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3 things you should know before studying abroad in Holland

Things I wish I'd known before studying abroad in holland

British student Olesya Bath didn’t land in Holland clueless. Before starting her Master’s degree at Tilburg University, Olesya already enjoyed a global life. She completed an Erasmus year in Munich and an internship in Paris. However, as it turns out, moving to Holland is filled with variables that orientation sessions couldn’t have prepared her for. If you're planning to study in Holland, the following advice from Olesya will make your life so much easier.

1. Join sports clubs or associations and know something of Dutch culture beforehand

"I knew this already because of studying abroad before, but it is very true that you have to make an effort if you want to mix with the locals. Although the Dutch are one of the friendliest nations, that doesn’t mean that it is easy to become close friends with them if you do not make any effort", said Olesya.

The Dutch have a very high level of English, so there’re no major language barriers. You’ve attended lectures about cultural differences in Orientation Week and even done your Dutch 101 lesson, but you still find it hard to communicate with the locals?

Maybe you will and maybe you won’t. But it is not uncommon to hear complaints from international students about the lack of opportunity to integrate themselves into the local community. Olesya acknowledged that “many students here already have their social circles so they won’t necessarily be looking to make new friends”.

What you need to do is to get out of your comfort zone and create socialising opportunities for yourself – you'd be better to do it the local way. "If you want to experience more of the local culture, then join sports clubs or associations and know something of their culture beforehand… If you make some efforts, you can meet some great people and develop close friendships", stressed Olesya.

2. Be adaptable to what is expected from you: the work load here is a lot higher than it is in the UK

Moving abroad, even just within the EU, so often gets glamorised. When applying for university abroad, most students think they’re signing up for an international experience filled with travelling whilst studying, new friends and new lifestyles.

Of course, studying abroad offers an exciting cultural experience, but you should always remember that you’re here to study, not to travel. You’ll need to know not only the Dutch way of living, but also the Dutch way of teaching and learning.

Having earned a Bachelor’s degree in the UK and been three months into her Master's degree in the Netherlands, Olesya pointed out "the work load here is a lot higher than it ever was in the UK. They can set you group assignments, essays and exams all at the same time... In the UK, we knew all our assignments at least a few months in advance and here, sometimes you have around 6 weeks for everything".

Olesya emphasised that the key to do well at Dutch universities is "to make sure you can prioritise your time".

3. If you don't agree with the lecturers, don't be afraid to say so

Olesya described the interactive environment that she observed in Dutch classrooms: "The lecturers are very friendly and very open and it is a lot less hierarchical than in the UK. The lecturers impart their knowledge of course but they expect the students to mainly think for themselves".

At Tilburg University, Olesya added that "class involvement is very important".

"Their main objective is for us is to learn and not just regurgitate information", said Olesya.


Olesya Bath is a Master's student at Tilburg University. She is currently studying Global Communication, a fully-English Master's specialization within the Master's programme Culture Studies. Read more about Olesya’s experience and advice here