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What’s It Like To Be An International Student Studying In The Netherlands?

What’s It Like To Be An International Student Studying In The Netherlands? main image

Sponsored by Radboud University

Located in northwestern Europe between Germany and Belgium, the Netherlands is famous for its abundance of rainbow-colored tulip fields, windmills, bicycles, clogs and riverfront cities. It’s also a magnet for international students from all over the world, thanks to its student-friendly cities, first-class academic reputation, liberal ethos and picture-perfect countryside.

Studying in the Netherlands is a great experience – especially if this is your first time living away from home in a new country. But don’t just take our word for it. We caught up with two international students at Radboud University in Nijmegen to find out what made them choose the Netherlands and what their experiences have been like so far.

Why the Netherlands?

After spending a year abroad in the US in 2014, Tallyne, who is a Brazilian first-year Bachelor’s student in Philosophy, Politics and Society wanted to do the study abroad experience all over again. “I think studying abroad gives you new perspectives on different cultures and expands your world views.

“I was living in Ireland pursuing a career I didn’t like, and my boyfriend was living here in Nijmegen,” she said, “so I decided it was time to pursue something I was passionate about, and I also wanted be closer to him.”

Sara, a second-year Bachelor’s student in Chemistry from Croatia who loves a challenge, had always wanted to study overseas but wanted to study somewhere where she could pursue her studies in English. Although the UK was a consideration, it was the Netherlands that won her over.

“It’s known for its top-class education, and the country itself I really liked, and it has really good transport connections with my home country,” she explained.

First impressions count

It’s normal to feel a range of emotions when you arrive somewhere new which is to be your home for the next few years. First impressions definitely count. 

“One thing that first caught my attention was the freedom,” said Tallyne. “Being able to cycle nearly everywhere makes me feel so free! It’s awesome not having to worry about a bus being late.”

“I’d heard about it [bicycle culture] before coming here but it was still a bit of a shock when I got to see it for myself,” she added. 

Not having to rely so much on public transport may be a perk to many, but even if you do leave the bike at home you’ll be in good hands here. In fact, the Dutch transport system is one of the best in the world with its GVB trams, buses, and metros. The only challenge for newcomers to the country is learning to navigate it – as Sara found out.

“My first impressions when I arrived were feelings of confusion and amazement,” she said.

Having never visited the Netherlands before meant that Sara was new to its public transport system, leaving her somewhat confused. Fortunately, a young man offered a helping hand to get Sara where she needed to be – leaving her amazed at a stranger’s kind gesture.

Warm welcomes and friendly hellos

A warm and friendly welcome is the norm rather than the exception in the Netherlands, which is especially apparent among its flourishing international community.

“It’s easier to feel welcome when there’s a big international community,” said Tallyne, “and I’m happy to see that there are people from everywhere in the world living here.”

Sara also felt the same. She said: “Wherever you go and if you would need help, they will do anything in order to help you. You will always have a nice and calm conversation with them with no judgements. 

“One of my favorite things that happens quite often on a street is when someone greets you with a big smile. That makes me feel welcomed and accepted by the society, even though I’m not from their country,” she added. 

No language barriers

The Netherlands is one of the only non-Anglophone countries where almost all of its locals also speak English. For many international students – including Sara – being able to study their degree in English is massively appealing and Radboud University in Nijmegen is an example of a Dutch university which offers a wide range of internationally recognized English-taught degrees.

Nevertheless, learning Dutch is something which Tallyne plans to do during her studies.

“I’m excited to learn Dutch. It seems like a very difficult language with sounds I'm not used to, and I’ll feel very accomplished if I manage to speak it at an intermediate level,” she said.

A (quick) day in the life…

For Sara, the Bachelor’s in Chemistry at Radboud University was the only program which suited her interests, met her requirements and allowed her to study her degree in English. Add to that the potential to conduct her own research alongside her studies with the Radboud Honours Academy which was the icing on the proverbial cake.

“Besides getting to know your colleagues, the Honours Academy is a great opportunity to find out how you behave and work in an international multidisciplinary group on a project. You also get an insight in to how the real world works – and in my case – how a project grows from an idea to a proposal, and later, how to reach your target audience and present your research.”

When it comes to a typical day in the life of, Sara’s schedule is jam-packed, starting at 8.30am and finishing at 5pm. A day can include everything from lectures to tutorials, from practical lab sessions to Q&A sessions with professors.

“The labs are my favorite because you can investigate the concepts that you’ve been studying and later analyze the results and see how well you performed the experiment and check whether your hypothesis was true or not,” Sara explained.

With time for breaks in between sessions, Sara would either find some time to relax at home, do her grocery shopping, go for a bike ride or a walk around the city center and explore the little boutiques and record stores.

Even the university campus has its own hidden gems. When she first arrived two years ago, it was the walking routes, lakes, botanical garden and wildlife that grabbed her attention. “Whenever I go for a walk, I always discover something new,” she said.

While things may not be as ‘normal’ as they were at the beginning of the year, some things are a little different.

“My day is still busy,” said Sara. “It’s just that I’ve switched locations for lectures and studying. Lectures are online as well as tutorials, and for studying, I usually go to the library, just so I can have the feeling of the physical university. I also still get to spend one day completely at the university for the laboratory practical,” she added.

Lead image credit: Radboud University

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Written by Stephanie Lukins
As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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