Sports are a popular pastime for international students, according to Erasmus Sport director Jon de Ruijter. He notes that the share of Sport Pass owners is far higher among internationals than Dutch students. Which is hardly surprising when you consider that Erasmus Sport has become a kind of home away from home for some international students. “You can find me here at least five days a week,” says Wick. “One day I’ll hang around a bit; rack up some balls – like today. But more often, I’ll have joined in one of the trainings of the basketball team.”

Escape Room

Not far from the billiards table, a group of eight muscular guys are joshing each other around a football table. They turn out to be members of the rugby team. One of the players is Michele Sepulcri (20) from Hong Kong, who besides studying Economics can be found at the rugby club at least three times a week.

Sepulcri: “I think our club is slightly different from the other athletics clubs at EUR. It has a very international focus, and even though the club has 80 active members, we’re all very close.” His fellow athletes nod in agreement. How often do they see each other outside of trainings and the pitch? “Too often!” they roar in unison.

A few minutes later, it appears that the rugby team isn’t as unique as Sepulcri assumes. According to Svea Rietdorf (21) from Germany, you can feel the same vibe when you visit Erasmus’s boxing club. “The club is so multicultural that you can’t separate the natives from the internationals,” says the Psychology student. “Everyone is very friendly and open. That makes it even more fun. And we also enjoy spending time together outside the gym. We recently went to an Escape Room – that was huge fun!”

'A big no-go'

Even international students who aren’t member of a particular club agree that getting in touch with fellow students is a lot easier when you’re working out together than in other settings. “We’re all here because we share the same interest, so that’s a start,” says Sahel Joshi (21) from Canada. “It makes it easier to break the ice.” Joshi is just back from two hours of basketball with fellow students from the International Business Administration (IBA) programme. “Sports cheer you up. It doesn’t actually matter where you’re from when you’re getting in some nice exercise together.”

Although according to fellow IBA freshman Polina Fioletova (20) from Russia, the small cultural differences can lead to interesting experiences. “One thing I’ve noticed while exercising, for example, is that the Dutchies take their romantic relationships very seriously. In my country, guys say: ‘Your boyfriend isn’t a wall – you can always replace him.’ But when you tell a Dutch guy who’s flirting with you that you’re in a relationship, you immediately become this big no-go for him.”