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Leaving Friends while Traveling Abroad

Hello again from the Netherlands! In today’s blog post I am going to talk about my experience with leaving friends behind when I moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Maastricht in the Netherlands. Specifically, I am going to tell you about how I felt leaving my friends, being
unable to see them for 2 years, and my experience finally returning to, and seeing them after those 2 years.

As many students studying outside the US near their departure date, it is quite common to feel anxious and worried. I can personally relate to these feelings because, I promise you, I felt exactly the same way! The day I left, and I looked at my room one last time I could feel the tears welling up. Not because I was sad or regretting leaving, but because I was nervous. I had lived all that time in this one house, in my room; it was familiar and home to me.

As I said my goodbye to my friends one final time, I again felt those tears welling up in my eyes. I was obviously going to miss them greatly, but I also knew I would see them again. I think that was the hardest part, honestly, of saying goodbye to friends and family. I do miss Milwaukee, the city in which I lived before moving to the Netherlands, but there are new distractions and new places to see where I am now, but I think for most people it is the people you leave behind you miss the most.

Reading this far you might think it’s a bit doom and gloom, but there’s good news! We live in the time of technology. We can communicate non-stop with others. And that’s how I have kept
my friendships alive for these past 2 years.

For the most part, I was able to keep in touch over Snapchat and Instagram, by texting, and keeping up to date by watching people’s stories. I also tried to call my friends whenever I could. Unfortunately for me and my friends, we pretty much sucked at communicating via the phone even when we were at home, three blocks away from each other. Therefore, it took a bit of time to find time, but that varies per person.

If you put in the effort, you will not lose your true friends, you guys will be in it for the long
run:) I do say “true friends” because obviously it is impossible to stay in touch with everyone from
high school. I personally became closer with my ‘best friends’ because we both had to make
more of an effort to stay in contact, so our time together was more appreciated.

Unfortunately, as my first year came to an end, and summer neared, it became apparent to me
that the situation occurring at the time with COVID would make returning to the US extremely difficult. This was a big blow for me. Thankfully my family had moved back to Europe before
the COVID crisis began, so I could see my family during that summer, however I was
not able to see my friends from back home.

Honestly it was hard for me, but since travel was still possible within European countries, I was
able to distract myself with small trips with my new friends I had made at Maastricht University.
Fast forward another year, and thankfully COVID chilled out enough for me to finally be able to
return to Milwaukee to see my friends! My trip back was amazing, I spent the month couch
surfing at my closest friends’ house in the student area of Milwaukee. I was able to reconnect
with more than 8 of my close friends from High School, and even met up with people I hadn’t
talked to at all during my 2 years away.

When I arrived and first saw my friends it honestly felt like no time had passed at all. We began
to update each other on everything that had happened in the past months and planned what we
wanted to do while I was back. I was able to revisit my old neighborhood, all my old hangout
and food spots, as well as go camping, to the Six Flags Great America theme park, sports games
(Go Bucks!), and even go camping.

Once my trip came to an end, it was once again time for goodbyes. This time around however
they were not as hard. I didn’t have that fear of losing them because I knew we would stay in
touch, and would see each other next summer. In addition, I knew I wa s coming back to Maastricht, to my new friends, and my more recent home.

Overall, I just want to hopefully calm some of the nerves about first leaving home for university abroad. I know it is hard, and you might be scared, but from reading this I hope you can see that leaving friends behind shouldn’t scare you too much. It will be a big change, but new experiences and people will come and fill your time while away from home! When you can visit home again, things will fall back into place if you try while away to keep in contact a bit 🙂

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Isabell in Maastricht

Hey guys, my name is Isabel Waszkiewicz. I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin which I will address as “MKE” for the rest of this blog post. In this blog I am going to tell you guys about my experience moving from MKE to a smaller Dutch city.

In high school, when junior year rolled around in 2018, I was hit with an immense dilemma: Do I want to stay in the USA for my college life, or look farther from home, like in Europe. I decided to apply to schools in Europe and applied also to backup schools in Wisconsin in case I changed my mind. I ended up choosing numerous schools in the Netherlands as I wanted to focus my studies on biology, mainly human biology, and I wanted to study in an all-English course. Therefore, thorough using Beyond the States, I was able to find numerous courses fitting my needs and wants, in numerous countries. The course that best fit me and provided me with a wide variety of biology courses proved to be a program called the Maastricht Science Program (MSP). I ended up applying here, and mid-senior year I got my acceptance letter. I was beyond thrilled.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years, and I am now about to start my third and final year of university at MSP. MSP is a Liberal Arts and Sciences program based in a smaller, Southern city in the Netherlands: Maastricht. Leaving to come to Maastricht was a big change for me, not only because I didn’t know anyone, but because the city was smaller compared to the MKE I was used to, and the culture was so different.

Specifically speaking, Maastricht is slightly larger than 60 square kilometers, and has a population of about 122,400 people. Compared to Milwaukee, which is over 250 square kilometers and has a population a

lmost 5 times larger than that of Maastricht with 594,600 people. I was in for a big change. However, I could not be happier with my decision.

Personally, I find studying in a smaller city like Maastricht extremely nice and comforting. You can get to know the city, and all of its hidden spots, whereas in much larger cities I feel you can still feel a bit lost after even years of studying there. I also find since you know more areas well, there is also a greater feeling of safety in smaller cities. In large cities there commonly are areas that may not be the safest to walk through at night perhaps, but in smaller cities like Maastricht I find there are little to no unsafe areas, and if there are areas best not travelled alone at night, you know about them well due to their scarcity.

In addition, not only do you get to know the city better, but the people living there as well. In smaller cities you are very likely to get to know local people from your favorite restaurants or small stores extremely well and make connections that are scarce in larger cities. Besides locals, you are easily able to meet up with friends you meet from university whenever since almost everything is less than a 20-30 minute bike ride away. I cannot express how nice it is to run into friends on the streets, especially when you are so far from home. Almost every time I leave my house, I am able to run into, or spot someone I know. I personally find this extremely comforting as I get homesick sometimes and miss friends from back in the US, and these interactions allow relationships to grow in your new hometown.

Lastly, in smaller cities like Maastricht, commuting to class, work, or even to friend’s places is extremely easy. In fact, since the Dutch bike everywhere, I can bike to my friend’s place on the complete opposite side of the city, in under 30 minutes in Maastricht. Most places are reachable by foot, but biking provides a greater ease.

With tight schedules, this proximity helps greatly, as if you are running late, you are usually 5-10 minutes away from work even with traffic. This makes moving places, commuting to work, getting home at night, and even grocery shopping so much easier and faster.

Overall, I know moving to another country across the ocean is already a huge change and causes stress, trust me I’ve been there. I just hope this blog post takes a little bit of that stress away if you are currently worried you applied to a smaller university or will be living in a smaller city. All change is going to be somewhat stressful at first, whether that is good or ba

d stress. In the end however, you just need to realize that you are human, you will adapt, and wherever you end up will bring so many new and amazing opportunities. Take it from me, moving to a much smaller Dutch city from the US was one of, if not the best decision I have made yet in my life.

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Andrea at UCU

by Andrea Pantazi

A typical day at University College Utrecht starts with cooking breakfast in my unit’s shared kitchen. I live with eight other people, but most students only live with 4-6. This is organized differently than in the US, where this apartment-style living is not as popular. 

After getting ready, class is only a two-minute walk away. Living on a campus means that all my peers and my classes are contained in one area, making my day-to-day schedule easy and more manageable, however this is not very common in Europe. Before class, a friend and I catch up and go to Jazzman’s, the on-campus café.

Classes are typically two hours long, with a 15 minute break in the middle of the session. The class size is also relatively small, with the maximum being 28 students, but my law class has only about 10 other students, which is typical for many courses. The professor encourages group discussions and critical thinking. This is similar to other small liberal arts colleges in the US, however the different backgrounds of each student make discussions more lively and interesting. Each student at UCU has some type of international background, having lived in more than one country, or willing to travel and expand their worldly perspective.

After class is over, I walk across the quad to Voltaire, the Humanities building which also has a large study room on the second floor. There, I prepare for my next class. As a first year, I am encouraged to take advantage of the unique curriculum UCU offers and to take a variety of classes, from the Social Sciences, Sciences, and Humanities. My next and final class of the day is in the Humanities. The course is called “The Literary Canon of Human Rights”, and it encompasses a multitude of novels and how they use literary techniques to portray major world events. With my work finished, I head downstairs to the classroom and join my peers in another group discussion. This method of teaching is popular at UCU, however there are other classes that are mainly lecture-oriented, particularly in the Sciences. 

As my final class of the day finishes, I join some friends and grab a table on the terrace of the nearby cafe NOEN, which is very popular among UCU students, and later take a walk through Wilhelmina park, which is just down the street from campus. Afterwards we all head back to Voltaire to finish up some work, and later have drinks on the quad to celebrate the end of the week. Unlike in the US, we don’t have a dining hall. However, we all join together to cook easy recipes and the process is enjoyable with friends to help you.

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Resilience

I recently let Sam go from his job with Beyond the States.  Since Covid limited job opportunities, I had given him a job helping Stefan with our database updates. Though Sam had developed a great work ethic working at a grocery store throughout high school, this didn’t transfer over to working for his mom and there were a series of problems (usually involving me having to call to wake him up to work which really got me riled up….). I gave him many more chances than I should have and after continued issues, I decided enough was enough.

So why am I telling you this? It’s because I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience lately. There will undoubtedly be things in life that knock our kids for a loop. They are also sure to make mistakes in life that will have consequences. I think we all want them to learn from these experiences and apply these lessons to other areas/situations in their life. We want them to develop resilience so that they know how to get back up and back on track when these things happen. I also know that I am sometimes guilty of protecting my kids from situations that would help them develop those traits.

I was recently preparing for a podcast interview with one of our members who attends ESCP. Her program involves studying in three different countries over the course of the three-year program. Having just adjusted to one country, I can’t imagine going through this each year-especially as a young adult!  Anyhow, I was looking at the website before our interview and noted that the brochure said “Studying each year in a different country will allow you to become more independent, self-reliant and resilient. All important skills for future business leaders to have!” I thought this was such an awesome way to look at it. It’s not that you have to BE independent, self-reliant and resilient in order to face challenges, it’s that navigating your way through the challenges and obstacles can LEAD to self-reliance, independence, and resilience.

I sometimes encounter parents who are worried about the level of independence needed for students in Europe.  There aren’t meal plans, so students cook for themselves.  There is much less handholding from the university and many universities will communicate only with the parents, not students. Sam spent a year eating scrambled eggs or noodles before he started to learn how to make a few more things. Some students learn that they like to cook (good to have these as friends…) and others learn that they need to know enough to get by. Either is fine! While I personally would have preferred to see some more leafy greens in his diet, this adjustment didn’t harm him in anyway and taught him a number of skills.

We have one member who started at a university in Prague this past January, right in the height of the pandemic.  Not only is the Czech Republic one of the more difficult issues with visa issues, but the pandemic made everything harder and prevented his parents from traveling and helping him.  His mother posted in the group in our Facebook member group at the end of the semester about the incredible growth she has seen as a result of him having to handle things like getting a bank account in a foreign country, learning public transportation, finding an apartment, dealing with quarantines and lockdowns, learning to plan his meals and grocery shop, seeking medical care, and working with an agency on around visa issues. I can tell you that they are things that were difficult for me as a middle-aged woman with life experiences to help me.  That our kids are navigating their way through these situations is truly amazing! That’s not to say that it’s always easy.  It took Sam SEVEN trips to the US embassy in Amsterdam to get his passport renewed. Some were due to errors on his part, others because the embassy was being particularly difficult. Nonetheless, he got it done and (hopefully) learned some important lessons throughout.

So, back to my unemployed son… I keep reminding myself that since we provide him with money for groceries, rent, and necessities, I don’t need to worry or nag about his progress in looking for a job (he would likely argue that I need to remind myself about the nagging part).  While I don’t like seeing him bummed about how the lack of spending money affects his social plans, I’d rather have him learn the lessons now when the stakes are lower.  Our kids are learning about attention to detail when dealing with bureaucratic nonsense, planning and time management skills when making mistakes on public transportation, a huge range of communication skills when dealing with language barriers or different cultural norms, self-care skills in meal planning and budgeting-to name just a few.  All of these things are frustrating, but none are inherently dangerous. By getting through these without having their parents handle or fix the situations for them, they gain patience, independence, self-reliance, resilience, adaptability, and perseverance. These are the skills that can’t be taught in the classroom and will greatly benefit them all through their lives!

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Student Life: Taylor at HU University in Utrecht, Netherlands

Will the Creative Business Program Suit You as Great as it Suits Me?

              My name is Taylor Petersen, I am from Washington State and a first-year student at Hogeschool Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (HU). I am attending school here in Utrecht, Netherlands and today I am going to talk about my program, Creative Business. While looking into universities on my search to find the perfect school, the Creative Business program stood out because of the wide range of skills I would be learning in order to inch my way towards becoming the entrepreneurial woman I’ve always wanted to be.

As a Creative Business student, or as the students call it, ‘a CB student’, I have learned an enormous amount in my first year. Each half year is divided into two blocks. In the first block you have your first 3 classes, test on the  m, and then move on to the next 3 classes in the next block. I love this block system for many reasons, one being that I am able to focus better on fewer subjects before me and really delve into the topics without having my brain dragged in many different directions. Thus far in my first year, I have learned the proper marketing fundamentals, I have accumulated skills to cultivate my creativity, learned how to correctly interview and gather information from sources and more. This program has greatly benefitted me and my understanding of what it takes to be a part of a business. Each of my classes have been mostly online due to Covid-19, but the teachers have adapted well, and still manage to engage the students. At the beginning of the year, when my classes were still in person, we did many engaging activities and learned by doing. This is the goal of universities of applied sciences. By applying what you’ve learned you are able to truly understand it, and this is another aspect that was very enticing to me about goi ng to this university.

Throughout my program, there are many levels of personalization that go into your learning process. During the first year, classes are prechosen in order to set a basic level of knowledge for students, but as you enter you second, third and fourth years, you are able to choose things that will benefit your personal future. In the second year, there are 8 main classes that everyone must take, but the other 4 are electives that each student can chose based on their interests. During year 3, it is a totally global focus. Half the year is spent at an internship of your choice (you just have to approve it with the school), and the other half is spent at a school exchange

with the only requirement being that it must be in a non-native language environment. Year 4 is all about the final project and developing your own project of choice. This entire program has so many benefits that contribute to student success and personal development. I have loved my experience thus far.

For the social aspect of HU, there are student and teacher advisors that are there for student suppo rt, whether it be with schoolwork, social life, or just personal issues and advise. There are many opportunities that the school promotes for people to make friends and have a good time out of school as well. Because of this, I was able to make many of my friends.

Overall, the Creative Business program as well as Hogeschool Utrecht in general, is a great place to be. I love so many aspects about it and would recommend anyone who is st ill figuring out what they want to do or is very certain about the path they want and knows this program could help get them there.

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Czech Student Life: An American’s Perspective

Czech student life 1 This week we hear from Claire, who is here to talk about Czech student life at one of my favorite schools in Prague!  Get this! International student tuition for her program is just under $500 per year!  For more on why European universities are so much more affordable, check out the podcast episode I did with an American professor at this same university. – Jenn

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My name is Claire, and I am studying Environmental Engineering at Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic. I am currently in my second year having experience with both COVID and non COVID times.

Academic Schedule School days at public universities in the Czech Republic are generally Monday-Thursday with Fridays off or left for extra classes. I have only had Friday classes once, when taking the mandatory sports class during my first year. Classes take place between 8:45am and 6:00pm and are and hour and half long. Usually, each class meets twice a week, once for our lectures and once for our seminars. During my two years, I’ve had five to eight classes a semester, but usually a couple of the classes aren’t work/study intensive. My current schedule of classes (2nd year, 2nd semester) is:

Tuesday: classes from 8:45-5:15

Wednesday: classes from 8:45-10:15

Thursday: classes from 12:15-3:30

Usually one day a week has a full day of classes which is extremely exhausting, but because of the extended weekend days, on school days, I try to keep long study hours to a minimum and find that it is very helpful for my stress. Typically, after classes are done, I will work out, relax, and maybe get together with my friends depending when classes end. COVID has definitely affected my school schedule, as it has everyone, especially studying a STEM subject and having all lab activity closed. However, professors have tried their best to make the classes work as much as possible.

Social Schedule On easier days in our schedules my friends and I may go out for lunch or do something after classes but, we try to get together at least once a week outside of school to just hang out, go out to eat, or nights out. Prague is amazing and has a lot of parks and places around the river Czech student life that people can hang out and outdoor festivals/events so during warmer months a lot of time is spent outside. It’s pretty easy to find different types of foods although Asian (specifically Vietnamize), American, and Czech are most common cuisine, and we have never run into any issues with dietary restrictions because Prague is very vegan/vegetarian friendly. I live in an apartment with roommates which has led to an easier time during COVID lockdowns. One of my roommates and I cook dinner once a week and study together (even though we study different subjects), we started working out together, and just trying to get out of the house.

In terns of Czech student life, I have found that I tend to have more free time than my friends who go to university in the US because of how my school and exam schedule is made. Even though I have 5-8 subjects a week, I have three to four “free days”, so my life isn’t so cramped. Since exams grades are the final grades of classes, usually we don’t get much in the way of homework or test/quizzes which also helps with keeping free time. Compared to my friends in the US, the class difficulty is relatively the same, but can feel harder because I have to self-study more than they do. Overall I find that even with more classes, even at the same level as my US friends, I tend to have more time to study and socialize due to less weekly work.  — Claire

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Studying Overseas in Utrecht, Netherlands: Taylor’s Experience

“Why did I choose college in Europe? This is a question I get a lot, and often I am not sure how to respond other than simply, why not?” Read more on Taylor’s journey to studying overseas in the medieval city of Utrecht, Netherlands.  

I have grown up in a small town in Washington state, and was very excited with the idea of being able to experience living in a whole other atmosphere in a way I hadn’t before. I am eighteen years old and studying overseas in my first year in the Creative Business program at Hogeschool Utrecht University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. When looking for schools, I was interested in business school, but wanted to be sure that my desire for becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t lost. That is why I chose the Creative Business program, which heavily incorporates entrepreneurship and helps students along the way. In the program that I have chosen, each course topic has been interesting and informative. 

During the process of applying to schools in Europe, I was focusing on the program that best fit my interests as well as my desired atmosphere. I visited multiple schools around Europe and found that my best fit was here in Utrecht, Netherlands. Some of the other schools I had visited in this process offered good English programs, but when I visited, I wasn’t quite convinced that I would want to live there. I have learned a lot since living in the Netherlands, from budgeting, taking public transportation, time management, as well as becoming more culturally aware. My choice of studying overseas in Europe has been the best and biggest decision of my life. I have grown in many ways from living on my own and grown in confidence because I have also figured it out on my own. After first moving here, there were lots of things to check off the list, such as the visa requirements, residency numbers and more, but after a few phone calls it wasn’t so hard to figure out because people are so willing to help.  

As a student it has been very eye opening to be a part of such an international community. There are many different cultures in my program, and it has been so wonderful to be able to work with so many different types of people with many different backgrounds. With Covid-19 being a part of my first year, it hasn’t all been easy, but there are lots of programs and student organizations that have put in extra effort to make sure that students have the opportunity to make new friends. My main concern with moving across the world during a global pandemic was how I was going to make friends, but it has been easier than I thought to keep connected with other people from my school. I am so grateful for finding this program in this town.  

— Taylor

Thinking of college abroad for yourself? Ease in with our Self-Paced courses where you’ll be guided on how to choose a major, or a university in Europe, get your questions answered on the admissions process, and more. Prices for these chock-full courses range from $50-75, but members pay only $25. And speaking of membership, there is a special limited time offer on Annual Membership right now. Check it out!