Students spend a day at the farm with ESN

No matter where they come from, international students feel right at home down on the farm. During an ESN excursion on Sunday, they got a taste of Dutch farm living.

‘It definitely smells like a farm’, Alex Gliesch (22), a computer science student from Brazil, says in Portuguese as he steps off the local bus at Marke Hoeve. The universal smells of sweet hay and less-than-sweet cattle stables are carried by a brisk wind as about 36 international students arrive at the dairy farm during an ESN excursion on Sunday afternoon.

The farm, nestled in the province of Drenthe, is owned by the Holman family – Derk Holman (22) is a Dutch member of ESN. Harm Holman, Derk’s father, teaches the students about the cows and the farm around them: the dairy farm provides milk to FrieslandCampina, and is among the largest in the country with 250 cows on 100 hectares of land.

During a milk tasting inside a stable surrounded by inquisitive cows, Dana Entcheva (19), an economics student from Bulgaria, has a flashback to her childhood. ‘I just remembered how my grandma used to make this, she would warm it up,’ she says happily, listening to Harm describing buttermilk. Entcheva, like many of the students, grew up in a city and has never been this close to so many cattle. ‘Their heads are too big, they’re a little scary.’

Try the milking machine

Suri Vijay, on the other hand, is loving it. Vijay (25), a toxicology PhD candidate from India, bonds with the calves as they lick his hand with their sandpaper tongues. A little while later, Vijay experiences what it’s like to be milked, kind of: Derk encourages Vijay to stick his thumb into one of the pumps on the milking machine. ‘You’ve got to try it,’ he says, laughing.

Afterwards, Vijay and Gliesch are on the same team during farmer’s golf, using clubs with neon-colored clogs as heads to whack a ball through the long grass. ‘It’s better than minigolf’, says Maria Asiain (20), an architecture student from Mexico, as she putts into the third hole.

At the end of the day, the students take a seat inside the Holman’s tidy farmhouse for a wine and cheese tasting. Some grow nostalgic for the cheeses in their home countries as they clank their plastic wine glasses, teaching each other how to say ‘cheers’ in many languages.