Olesya Bath

Olesya Bath Brit at Tilburg University

University: Tilburg University

Course: MA Global Communication (English-taught specialisation within the Master's programme Culture Studies)

Previous Education: BA French and German, Warwick University

Home Town in UK: Leeds

1. Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad for a few reasons.

Firstly, having gained an international experience during my Bachelor’s study (Erasmus year in Munich, Germany and also an internship in Paris), I wanted to continue learning more about different cultures.

However, the reason I chose the Netherlands rather than anywhere else was mainly because of the programme, the price and the fact that the study was in English.

2. How would you rate the assistance of the university before you arrived (the application process, finding accommodation, sorting out financial matters)?

Actually, I would say it was very good.

After sending my application, I received a reply relatively soon afterwards.

Accommodation was also easy to find because there were rooms for international students available, and you just had to apply quickly enough. I e-mailed my course co-ordinators and my accommodation a few times to finalise some aspects and always received prompt replies.

I felt well prepared before my arrival.

3. How would you rate the assistance of the university when you arrived (orientation etc)?

The assistance of the university was also very good when I arrived.

I was given clear instructions about where and how to register. There were many students who helped out during the welcome days. They were happy to help with any other questions.

There was an introduction day specifically for my course. Here I met my lecturers and those who outlined the programme for the current year. The University also organised lectures about cultural differences (what to expect in the Netherlands, their style of teaching etc.) which I found very useful.

Afterwards, all students were invited to an optional introduction week which included many parties and other fun activities.

4. Did you feel prepared when you arrived and/or what surprised you?

I personally felt very prepared and not too daunted by the experience. I thought everything was well organised and all the necessary information was made available to us.

5. How would you rate the learning environment (teaching style, studying with other international students, non-native English speaking lecturers)?

The learning experience is indeed very different to that of the UK.

Firstly, in my course at least, there aren’t a lot of seminars or workshops. Instead, the course is based mainly around lectures. However, these lectures are interactive and student participation is very encouraged.

Here, in the Netherlands, Dutch students do not shy away from speaking up, even if they disagree with the lecturers so class involvement is very important. For some larger courses, this may be different.

Studying alongside Dutch students is also not a problem. They all have a very high level of English and they are very friendly so there are no major barriers.

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. A lot of assignments are focused on your own understanding of a particular course.

The lecturers are very helpful. Most have an open door policy where you can come and discuss any problems or assignments with them. They provide feedback concerning the assignments, and you are able to re-do them not only if you fail but also if you just want to improve your grade.

Their main objective is for us is to learn and not just regurgitate information.

6. Would you recommend studying abroad to other Brits who are considering a postgrad / Master’s course?

Yes, 100%. I would say that it is a very good decision to study abroad, not just for the course but for your own personal growth and experience.

It is very different though so you have to be quite adaptable to what is expected from you. For example, 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 so you have to make sure you can prioritise your 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.

However, help is always available and the lecturers are also very flexible. The student atmosphere is very nice here because you have a mix of local (Dutch) students and many internationals so you can meet some very interesting people and have great experiences.

7. Is there anything you wish someone had told you at the time you applied?

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 in 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.

If you want to experience more of the local culture, then join sports clubs or associations and know something of their culture beforehand. Many students here already have their social circles so they won’t necessarily be looking to make new friends but if you make some efforts, you can meet some great people and develop close friendships.

8. Would you recommend your course, university, city to British students?

Yes! The city, Tilburg is a very cosy student city. Thanks to its relatively small size, there is a real student atmosphere which I think is really nice. It is ‘more Dutch’ than other universities in larger cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

My course is very good. It is very practical and relevant, so although the work load is high, it is actually very interesting to do. As I mentioned before, they are very flexible so many assignments could be adjusted to your personal preferences.