Benjamin isn’t planning to move to Rotterdam. “I’m really lucky with my housing situation at the moment. My ex-girlfriend’s parents are moving to Singapore for a year and they need someone to take care of their dog. So they’ve asked me to live in their house in Barendrecht for a year in exchange for looking after, feeding and going on an occasional walk with the dog. This new place is only a 30 minute bike ride from the university, which is no problem since I am Dutch.”

The Imposing Outback

Hopping on the bus, Benjamin admitted that starting his fourth year at university felt quite odd. He’s only recently returned from a gap year in Asia and Australia. “It was a truly surreal experience. I remember my best friend called me last year one month before starting my third year. As soon as he told me about this plan, I didn’t hesitate. I told my parents I was leaving for Asia and Australia.”

Benjamin had worked as a bar tender to save some money for his trip. “But we soon realised that it wouldn’t be enough, especially in Australia. While in Australia, we then resorted to plan B, and my friend and I started working on a chicken farm near Perth and later as a house builder in Sydney. Soon I was handling a 20 kg drill on top of a roof.”

As if the whole trip wasn’t adventurous enough, Benjamin and his friend almost got stuck in the desert. “We decided to get an SUV and cross the outback, the huge desert in the centre of Australia. After days in the desert and sleeping in our car, we were drastically low on both water and gasoline. At one point, I seriously thought we’d end up stranded with only kilometres of sand and kangaroos surrounding us. Fortunately, we soon found a tribe of native Australians who weren’t really glad to see us, white people, enter their camp. They were still able to help us out with a gallon of gasoline, which we had to pay 40 Australian dollars for. After that, they gave us directions towards the nearest gas station.”

Guiding the next Economics Students

Image credit: Pietro Vigilanza

We seemed to have been talking about his gap year for at least half of the trip, which also made the one hour trip on a packed, warm bus more pleasant. After arriving in Dordrecht, there was only one last task on Benjamin’s schedule. “After university, I tutor high school students, helping them with their Intro to Economics homework. Usually, I’d have to cycle an extra fifteen minutes back home, but I prefer staying near the centre because that’s more convenient for my schedule.”

“Dordrecht’s city centre is slightly reminiscent of Dutch architecture: cute, slightly crooked buildings bordered by canals,” Benjamin tells me as he shows me around his home town. “Even though Dordrecht isn’t really active at night, it’s conveniently located between Rotterdam and Breda. If I feel like bar hopping, Breda has an incomparable assortment of bars on the street, and if we plan a club night, Rotterdam always delivers.”

Our very overcast day then suddenly became quite sunny, and we both diplomatically decided that the best option to counteract the blazing heat was to quench our thirst with two fluitjes on a terrace until Benjamin had to leave for his tutoring session. Proost!