Coming to Kasteel Well? Don’t pack the kitchen sink.


By Maeve Lawler, Kasteel Well Bureau Chief

Are you a future Kasteel Well dweller? If the answer is yes, then you’re probably wondering how to prepare for your semester abroad. What do I pack? How do I make new friends? How can I make travel plans without emptying my bank account? After three months of living at Emerson’s campus in the Netherlands and exploring beautiful corners of Europe, here are the top five pieces of advice I can offer.

Pack lightly 

If traveling on the group flight arranged by Emerson, you can bring one checked bag, a carry-on suitcase, and a personal item. You will have to pay extra for more baggage, and that’s never fun. 

Packing for three months with limited space may seem daunting at first—but ultimately, you need much less than you think. Be practical and pack your essentials first; things like a warm, waterproof jacket, comfortable walking shoes, basic clothes you can layer, and any necessary medications. Be realistic while packing by bringing clothes that are both comfortable and versatile. Always leave a little extra room for what you might buy while traveling. 

The Kasteel Well staff provides bedding for you and any missing toiletries can be bought at a local convenience store just a short walk from the campus. If you forget something, Netherlands Amazon also delivers to the campus—a cheaper option than shipping from the U.S. 

Throw away your FOMO 

Experiencing FOMO—fear of missing out—is normal for many college students. FOMO brings anxiety and stress, and prevents us from doing what makes us happy. 

Take comfort in knowing that everyone is anxious to make friends and find their “group” when arriving at the castle. It’s important to be open to meeting new people—sit with an unfamiliar face at the dining hall, or ask your (usually random) roommate to go on a walk to explore the town of Well. These simple activities help to build friendships and establish a sense of familiarity with new peers. 

Most importantly, do what makes you happy. If traveling every weekend is your thing, go for it. But don’t feel bad about staying at the castle for a weekend to rest and restore. 

At the end of the three months, you’ll hopefully feel like you’ve developed a new “Emerson family.” By design, the small community brings you close together with your classmates and offers an opportunity for forming new relationships with others and yourself. 

Strike a balance between spontaneous and long-term travel plans 

Many students spend their weekends traveling locally in the Netherlands or elsewhere around Europe. During the semester, there is also a one-week travel break where students are required to leave the castle. This travel break starts with a mandatory academic trip with the castle faculty. 

Transportation prices will often be cheaper the more in-advance you book your trip, so planning ahead for some trips, like your one-week travel break, may be beneficial for your wallet. But it’s also important to leave some room for spontaneity. Listen to the advice of your friends while planning a trip. Traveling with new people and seeing new locations is easier when all parties are receptive to recommendations and have a list of must-see destinations in mind.

When planning trips with a group, it’s helpful to establish everyone’s budget and talk about each other’s travel goals and styles beforehand. This can help guide you in making sure your travel group is best suited for your needs. 

9292, a Netherlands transportation app, and Omio, a Europe-wide travel app, are available and super helpful in planning travel. 9292 especially comes in handy when looking for local bus and train times. Omio can be used to book buses, trains, and planes across Europe.

For accommodations, explore multiple options to compare price and location before committing to one. I often used Airbnb and Hostelworld

Prioritize safety and respect 

While traveling in the Netherlands and across Europe, you’ll experience various intersecting cultures. You’ll hear new languages, try different foods, and see different ways of daily life. All of these experiences are integral parts of studying abroad and help us to better understand and appreciate the world around us. 

But, while getting these invaluable experiences, it’s important to prioritize your safety and respect the cultures around you. 

Researching the places you’ll be visiting beforehand is essential for a comfortable, seamless trip. Although many people across Europe speak English, it’s both helpful and respectful to try learning a couple of basic phrases you can use in everyday interactions. 

In the Netherlands, good phrases to know are hallo (hello), dank u wel (thank you), and alstublieft (please/here you go). 

Try to stick with the group you came with, share your location with a friend, have a charged phone with you, and keep your valuables secure—a cross-body bag or fanny pack is especially helpful. 

A collection of advice from Kasteel Well students 

Other students at Kasteel Well have shared their top pieces of advice: 

“Bring a big backpack for traveling on the weekends,” said Lauren Swed, a sophomore media arts production major. “Enjoy every moment and take it all in.” 

“If this is your first time traveling [abroad], go someplace close by that you know for sure you’re able to get back from. Always travel in a group and share your location,” said Luis Mena, a sophomore theater BFA major. 

“Let yourself make mistakes and don’t do it all alone,” said Sofia Attaway, a sophomore writing, literature, and publishing major. “There’s no point and there’s no fun in doing this whole program by yourself.” 

“Trips are not going to go according to plan and that’s okay,” said Ciara Berardi, a sophomore theater BFA major. “It’s okay if they don’t go according to plan because you’ll remember it forever and it’ll be funny in the future. So let it happen, you’ll still have a great time.”

Regarding the various farm animals in Well, Madla Walsh, a sophomore journalism major, said, “Go for walks in the town as much as you can and try to find the Well emus.”  

As my semester abroad comes to a close, I’ll return to Boston with new friends and a connection to places across Europe. I’ll be forever grateful for this opportunity to grow and experience this growth with my peers. Use this advice to help guide you in your time at Kasteel Well—to help you make it an experience of a lifetime.