''Making friends in the Netherlands and learning the language is easy because the Dutch want to share their culture.'' - Anastasija from Latvia
Why did you choose to study abroad?
I felt like more opportunities would be open for me if I studied abroad. I also wanted to develop my English skills and meet more people to create a global network. I studied International Communications at Hanze University of Applied Sciences from 2011-2015 as an international student and I had an amazing experience.
What was your favorite part of studying abroad in the Netherlands?
I loved the experience of seeing myself grow as a person and become more independent. When you study abroad, there are no parents who can help you so you're thrown into grown-up life where it's sink or swim and your personal development skyrockets.
I also like the practical approach to education that the Dutch take. If you had an idea at my university, you could pitch it to the board and they would finance you to do it. My classmates started an English magazine about student life and were financed to print it. It was a monthly magazine for international students. Another student decided to do a podcast about studying in Sweden, and he got the microphone all the tools financed. Business ideas as well. You were encouraged and supported when you had a good idea. If you wanted to be proactive, there were no barriers. that was the best part.
What skills from studying abroad have helped you in your career?
Definitely working on group projects as well as cultural awareness. We all see the world through different viewpoints. Instead of battling that, I learned how to gather different points of views to build bigger something together. Instead of seeing it your way you can open your mind to accept how other people do things or solve problems and that helps tremendously in your career.
Did you have any culture shock studying abroad in the Netherlands?
Food, for example, was very hard for me to accept at first. Warm food was is only served after 5 o'clock in the Netherlands and for me that was a shock.
I had to learn to have ''dinner'' only at dinnertime. Bicycles of course were everywhere and that was a big change. I remember having a big breakthrough in my culture shock one day when I managed to carry a printer, an IKEA shelf, and a stool as well as two shopping bags while riding a bike.
You learn how to bike carrying a ridiculous amount of things in the Netherlands! Actually, when I was working in the international student team, more awareness of culture shock was one of the things that I wanted to share. Once you know what is happening with you emotionally when you first study abroad, you won't quit because you'll understand that it's normal and it will pass.
Would you recommend other international students to choose the Netherlands?
I would because the Netherlands are at the center of Europe. It's also a great place for study abroad because of its international scene. People go in and go out of the Netherlands quite often, it's a dynamic place and there's really a strong international life full of different languages, cultures, and everyone is accepted as long as they keep an open mind. Making friends in the Netherlands and learning the language is easy because the Dutch want to share their culture.
What advice do you have for international students in the Netherlands?
Try to go out as much as possible and not just at night. Go explore! You should look for small things that make a difference even if it's just poffertjes which are a small Dutch pancakes. On first glance, the Netherlands might seem like a lot of places in Europe but it's the details that distinguish it and make your time abroad more meaningful. I would challenge a new international student in Holland to find one small thing like the abundance of tulips, and it will lead you to another piece of the culture and history of the country.
What made your program in the Netherlands different?
I studied international communications and I went to the Netherlands because I wanted to immerse myself in an international environment. The teachers had a lot of international experience and the professors had worked in business internationally so they could talk about how to apply the theory to real-life scenarios. International communications is actually a subject that originates from the Netherlands, from a researcher named Hofstede. He wrote the first books on cross-cultural communications. What can be better than learning what you have passion for first-hand?
Did you take Dutch language courses while in the Netherlands?
I studied Dutch as a part of my university students. It wasn't mandatory but it was very useful and we studied topics from daily life. It was a really practical approach to learning language in the Netherlands - whatever I learned was hands-on and I could take it straight into the city and use it that day.