Dutch lessons in the Netherlands are quite a luxurious hobby, which not every student can afford. At the same time, if your plan is to stay in the country for about a long time and to try luck in finding a job, you will not be able to wriggle out of Dutch.
Now I’ve got a secret to tell you: there is an opportunity to learn Dutch in Rotterdam absolutely for free. If you are prompt and lucky, you may get a spot. But tsss!…
After half a year spent in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, I suddenly realized I am tired of buying wrong foodstuffs in the supermarket (namely, buttermilk instead of milk, sour cream instead of yogurt and highly suspicious substance instead of cornflakes), forcing a silly smile on a party when Dutch students start telling jokes in their mother tongue, and struggling with my not-English-speaking hairdresser.
So I started searching for a Dutch class. I sent requests literally to all Rotterdam-based language schools from first and second Google search pages and got back the price-lists with astronomical figures and cheerful promises to convert me into a Dutch native speaker “in only four weeks and for only 400 euros”.
And very this moment of despair I suddenly bumped into a web page, inviting all those in need for free Dutch lesson in Rotterdam Lombardjien ongoing Thursday. A foreign student, who has lived in the Netherlands for half a year, knows very well: there is nothing for free for internationals in the Netherlands. Except may be for the air.
Not cherishing any hopes, I decided to give a try. At the appointed time I disembarked at Rotterdam Lombardijen. Outside the station it was pouring heavily in the dark. Suffering from geographical cretinism from my early childhood, I went astray several times and got soaked to the skin. Finally my wet iPhone indicated that I am on the right way and even almost there.
The road I was supposed to take next led to the forest with only few dim lanterns illuminating the way. “This is how stories about the maniacs begin!” – flashed in my head. I started running, slipping on the mud to find myself among pretty small houses on the other edge of the forest. And here is the house №10, Hordijk, where the class was supposed to be held. I am in seventh heaven, I climb the stairs, I pull the handle…LOCKED!!!
All alone in an unknown place, in a foreign country, in the dark, soaked to skin. “Of course it could not be true, how could you believe this, stupid girl? - I was mad at myself, - you know very well, that there is NOTHING for free in the Netherlands for you!”
I spent some more time under the pelting rain at a complete loss, and was about to make my way back to the station, when my savior appeared from nowhere. A small woman approached rapidly and opened the door. “Excuse me…is there any Dutch class, that is going to happen in the area tonight?’” – I asked carefully. “Of course there is. Come in!”
The teacher’s name was Esther. She made me a cup of tea and told the story of the free Dutch class. It was launched by a Christian organization of youth and singles RCCG Rotterdam and she, Esther, was a volunteer teacher, seeking to improve her skills and become a university lecturer one day. “So you are my guinea pigs,” – she grinned. A local family – on voluntary base as well, provided the house for the class. The course appeared to be indeed absolutely for free. The only condition was 10 euros deposit, which would be refunded if a student attended at least 80% of classes.
Soon the other students started streaming into the class. Elina came from Romania with no money to start a better life in the Netherlands. She was staying with her uncle and couldn’t find a job since October. “I can’t believe how lucky I am! Thank you for what you are doing. Not many doors would open for me…” – she kept repeating with incessant smile on her face. Irakli and Ruso are students from Georgia. Ali is an engineer from Iran.
Everybody had his unique story to tell. The lesson itself was a lot of fun. “Luckily this time everybody in the group knows English, which makes things much easier!” – laughed Esther. I looked around the class and thought that this place at this very moment consolidated strong positive vibes from two sides: altruistic impulse of those, who created the project, and sincere appreciation of those who were lucky to participate in it. It became possible not only through voluntary initiative, but also through the multinational, open-minded spirit of Rotterdam, the city, which finally – I feel – smiles to me.