Keren Hewett's Grand Tour
Leisure & Events Management student Keren Hewett always wanted to travel. That's the reason she flew over from England to The Netherlands in the first place. She knew she wanted to take the Grand Tour before starting her studies here and actually chose to study here because of it.
"I actually saw a tiny stand of Stenden at the Study Abroad Fair in London, amongst all these stands from all over the world. It stood out to me for some reason." She wanted to study abroad but wasn't quite sure what she was interested in. NHL Stenden offered exactly the right amount of freedom and travel opportunity for her. In her second year, she chose to do the Grand Tour. "Everything is organized. There's information about flights, everything you might need." Moreover, it allowed her to travel to two countries, which was important.
How to pick the right destinations
In picking her travel destinations, she initially focussed on what minors to study. "I didn't mind where I went." Two minors stood out: international relations and international destination branding. One was in Thailand, the other in Qatar. "Thailand was really easy to choose for me; it's a relatively safe place. Everybody in the West knows about it, and there it has been a travel destination for a long time." What about Qatar? "Sure, Qatar is in the news, but that makes me even more interested. I don't believe a university would offer a course in a place that wasn't safe. I did have to explain this to my mother initially," she adds, laughing.
Thailand: great for traveling
Thailand offered lots of travel opportunities, which Keren really recommends doing when you're over there. "In Thailand, we really were lucky with the minor. We had Fridays off, and straight away, we connected really well. We all just gelled together super well. Every day, twenty people were hanging out together. I'm not even exaggerating." Even the teachers promoted weekend travel. They told her to take advantage of it while she's here. "We had a lot of weekend traveling and 10 days off for the autumn break. I also did some solo traveling up North.”
Qatar: Way better than expected
Qatar was the lucky hit. "I suppose I didn't expect I'd enjoy it so much." Sure, there are differences in culture, but not what you'd expect. "Prior to the whole Grand Tour experience, I worried it was a sexist society; that I wouldn't be able to leave the house and there'd be nothing to do. "Turns out, it's quite the opposite. "The culture is actually really friendly, and there's lots to do. There's less travel opportunity than in Thailand though since it's mostly desert.”
What travel does to you
Of course, there are downsides to traveling alone. But they are little. When asked whether she felt insecure or down while studying abroad, it remains quiet. After a while, she responds: "Sure, upon arriving. You're like: I have to make friends now. But it depends on your personality. To me, that's just the usual thing; the first three days are always overwhelming. And about halfway, I was maybe homesick, which is odd since I don't see my family often. It probably was some sort of culture shock, longing for the lifestyle I had back in The Netherlands. ”But that's what travel does to you. "It shows your strengths and weaknesses. The whole process made me much more independent, open-minded, and culturally more sensitive. It showed me what I'm capable of," she says. "
If you want to read more about Keren's travels, go over to the blog English Girl Abroad.