As a modern, egalitarian society with a rich cultural heritage and liberal social policies, it’s no wonder the Netherlands is one of the most popular European destinations to study abroad.
The number of international students continues to grow, and in the 2016/17 academic school year, the Netherlands was home to 112,000 international students, the largest number to date.
As a student studying abroad in the Netherlands, you will receive a top-notch education from the first non-English speaking country to offer higher education conducted in English especially designed for foreign students. Therefore, you will be meeting new people and feeling at home right away in a country known for its beautiful landscapes and friendly citizens.
That being said, no transition abroad is completely seamless, so we have compiled a list of tips and suggestions based on the experience of our Global Ambassadors currently studying in the Netherlands to make the journey even easier for prospective and new students alike.
Choose Your City
On finding a place to live, our student ambassador, Mateusz, suggests, “when you’re choosing a study abroad destination, my advice is to stay true to yourself and choose a destination that you really have a strong connection with or good feeling about, rather than to be told that it is beautiful or exotic.”
There is no shortage of beautiful and lively cities across the Netherlands to connect with.
Of course, the most famous Dutch city is Amsterdam where you can take your bike for a ride along the winding canals, check out the world’s largest Van Gogh collection at the Van Gogh Museum, or just relax in one of the many cozy “brown cafes.”
Or, trade in Amsterdam’s historic, 17th century architecture for Rotterdam’s more modern skyline. As the Netherlands’ second city, Rotterdam houses many of the Netherlands’ most impressive architecture, including the Erasmus Bridge, Euromast, and the Maastoren.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can also try out some smaller, but still student-friendly cities, such as Breda or Groningen. This is the perfect way to connect with traditional Dutch culture while still benefitting from a large international student population.
Choose Your Program
Some students also prefer to choose their program or university first, and will settle down wherever their dream education can be found, and with hundreds of English-language programs and courses across the Netherlands, there’s something to suit everybody’s interest.
The Netherlands is unique in that institutions of higher education utilize a Problem Based Learning system, which trains students to analyze and solve practical problems. Both of our student ambassadors in the Netherlands cite this as a huge draw to their chosen areas of study, as it is preparing them for future careers in their fields.
Among the many popular programs to choose from in the Netherlands, why not try economics, environmental science, or fashion management? The combination of theoretical and practical learning will create a unique education that can’t be rivaled, especially in the abovementioned fields.
Prepare Your Application
Once you have decided on where to live or what to study, it’s time to prepare your application. Depending on your home country, some of the admission requirements may be different, so check well in advance of the due date to make sure you complete your application in its entirety.
In most cases, you will need to have received a diploma upon completion of your secondary education. Additionally, you will also have to prove your English language skills by passing an official English language test.
After you submit all of the necessary documentation, you can begin researching scholarship opportunities and requirements to apply for a visa while you wait for your admission decision.
After you have been accepted to your dream program, it’s time to start thinking about your move to the Netherlands. Your first step will be to find housing.
As our ambassador, Ioana, suggests, “be quick!”
Affordable housing can be difficult to find, and many universities in the Netherlands do not guarantee student housing. Therefore, it’s imperative to plan in advance to make sure you find suitable accommodation.
Ioana has compiled a list of suggestions for newcomers to the Netherlands to find housing, including ask the university, join Facebook groups, and inquire with other students. If you’re moving to the Netherlands, read her full list to get a head start on finding housing.
Settle into the Culture
No matter where you live, if you are away from home, you will likely experience some degree of culture shock.
It’s important to recognize the stages of culture shock and understand that it is completely normal to feel the way you do. The good news is that our student ambassadors have both agreed that the Dutch people are open and interested in people from other countries and cultures. Plus, they communicate very well in English. Therefore, it will be even easier to get situated in your new home away from home.
But, before you leave, read up on the culture, including common practices and traditions. Don’t forget to look up some faux-pas, as well, in order to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
Although there are a lot of practicalities to arrange in advance, once you are settled in, it’s time to start fully enjoying your study abroad experience. A great way to meet new people and start assimilating into the culture is to put yourself out there, join activities, and visit the popular destinations around your new city to get yourself acquainted.
As Iona recalls her adventures in the Netherlands, “each and every corner, be it man-made (as the majority is) or natural, [it] is worth exploring, enjoying and loving.”
Or, as Mateusz describes exploring his new home in Rotterdam, “think: fantastic buildings and architecture, a variety of museums, restaurants and much more to enjoy.”
Wherever you end up, it’s guaranteed that you will make both life-long memories and life-long friends.