rotterdam. The weather was pretty good on that weekend, sunny and cloudless. My landlord drove me around the city and said, jokingly, "You brought the sunshine with you when you arrived". I laughed, and was fascinated by the exotic views in this city that the landlord showed me. However, I later found that the weather here was not often as fine as on that weekend. Life in Rotterdam is comfortable, compared with the rapid pace and overpopulation in Shanghai. Rotterdam is a melting pot, with residents off all colours. It is not rare to hear Chinese being spoken when you are wandering around the Beurs World Trade Centre in the middle of the city. Although it was a problem that the road signs in metro and labels on goods are all in Dutch, I found it not too difficult to grasp some basic and practical Dutch, since people here are really friendly and patient, and will always help you. Another problem is that many shops normally close at 5 p.m. during weekdays, which seems inconvenient. However, there are a lot of pubs here, which enriches the night-life in Rotterdam.
The Erasmus School of Law staff members are very kind and considerate. During my first few days in Rotterdam, I was given an information package that included all kinds of practical information, which helped me considerably to get through the official formalities and to obtain a general view of life and studying at Erasmus. The staff also provided several introduction activities for international students in my Business, Corporate and Maritime Law Programme. We had a small tour around Rotterdam, which included certain attractions, such as the Maritime Museum, the famous Euromast, the historical town, Delfshaven, and the most exciting activity, a 2-hour Spido Ship tour through the Port of Rotterdam. My first week at Erasmus has left a deep impression. Lecturers here are very efficient and responsible, with logical but still flexible minds. And each course has an abundance of content and a high requirement for participation and mastery. All this has convinced me that my year of study here will be interesting and fruitful.
Shi Zhibo (Fudan University), Business Corporate and Maritime Law student
My name is Li Tian. My hometown is Harbin, which is the capital of China's northernmost province. Harbin's nickname's 'ice city' as it is famous for ice lights and ice sculpture. In winter, thousands of people travel to my hometown to ski. Maybe I am used to the weather of Harbin, because I do not feel the cold in Rotterdam. After spending eighteen years in Harbin, I went to Beijing and attended the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE for short) to obtain my undergraduate diploma. I then began to study law and became deeply interested in it. Four years later, I graduated from UIBE and decided to go abroad to continue my studies; Erasmus University was my next stop. Although I only arrived here three weeks ago, I have a highly favourable impression of Rotterdam. The city is full of greenery, and people here are kind. The problems are the rainy weather and that I do not speak Dutch, but I am sure I will get used to it.
Li Tian, Commercial Law Student
Hi everyone, this is Chen Yuyang from the School of Law, Renmin University of China. I am currently doing the master’s programme in Business, Corporate, and Maritime Law at the Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Before I came to the Netherlands, I was told that Rotterdam was the second largest city in the Netherlands, which really made me feel a little frightened about the possible similar traffic conditions and huge crowds, such as in Beijing.
However, the situation is just the opposite of my expectations. The traffic is always orderly, and a significant difference between traffic conditions in China and the Netherlands is that here the cars wait until the pedestrians have passed, rather than rushing through.
Also, the Dutch people are very friendly to newcomers and are always helpful when we need help such as which tram to take, or where to purchase a temporary mobile card. Most importantly, most Dutch people speak English very well, which makes us feel more comfortable when dealing with our personal affairs, like opening a bank account.
Anyway, the above is my first impression of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and this is merely at the beginning of my one-year period here. I am eager to discover more about Rotterdam and about the Netherlands, so please join me!
Chen Yuyang (Renmin University), Business, Corporate and Maritime Law student
Rotterdam is an interesting and modern place. If you love to travel around, Rotterdam has a perfect location and a great transport system, which makes it so easy to go anywhere else in Europe. Nearly everyone here speaks perfect English, and as an immigration city, Rotterdam’s city culture is very diverse. Thus, communication with the locals will be fun and rewarding.
Here are some tips that I received about how to survive more easily in Rotterdam.
- Buy a RotterdamPas from the Blaak Central Library. You will get free entrance to almost all the museums in Rotterdam, a free Spido tour, a free ticket to the Euromast, a free Pathé movie ticket, discounts on cultural activities and much more. They have discount for local student, so the RotterdamPas only costs € 12.50 per year.
- Although everyone here can speak English, Dutch people will appreciate it if you can speak a little Dutch. A basic knowledge of the language is useful. In particular, the descriptions in a lot of shops are in Dutch.
- If you would like to have a bike and cannot find a proper second-hand one, you can try this website: Marktplaats. The word for bike is "fiets". There are season tickets for the public transportation, discount cards for the train, Green/Red Kruidvat Train Ticket and so on. They can help you save money if you plan to travel a lot.
Ye Lu (ECUPL), Commercial Law student
Testimonials of Exchange Students
I'm an exchange student from the Law School of Peking University. This is my first time to the Netherlands, even to Europe! Campus life is composed not only of lectures and endless reading material, but also of a lot of social drinking occasions and parties. The first impression I got from Dutch students is that they like to party, but study even harder! In the library, you can always see students reading or doing research. Another interesting thing is that there is a project zone for group study and discussion in the library. That’s cool, isn’t it? I hope I can experience life the way Dutch people do, not just academically but also mentally.
I was very excited to get the chance to explore student life as an exchange student in such a prestigious university in the Netherlands. Before I arrived, I'd heard that Erasmus University Rotterdam is highly spoken of for its academic fruits in both the economic and law fields. After arriving, I found myself exposed to a large sea of treasures at the Erasmus Law School, including fabulous lectures and the numerous materials in the library. I indeed enjoy this! Besides the academic atmosphere here, I’m also enjoying the happiness that my current schoolmates bring to me. Although I have been here only a few weeks, I have become friends with many local and international students. Their warmth and kindness makes me feel at home, and their laughter drives my nervousness away. My exchange-student life is going ahead, and I will explore as much as possible together with all you guys.