International Studies vs. International Relations at Leiden University – What’s the Difference?

Hey everyone! We’re Max and Macklin, two BTS student ambassadors who are second years at Leiden University at The Hague campus in the Netherlands. After hearing we were living in the same student housing via the BTS Facebook group, we met online just after our arrival in the Netherlands last August during a mandatory quarantine. This year we live together in an apartment with one of our friends who also studies at Leiden University. 

Our bachelor programs are International Studies (IS) and International Relations and Organizations (IRO), respectively. Because our programs are two of the most popular English programs at Leiden University and on the surface level may seem similar, we want to break down some of the ways they are distinct. In fact, many students at Leiden will switch between the two programs after their first year due to the widespread confusion about what we study!

Max’s Experience With IS

I’m Max and I grew up near Chicago, Illinois. I’m a second year International Studies student at Leiden. I’m also involved in university politics at Leiden University where I manage social media and election campaigns for the only party on campus that represents non-Dutch students. 

First, let’s dive into what International Studies looks like at Leiden! The most important thing to know about IS is that it’s a humanities program, which means that we study international trends from a “people-centric” view.  In other words, we study culture, language, and history rather than institutions and organizations. International Studies students also study politics and economics but from a human level rather than using statistics or normative theories. Most students’ favorite part of IS is that starting in the second semester of the first year you pick a region and language from that region to focus on. The regions you can pick are North America, East Asia, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Russia/Eurasia, South/South-East Asia, and Latin America. Some of the most popular languages are Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, French, Swahili, and Korean. I chose Latin America and Portuguese because I heard amazing things about the lecturers and I’ve always been interested in Latino culture and the region’s politics. IS general courses place an emphasis on both self-study as well as small groups that meet every other week and language courses meet up to three times a week. From this description, you may have noticed that the International Studies program is extremely broad. We study a wide variety of topics and by the end students gain an interdisciplinary view of the world using their region of choice as a case study to apply their knowledge. As a result of the program being so broad, what comes after the bachelor is definitely up to each student. If you’re looking for a bachelor that’s going to prepare you for a career right out of university, this is definitely not the program for you. This means extra-curriculars (e.g. minors, honours programs, internships) are vital for applying to master’s programs and jobs after you graduate. Luckily, being at the political center of the Netherlands and the city of peace and justice, The Hague has plenty of opportunities to boost your CV. 

Macklin’s Experience With IRO

Hi! I’m Macklin, I’m a second year student studying IRO. Originally from Connecticut, I moved to The Hague in August of 2020. You have seen my video showing a day in the life as a student in the Netherlands. In this blog post, I hope to go further in depth on the specifics of IRO and how it is different from IS.

In contrast to IS, IRO has a social sciences approach and is under the Political Sciences institute at Leiden. Due to this difference, within IRO there is more of an emphasis on theory and a scientific understanding of international relations. Rather than semester-long classes, the academic year is divided into four blocks that are eight weeks long with an exam week at the end of each block. Students will instead have two to three classes each block allowing the possibility to become immersed in a few subjects at a time and gain a deep understanding of the content. IRO emphasizes self-study rather than going to workgroups. Most contact hours will be during lectures and grades for a class can range from a few papers to only considering the exam. There is a wide range of subjects covered throughout IRO, such as economics, world history, the EU, and comparative politics. Although there is no ability to choose a region or language for IRO, the program prepares students for many career opportunities through its more specific, political science approach. There are courses on statistics and quantitative theory, especially in the first year, which may deter some students. However, it allows a broader understanding of international relations and politics beyond the cultural factors, which are also touched upon in the program. Due to the lack of flexibility, it is important to consider if political science is the right program for you, if so, it provides plenty of opportunities for masters both in the humanities and the social sciences due to covering both topics. Similar to IS there are opportunities outside of the study to enhance the university experience, such as honours programs, student organizations, internships, and beyond. Being at the political heart of the Netherlands provides plenty of opportunities to maximize the experience and tailor it right for you!

More About Leiden University

Both IS and IRO have a semester built into their structure for an internship, minor, or study abroad program in the first semester of the third year and a bachelor thesis in the second semester. The admission system is similar for both programs requiring 3 AP scores of 4+ or 4 AP scores of 3+, alternatively, the international baccalaureate (IB) is also accepted. Additionally, IRO is a “numerus fixus” program which means students are selected based upon a motivation letter and short test of some of the content that will be taught in the program. Overall, both programs benefit from being located in The Hague which is a great city for international students. Great parks, modern classrooms, and people from all over the world make Leiden University campus The Hague a great place to study. Rotterdam and Amsterdam are accessible in under an hour by train and Leiden, our University’s main campus and a charming student city, is only 15 minutes away. 

Other Leiden University programs based in The Hague are Urban Studies, Security Studies, and LUC (a living-learning community liberal arts track). If you are worried about meeting the requirements for admission but want to study in The Hague, there are great programs with no AP requirements at The Hague School of Applied Science. There are so many benefits to studying in Holland from bike culture to the prevalence of English in everyday life! Reach out to either of us if you have any questions about our programs, experience in The Netherlands, or studying in Europe in general! We are both in the Beyond the States student Facebook group.

Wishing you the best of luck on your search,


Max Adams and Macklin Miezejeski 


Why You Shouldn’t Be Worried About Knowing Your Area of Study

One of the biggest differences in applying to universities in Europe is that you are applying to a specific program, as opposed to applying to just the overall university. This is basically like declaring your major ahead of time and since there generally aren’t any university-wide core requirements, switching majors/programs often means starting over. Don’t stop reading this based on that fact! This doesn’t mean that you are stuck studying only one thing. This doesn’t mean that you must know exactly what you want to study. And this doesn’t mean you have to know what you want your career path to be!

Now, if a student does know exactly what they want to study, there are plenty of programs that focus on that area from day one. Many students appreciate that they can focus on their area of interest from day one, without having unrelated required courses. What appeals to even more students, though, are the multidisciplinary program options. The Dutch have been far ahead of other European countries about this type of English-taught educational offerings. Their universities have not only the largest number of English-taught programs, but also include liberal arts programs and many multidisciplinary options. I’m starting to see this in more and more other countries and today will focus on these types of program options in other European countries.

Vrije University, in Brussels, offers a Social Sciences program. It takes three years to complete and tuition is 3850 euros per year. The first two years provide the broad and diverse knowledge that so many students want. The first year of the program includes classes in sociology, political sciences, and communication studies. The second year seeks to interweave the three disciplines also teaches students to use critical thought in these areas. The thirds year allows for customization as students choose to specialize-like choosing a major in one of these three areas.

The Global Humanities program at the University of Sapienza, in Rome, allows for customization from the very first year! Students take 1-2 required courses each year, and the rest are courses they choose from different categories. The categories themselves are broad and include history, the arts, sociology, anthropology, economics, law, psychology, theology, and international studies. Course option goes beyond basic intro courses with options like
Environmental Law, Gender Economics, Law and Literature, Sociology of Media and Culture, Indo-Tibetan Studies, Global Health, Japanese Narratives, and Human Rights, Classical Archaeology, Latin Literature Medieval Art, and Contemporary History. And there is just a small selection of the offerings! The program takes three years to complete. Tuition at public universities in Italy is like a sliding scale, based on family income, and 2821 euros per year is the maximum annual tuition charge for this program.

Global Studies and International Studies type programs are a popular multidisciplinary program type for students with diverse interests around social sciences and cultures. The the University of Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, offers a three year Global Studies program that costs 6800 euros per year. The premise is that in order to develop a comprehensive view or world issues, students must look at the problems through the lens of different fields. Students take required courses in data analysis, global history, global communication, research methods, finance, economics, international relations, law, sustainability, cultural studies, business, and politics. They are required to learn another language and take electives focused on global issues as well as those that pertain to a region of their choosing.

Students who love math and science can consider the Science program at the the University of Helsinki. All students take courses in math, computer/data science, physics, and chemistry during the first year, and then they choose one of the four areas to focus on. Students can choose to combine more than one track and/or can take electives from the different tracks as well. The program takes three years to complete and costs 13000 per year.

Though it’s structured differently than in the US, students in Europe are still able to explore varied academic interests. Even those students who choose a more specific area of study can pursue interests outside of their program through the semester that is set aside for electives during study abroad. It’s not necessarily better or worse than the system in the US, just different, and the same goals can be achieved.

The options on this list represent just a few of the great options. My visits to schools and research did for other best-fit lists and such have helped me identify many more-including several programs that aren’t obviously multidisciplinary from the title name. I would love to help you find great options that fit your interests too! Act now and receive one-month free membership with your purchase of a best-fit list. There is no long term commitment for membership, simply cancel within the membership portal 7 days before your next billing date and you will not be charged again!


Choices in Sustainability, Water, and Climate Change

Recently, disturbing images have been seared into the collective consciousness from the wildfires raging across the western United States. At the same time, there are wildfires burning in the Brazil, too. In January 2020, wildfires devastated large parts of the Australian countryside.

In the United States, there is some debate over issues of climate change and sustainability that I won’t go into here. These topics are viewed differently in many parts of continental Europe. They’re seen as opportunities for growth and learning. This goes beyond learning for the sake of learning, though, and is about affecting change at scale.

In continental Europe, there are quite few programs dedicated to sustainability. Using our Area of Study system, there are 17 English-taught, master’s degree programs in the specific area of study of climate studies. This are 37 programs with a sustainability bent, ranging from zero tuition to over 20,000 EUR. A search found 586 programs with the word, “sustainable” in the description that include sustainability as a topic in their curriculum. You will find this in areas like business, design, agriculture, and other examples. What follows are a few examples of interesting options in this area. If you find this interesting and want to dig deeper, please join our community and see for yourself whether getting a master’s degree in Europe is the right choice for you.

Climate Studies

University of Hamburg has Integrated Climate System Sciences master’s program which is focused on the scientific aspects of climate issues. The program has an internationally unique focus on physics and modelling and offers three areas of specialization. The program is 2 years in duration and the tuition is 0€. The same school has an international business program with a sustainability focus.

Stockholm University has an interesting master’s program entitled, The Polar Landscape and Quaternary Climate, which essentially covers climate over the last million years. It is also a 2 year program and the tuition is € 13,165 per year.

What About Water?

Quick question: which nation leads all others when it comes to dealing with rising tides? The answer is the Netherlands.  While there are a number of water-focused programs in the Netherlands and throughout Europe, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft is strictly focused on master’s and Ph D. education in the area of water. They also partner with a number of schools throughout Europe.

Water and Coastal Management Is a joint program between University of Groningen and University of Oldenburg. The double degree Master program merges the strongest expertise of the two universities. Because of the connection to Germany’s University of Oldenburg, you’ll save big on tuition at just 818 EUR per year, however, you’ll still have to pay Groningen’s 15000 EUR tuition.

Sustainability & Environment

Green Economy and Sustainability is a program at University of Ferrara in Italy that’s worth looking at. At just 1440 EUR per year, it’s a quite reasonable 2 year program. This master’s is focused on turning out consultants and managers who can work in the green economy.

Aalto University in Finland has a program that combines business, design, and sustainability. Quoting from the school’s description: “The Creative Sustainability programme (CS) provides a multidisciplinary learning platform in the fields of business, architecture, built environment and design. It allows students to study and develop solutions to global sustainability concerns such as climate change, resource scarcity, global poverty as well as social and economic inequality.” The program is 2 years in duration and 15,000 EUR per year.

This post does not even scratch the surface of the more than 6,200 English-taught, master’s programs in continental Europe.  Whether your passion is around the environment or something completely different, you may wonder what the educational possibilities are for you. We’d love for you to join our community and meet people like you who are already taking advantage of this opportunity. Click here to learn more.



Study Medicine in Europe: the Fast Track to Health Sciences Careers

Are you considering a career in health sciences? Have you thought about the option to study medicine in Europe? Europe offers many programs that combine a bachelor’s degree with an advanced degree in areas like medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and pharmacy.  In 5-6 years (depending on the type of program), students can obtain their bachelor’s and also an advanced degree like a PharmD, DVM, DDS or MD.  In the programs we’re talking about, you’ll be able to study medicine in Europe in English. Here’s the crazy thing – the average tuition for these programs is just under $10,500 per year.

Let’s go through some of the details and obstacles to study medicine in Europe. For each of these fields of study, we will look at what would need to occur for a student to practice in the US after graduating from a combined program in Europe. It’s important to note that the student would be able to practice in Europe (and other countries as well) with fewer hoops to jump through. Regardless, as you will see below the incredible financial benefits of the option to study medicine in Europe make the bureaucratic obstacles look small.

Pharmacy: Take a Test and Pick Up $400k

This field of study has the fewest obstacles.  If you want to practice in the states, you will take the Foreign It's a no brainer to study medicine in EuropePharmacy Graduate Equivalency Exam and then take the NAPLEX test which is the test all graduates must pass to become licensed pharmacists. Europe offers 8 English conducted integrated (meaning combined bachelor’s and master’s degree) pharmacy programs and the average is just $8,125 per year which means the total tuition cost to get a PharmD is $40,625 for the 5-year program.

How does this compare to a student in the US?  Let’s look at the costs for a student paying in-state tuition at UNC Chapel Hill  The tuition cost of their bachelor’s degree alone (IF he graduates in 4 years, as only 36% of undergrads do today) is already at $35,592. The four-year PharmD tuition adds another $95,088 total.  It will take this student eight years and cost $130,680 total for in-state tuition.  It would cost an out of state student a staggering sum of $331,107.

This means the student studying in Europe saves $90,055-$290,482 in tuition and starts earning money three years earlier! Since the average pharmacist makes $115,000 per year, those three years of “lost earnings” equate to $345,000. Combining tuition savings and lost earnings, the total comes to $435,055 – $635,482.

Veterinary Medicine: Another Easy Choice

This is a good one to look at since there are only 30 vet programs in the US and getting accepted into one is known to be quite difficult (in some ways more difficult than getting into medical school). To become a licensed vet in the US, graduates from a foreign degree program must first get their credentials certified. The Education Commission for Foreign Graduates (ECFVG) certification program is accepted in all states and involves a written test as well as a hands-on Clinical Proficiency Examination. After earning an ECFVG, graduates then must pass the national licensure exam as well as any exams required by the state in which they would practice.

Europe offers seven English conducted veterinary programs that take usually take 6 years (though some take 5.5).  The average tuition of these programs is just $6,400 per year.  Nope, that’s not a typo!  That means that the total tuition over the entire 6 years is $38,400.

Let’s look at our UNC student again.  We already know that the cost of the entire vet program in Europe is almost the same than the in-state tuition alone for the bachelor’s degree at UNC Chapel Hill (which is $35,592).  The nearby 4-year veterinary medicine program at North Carolina State is $18.516 per year for in-state students putting the 8 year total at $109,656. Our poor, out of state students will pay $310,680 over the eight years.

The student in Europe is saving between $71,256- $272,280 and is earning money 2 years before his counterpart graduating from North Carolina!

Dentistry: Wrinkles Included

This is another good option, but does have more obstacles than veterinary medicine and pharmacy.  To practice as a dentist in the US, you need to have graduated from a school that has been accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).  However, these schools are only in the US and Canada!  Dentists who have been trained and educated in other countries can do an advanced standing 2-year program with a CODA school.   Some of the advanced standing tuition rates are higher than even the regular dental school tuition, which seems like a bit of a racket.  I saw many in the $75,000-$90,000 a year range.

Europe offers 18 English conducted integrated bachelor and DDS degrees. Most of these are five-year programs and the average tuition is $13,250 for a total average of $66,250.The question is whether this is still a good deal given that you need the two extra years of study to practice in the US.

UNC does not have an advanced standing program, so for this example, we will look at Boston University.  A student who has a degree from Europe and then completes the 2 year Advanced Standing program at Boston University will end up paying an additional $144,000, so their total tuition over 7 years is $210,250.  How crazy is it that two years of study here is almost double of the cost of entire five years in Europe — much of which will likely be redundant learning. Sigh.

A student at Boston University pays $196,000 for their bachelor’s and then another $288,000 for their DDS, bringing their total to $484,000. The student in Europe is still saving $273,750 and entering the workforce a year earlier. According to Money magazine, that year is worth $149,540. This brings the total benefit to $423,290.

Study Medicine in Europe: How Much is Playing It Safe Worth?

study medicine in EuropeIf your plan is to find work as a doctor in the EU, this is a great route to take! Here’s a fun fact: physicians in the Netherlands earn more on average than MDs in the US.   If, however, your ultimate plan is to return to the US to work, you will encounter a few obstacles. Most of the obstacles are just hassles and not insurmountable. These include things like taking the US Medical Licensing exam and getting your transcripts verified.  The most significant challenge is that, unless you have completed a residency in Canada, you are required to do a medical residency in the US-even if you completed a residency in a country with an advanced medical system! Obtaining a residency in the US is extremely competitive and odds of getting into a program are lower for those who graduate from foreign schools, though the number is increasing. On average, 75% of applicants get a residency or “match”. Most recently 53.9% of US citizens with international medical degrees (IMG) were matched to first-year programs and the number of U.S. citizen IMGs matching to first-year positions has increased in 12 of the last 13 matches.

There are 35 English conducted integrated bachelor’s/MD programs in Europe.  They take six years to complete and the average annual tuition is $10,400.  That number is actually higher than the true average.  There are a number of these programs in Italy.  Tuition to study medicine in Italy at public universities is based on family income, so the numbers used for the average are the maximum a student would pay, not what the students actually pay to study medicine in Italy.   Nonetheless, using those numbers, our student in Europe would pay an average of $62,400 in tuition over the duration of the six-year program.

Let’s look again at our UNC student.  The in-state student is paying $35,592 for a bachelor’s degree program and then $70, 148 for their MD, bringing their 8 year total to $105,740.  The out of state student would pay $313,328.

Our student studying medicine in Europe will save between $43,084- 250,928, but with significant potential residency headaches if coming back to the US.

Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

When looking at the costs, it is important to note that many of these programs are offered in countries like Hungary, the Czech Republic, and other central European countries. The cost of living is much lower there than in the States. Avoiding student loan interest is also a significant benefit that we haven’t touched on.

Each of the programs we list in our database is fully accredited and many are very reputable.  For pharmacy school, it’s clearly very attractive, given the 3 years of income gained and the high earnings for the field. Whether a student intends to seek employment in the US or abroad after graduation, I think the benefits outweigh the obstacles for programs in dentistry and veterinary medicine, as well. Medical programs are not as clear cut.  I think it is definitely worth considering by students who plan to practice outside of the US, students who do not want to attend in-state school in the US, or live in one of the six states that don’t have an in-state school option, or students who are comfortable working outside of their field for a year, if the residency placement ends up taking more than a year.

Want to Study Medicine in Europe? Take the Next Step and Join Now

If you want to learn more about these programs to study medicine in Europe, gratification is just a few clicks away. We’ve added them to our online database with 1,500 other English-taught bachelor’s programs across Europe. When you sign up as a member, you’ll gain immediate access to all the information we’ve gathered over the past 18 months from our research, our on-campus visits, plus our own impressions gathered from working with other candidates like you. We offer a range of packages from self-guided to fully supported, to help students understand and qualify their choices. If you’re planning to get an advanced degree in the health sciences field, you owe it to yourself to investigate the option to study medicine in Europe. The cost is as little as $89, and the impact could easily be over $500,000. Here’s the membership link again.


Nursing Study Abroad: Get Your BSN without Going Broke

nursing study abroadWhen the instructor asked the class on the first day of nursing school “Why do you want to become a nurse?” Hannah’s answer was different from her classmates. The other students talked about caring for the sick, helping to deliver babies, and saving lives. While those aspects also mattered to Hannah, she said she needed a career where she could find a job easily, one that would pay well upon graduation and would support her wherever she went. Hannah’s answers were different from her classmates because she had seen her own family struggle since her father’s computer programming job was sent offshore.

For a person with the right temperament, nursing is an excellent career choice.

  1. You’ll always be able to find a job. There has been an ongoing nursing shortage for decades. It is expected to worsen, due to the increasing incidence of chronic diseases, aging of the “baby boomer” generation and the constrained output of nursing schools. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 1,052,000 additional nurses are needed by 2022 to meet the demand, a 19% increase over today.
  2. Nursing is a high paying field. According to the same BLS study, nurses have the second highest median income at $65,470 (2012). Did you know nurses make more than accountants?
  3. Excellent long-term prospects: The current nursing workforce is nearing retirement age. The average age of a nurse increased from to 44.7 in 2010 from 40.2 in 2000. As these older nurses retire over the next 1-2 decades, opportunities for advancement will continue to open up. Wages will remain high, since the demand will exceed the supply. Additionally, nurses will find opportunities in other areas of the hospital like IT and management, as well as with vendors.

How does one become a Registered Nurse (RN)?

  1. Education: obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) Note: While you can become a registered nursehc-tabletpc with an Associate’s degree, a BSN is the preferred credential. It will improve earning power over your career.
  2. Exam: Pass the standardized test for nursing, the NCLEX-RN
  3. License: Complete the licensing requirements for your state. Each state (and DC) has a state board of nursing. License requirements vary, so you’ll have to research this.

How much does Nursing school cost in the US?

There are a number of options for nursing school depending on your goals and current education level. Let’s look at schools in Pennsylvania. University of Pennsylvania is one of the top nursing schools in the country (Others top schools are Duke, Johns Hopkins, and UCSF.). Each program below is 4 years in duration.

Tuition at University of Pennsylvania (UPenn): $51,464

Tuition at University of Pittsburgh: $23,270-$37,642 (in-state/out of state)

Tuition at Temple University: $19,130-$31,610 (in-state/out of state)

Nursing school in the US seems to be pretty expensive. Are there any other nursing study abroad options?

Yes! The good news is you don’t have to fork over $80,000-$200,000 in tuition over 4 years to get a BSN degree if you get your degree overseas. In addition to 1,500 other programs, the Beyond the States database contains 14 English-taught, BSN programs ranging in cost from $2,500 per year to $12,000 per year. One program even takes just 3 years, but most are 3.5 to 4 years in duration. The total program tuition costs (tuition x duration) range from $10,800 to $43,632. Assuming cost of living is comparable (in some Eastern European countries it’s a lot lower) and a $2,000 annual travel budget, getting a nursing degree can be 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of getting a BSN in the US and you’ll get to see the world!

Courses take place in specially equipped labs where students practice nursing procedures in simulated conditions. The skills are then transferred to real-life situations during work placements in various healthcare institutions. In Finland in order to complete the work placements, you’ll learn Finnish during your course of study.

Special Note about Finland:

Half of these nursing programs are in Finland. In 2016, the Finns began phasing in tuition fees to international students for the first time. As part of the transition, schools are offering extremely generous benefits. One school is offering a 50% tuition discount for year one. While at another, if you graduate in three years, the third year is free.

Are these non-US degrees readily accepted?

Yes! Due to the ongoing nursing shortage, nurses have been hired from outside the US for years, so non-US degrees are a lot more common in nursing than in other fields. The three major qualifications employers use to screen candidates with international degrees are:

  1. Accreditation: Does the BSN come from an accredited institution? Beyond the States only lists schools that are accredited.
  2. English proficiency
  3. Ability to Get a Work Visa: a non-issue for US citizens

Fast forward to today, Hannah manages an operating room at a hospital in Philadelphia. Given the ongoing demand for nurses, the positive outlook, and the ability to help others, nursing is one best career paths for today’s students to explore and getting a BSN via nursing study abroad is a great place to start! Join now to see how Beyond the States can help!

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