Looking back at four years in Dutch Studies

Many students at the School of Languages and Cultures choose a new language in their first or second year. When Bryony Horsey arrived in Sheffield in 2018, she decided to pick up Dutch. She graduated last summer and looks back on her experience.

Student on a swing smiling in a garden
Bryony on the swing during the Dutch 'Borrel' 2022

"The University of Sheffield is one of only two universities in the UK that offer Dutch Studies as part of a BA Modern languages. I know that a decent number of students come to Sheffield with Dutch in mind. For me however, Dutch was a happy accident."

By Bryony Horsey

"I came to Sheffield to do German, but when I was enrolling for my German modules during Freshers’ week,  I started talking to the energetic member of staff on the desk. That member was Dr Henriette Louwerse, the Head of Dutch Studies. I still had some free credits and since I didn’t have anything else in mind, I thought ‘why not?’. 

Looking back at my time at university,  I can safely say that many of my good memories and big experiences were because of Dutch.

Bryony Horsey

The main thing that I remember from my first language classes is thinking that Dutch would be easy because I already knew German and in many ways the languages are pretty similar. In this I was proven both right and terribly, terribly wrong. I was able to coast through some things with an ease unavailable to fellow students who didn’t speak German, but I was also constantly tripped up by things that seemed similar but weren’t. 

Also, I didn’t know what to expect from the accompanying culture modules, but I was pleasantly surprised by Dr Filip De Ceuster’s introduction course in the History of the Low Countries. I’ve always loved history and I had a great time getting to know another part of Europe through paintings, architecture and battles. 

three young women smiling at the camera during an outdoor party

Looking back at my time at university,  I can safely say that many of my good memories and big experiences were because of Dutch. One of my core groups of friends for life was forged in the fires of the annual end-of-year Borrel in my first year. Out of all the departments I was a part of, the Dutch department truly felt the most like one big and generous family. From singing for Sinterklaas to practising in conversation classes, learning Dutch was simply a good time. 

Final Years in Dutch Studies: The Symposium

Thanks to Dutch I also had the biggest adventure of my university career: my Year Abroad. Covid heavily mucked it about and the one placement I actually managed to get to was my Dutch semester at Ghent University in Belgium. Despite the lockdown that started five weeks in, my time in Ghent – a beautiful city well worth a visit – showed me that I can handle more than I thought I could. From big things like living alone for the first time to small things like using the laundromat, I handled it all in Dutch! I am fluent in the language now, and although I  treasure the friends I made in Dutch class the most, Dutch also gave me an invaluable gift: the ability to understand a bit more of the world."

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