The first of our Day in the Life series provides a glimpse into Izzy’s life. She is in her final year of the Maastricht Science Program at Maastricht University.
Hey everyone! My name is Hunter Vaughan and I am a new Beyond the States Ambassador for Anglo-American University (AAU) in Prague, Czechia. I’m originally from Roxboro, North Carolina and started at AAU a little over a year ago in January 2021 where I am now a second year International Relations major with a concentration in Human Rights. AAU is the oldest private university in the Czech Republic, being founded just in 1990. Just because the school is so new does not mean the academics aren’t stellar. The school has gained many new students over the past two years, in large part thanks to fellow BTS and AAU alum, Liza Miezejeski’s viral TikTok series on how she moved to Prague to complete her college education. While many Europeans would consider AAU’s tuition to be expensive, it is relatively inexpensive by American standards, especially when you realize that AAU’s bachelor’s programs are only 3 years in length compared to the standard 4 years in America. Tuition for any of AAU’s bachelor programs comes out to $4,283 per semester or around $25,700 for the entire degree. This is much less than most private universities and even some public school’s in-state tuition in the US. This not does not include rent which can range from $400-500+/month and living costs which can entirely depend on the person. Overall, Prague is one of the most affordable cities for university students.
When I first arrived in Prague last year, I was staying in the student housing that AAU recommends, Zeitraum. While it is not on campus housing, many other AAU students were living there, as AAU has a contract with the housing company and it is also very easy to arrange in advance and get your confirmation of accommodation that you will need when applying for your Czech student visa. I would recommend to anyone considering AAU, though, to book rooms directly through Zeitraum’s website instead of through AAU as they are much cheaper that way. While Zeitraum was a perfect way to start off at university, especially by meeting most of my now-closest friends, you eventually want a bigger space and a kitchen that you don’t have to share with an entire floor, so most people moved out after their first or second semester. In Prague it is a lot easier to find apartments on Facebook as there are many groups and that way you don’t have to pay realtor and commission fees.
In regards to the program structure at AAU, I am currently in the school of International Relations and have a concentration in Human Rights. The way bachelor’s programs at AAU work is you can either choose to have an extended major, concentration, or minor. For example, you could simply have an International Relations degree with the extended major and you get to choose 5 IR electives yourself whereas having a concentration in an area such as Global Affairs or Human Rights, those IR electives are selected for you. My Human Rights Concentration Classes include:
- Human Rights
- History of Racism and Anti-Semitism
- Moot Court
- Humanitarian Law and Criminal Justice
- Gender Equality in Politics
- Business Ethics
- Race and Civil Rights in Modern America
In place of both of those you could also choose to minor in another subject including business, journalism, and humanities. With AAU’s three year degree program, getting a choice in classes other than electives is difficult to accomplish. Within the IR major, it is also highly recommended to take a language class of either Spanish, French, German, or Russian.
Regardless of your major at AAU, students are required to complete both an internship and a senior thesis to graduate. For your internship, you can either take the internship course at AAU where the Career Center will help to place you in an internship during the semester or you could do an internship in your own time over the summer or winter break. You will be required to write a detailed paper about what your internship was and what you did. During your final year fall semester at AAU you will be placed into a Thesis Seminar course in which you have the opportunity to do a lot of research, select a thesis advisor, and submit a thesis proposal at the end of the semester. This course will make completing your thesis in the Spring much less daunting.
One of the biggest reasons a lot of students choose AAU is because the school offers both an EU and US accredited degree, meaning you will graduate with a degree valid in both countries. However, there is a catch. Every student is automatically enrolled in the US degree however to be eligible for the Czech degree, you must go through a process called nostrification in which the Czech government decides if your high school education is equivalent to the Czech education. If they find it is not, which has been the case for many AAU students (myself included), you will have to take oral exams in subjects ranging from Computer Information Systems, Geography, Physics, Biology, etc. These exams are conducted in Czech high schools and you will need an interpreter to bring with you. If you pass the exams, you will get your nostrification certificate and if you are like myself and do not pass, you will have to withdraw from the Czech degree at AAU and just stick with the American path. Personally, I do not mind not being in the Czech program as I plan to get a masters degree in Europe anyway and will get my EU degree that way. However if it is extremely important for you to get the Czech degree the nostrification process could be a big hurdle. I have many friends who have passed their exams and I also have friends who decided to not even attempt theirs. It is truly up to you what you want to do. I will say that even without nostrification, being AAU is an amazing experience and the education you get will still be great.
If you are interested in applying to Anglo-American University please check out the admissions requirements on their website: aauni.edu . I have personally loved my time in Prague and would not change it for anything. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @huntervaughann . I wish you the best of luck on your European college search!
Hi, I’m Kyle, I’m from Kennett Square, PA, and currently live in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where I study International Business at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (RUAS). As someone who lived in the United States my whole life, deciding to leave everything behind and move to Europe took every ounce of courage I had, but it has been the best decision I’ve ever made. Below, I’ll walk you through the basics for my study program.
At RUAS, commonly referred to as Hogeschool Rotterdam, students in the IB (International Business) program have the opportunity to study two separate learning lines: the Business and Personal and Academic Skills (PAS) learning lines. This entails a portion of your classes involving all aspects of business, from finance, to accounting to marketing and more. On the other learning line, you can take classes such as intercultural competency and critical thinking. What I enjoy about this method of learning is that each class, regardless of which learning line they’re part of, tie into each other, and your final projects tend to incorporate everything you learned in the block.
This brings me to my next point: the block schedule. In the US, many universities operate on a semester system. While this allows more time to become comfortable with the material you’re learning, you have much more to study when it comes time for exams. At RUAS, we operate with 4 blocks, with a week break in-between the blocks (who doesn’t like extra time off?). I enjoy this form of study because I know that I have 7/8 weeks of hard work ahead, and that after that period, I have some down time to enjoy my hobbies outside of school before diving back into a new group of interesting classes.
My favorite cla ss so far might have been Intercultural Competency (IC). IC is a class that gives students a way to be more open minded about other cultures outside of their own (if you’re unsure about school in Europe, this class would surely make you excited about the prospect). They teach students the 6 steps of becoming interculturally competent, meaning that students who were at one point closed off to other cultures and their ideals, slowly but surely can shift to become people excited about traveling the world and experiencing everything it offers.
At my university, we have both normal classes and lectures. These lectures are small groups of 25 students learning as a class with a teacher who makes the content easy to understand. Being in a small group like this is much more favorable as the teacher is there to help people individually. These are weekly, depending on the class, and cover most of the content you need for your end of block exams. Additionally, you also have regular classes (similar group size and the same content). These classes are used for you and your group mates to work on the all-encompassing group projects that are also due at the end of the block. I enjoy this setup because if you use your class time wisely, you can get your project done easily and this allows you to allocate your last week or two of the block studying for your exams.
University is challenging no matter where you are, but I strongly encourage everyone considering school in Europe to take a chance, and to be challenged in a new environment like the Netherlands.
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
Here’s a video from Rose, who is from Chicago, talking about her college in Europe experience.
Hey there! My name is Anya, and you may already know me from the podcast and video blog I’ve done with Beyond the States. I’m from Boulder, Colorado, and am currently in my third and final year at ESCP Business School in their BSc in Management program. This is a very unique program, which allows us to study in three different countries, moving each year to a different campus they have around Europe. The school itself was founded in Paris, France, and is one of the oldest business schools in Europe. It’s well known for its masters programs, which are for the most part taught in English, and within the past few years has started gaining recognition for their English-taught bachelor. It is a private school, meaning higher tuition than most universities you’ll find through Beyond the States. Since I hold dual American-Austrian citizenship through my parents, I pay the European tuition (around 13k Eur per year), whereas international students will likely pay more (Current tuition is around $24,650 per year. – Ed.). This is excluding housing and living costs, so factoring in everything, I pay about as much as I would for out-of-state university, and around $25k more than what I would pay for an in-state school. However, I finish in 3 years, and I get a double degree (French and German), but more on that later.
I attended my first year on their London campus, which is in the quaint area of West Hampstead, about a 30 minute underground ride to London center. Though ESCP doesn’t provide housing, in each city there’s always student housing options and of course the option to share an apartment with other students or with locals. I chose to live in a student accommodation my first year, so I could meet other students and ease into living on my own. This was a popular choice by ESCP students, which I knew from the beginning, so that made my choice easier. I lived with 7 other people whom I shared the kitchen and living area with, and then I had my own small bedroom and bathroom. Beside the housing, I was able to get to know my fellow classmates through induction day, Whatsapp groupchats, and student-proposed meet ups at the accommodation or within the city (this was all pre-pandemic).
In the bachelor program, the classes are pre-set and we don’t get to choose what we take until third year when we have some electives options. During the year in London, we had many introductory classes such as accounting, psychology, microeconomics, presentation and rhetoric skills, world history, mathematics, law, statistics, and computer skills (Microsoft Office). We also had a credit called ‘collective project’ in which we had the liberty to choose our group and a business project, as long as it followed certain guidelines. Some people created charity companies, others a ‘running dinner’ club, and my group decided to do a podcast called ‘Name It’, where we discussed a wide range of topics and had some of our classmates join special episodes.
My second year took place on the Paris campus, the headquarters and biggest campus of ESCP. I lived with two of my best friends in a shared apartment, which we rented through Airbnb. It was a two minute walk from campus, which made it easy for when we had in-person classes. Our courses in the second year were mostly building upon first year’s classes and
consisted of marketing, macroeconomics, taxation and e-commerce law, contract law, finance and accounting, Python coding, statistics 2, and intercultural skills. Since I was in Paris, my tax and e-commerce law classes were taught in French. In Madrid, different classes of theirs were in Spanish, and in Turin everything was English. To go to Paris or Madrid during our second year, we were required to have a certain level (B2) in French or Spanish. Like the first year, we had another credit of collective project, in which the school collaborated with the ChangeNOW Summit and each group researched sustainable initiatives and companies in certain industries (carbon capture, urban farming, fashion, audiovisual industry, etc).
Each year we also take language classes, usually corresponding to the campuses we attend (except English, no English classes are taught since there’s an English requirement for program entry). For me, that was French and German, since my third and current year is in Berlin, Germany. This is the year we are able to choose elective classes each semester, split into two parts – management elective and liberal arts elective. The management elective is split into ‘tracks’, with each track consisting of two classes. When you choose a track, you have to take both classes it offers, you can’t pick two different classes from two different tracks. The tracks offered were marketing, finance, management, and digitalization/entrepreneurship. The liberal arts elective is just a single class we can each choose, usually centered around humanities, such as negotiations, international relations, big data, conscious leadership, and others. This is also the year we complete a bachelor’s thesis on a topic of our choice. We chose our topic and thesis advisor in the fall, and the spring semester is the time where we really have to crack down and write it out. Based on a blockchain class I took in the digitalization elective, I decided to focus my thesis on how smart contracts (on the blockchain) would disrupt the real estate transaction process (now that’s a mouthful!). I learned that with such a general management degree, there is no right or wrong thesis, and the topics I heard people chose are so varied, from corporate volunteering, to sustainable finance, to NFTs, to luxury marketing, and so on.
Going back to what I said at the beginning, about a double degree – since ESCP has its primary campus and founding in France, but many students graduate from the Berlin campus, those students may be eligible to receive both degrees! The French one is called a Diplôme Visé BAC+3, while the German is the classic BSc in Management that is based on the American standards, however they both mean the same thing and are equivalent. I do want to point out though, to those considering going to ESCP, that in order to get the German BSc (the more recognizable title, but no difference in value!), you would have to a) graduate from the Berlin campus (i.e., it needs to be your third year campus), and b) meet the same requirements that a classic German high school student would meet – so start planning ahead! For me, these requirements looked similar to the following:
- At least 16 “academic units” in the last 4 years of high school
- 4 English units
- 2 foreign language units
- 3 social studies units
- 2 or 3 math units and 2 or 3 science units (to make a total of 5)
Alongside those, there are also AP requirements – 4 AP exams with minimum grade of 3:
- Foreign language
- Math or science
- Additional (can be humanities, comp sci, etc)
Of course, requirements change and I know that they are constantly revamping admissions and even the program outline and campus options, so be sure to check with the admissions officer about what the requirements look like. It’s been a wonderful ride at ESCP, and to hear more about student life and information I wasn’t able to include here, check out the blog and podcast linked above!
The Maastricht Science Program
Hey guys it’s Izzy Waszkiewicz again! In this post I wanted to talk to you guys about my program, the Maastricht Science Program. More specifically, I will delve into its offered subjects/directions, its unique student-chosen curriculum, and lastly, how its academic year is laid out.
As I have mentioned before, I am a third (and final) year student studying in the South of the Netherlands in a city called Maastricht. I study in the Maastricht Science Program (MSP), and it is part of Maastricht University (UM). This program is one of the newer programs at UM and teaches the many different aspects of science.
Map of Netherlands. (n.d.). Vectorstock. photograph. Retrieved November 11, 2021, from https://cdn5.vectorstock.com/i/1000×1000/23/24/map-netherlands-with-road-sign-maastricht-vector-35962324.jpg .
The beauty of this program is that it encompasses almost all the aspects of science a student might be interested in such as physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, neuroscience, and even technical/scientific computing classes. Each of these aspects of science also include their own various paths within them. For example, when studying biology, one could delve into human biology-based courses such as cellular biology and molecular biology, or environmental biology-based studies such as ecology or ecophysiology. So, all of these types of courses are offered through MSP, and requests can even be made for the formation of new courses or topics if enough students are interested.
Not only does MSP offer an extremely wide variety of courses, but all the courses you study over the span of your 3 years at MSP are chosen by the student herself. This was one of the most important aspects of MSP that really stood out to me as I was most interested in human biology, but I also wanted to try a few environmental biology courses to see if those interested me more. Thanks to the student-chosen schedules at MSP I was able to not only try both, but also a few basic chemistry courses and neuroscience courses to improve my curriculum. By taking courses in all of these directions I find that I have not only been able to expand my knowledge on various scientific fields, but also have learned how to combine information from these different fields to one another.
Another characteristic of MSP that makes my program so unique is the setup of the academic year. My academic year begins in early September and is split into 2 semesters which have 3 periods within each semester. Moreover, periods 1, 2, 4 and 5 are normal periods in which a student is required to take 2 courses and a skills lab (unless they have fulfilled their ECT requirements or need to take an additional course).
Skills labs are offered in all the different directions at MSP at a specific lab facility close to camps that is stocked with excellent equipment for students to use. Personally, I have been able to take practicals in molecular biology, genetics, applied cell biology, nanobiology and even a few field skills practicals in which I have been able to go into the land surrounding Maastricht and collect life samples. These practicals and lab days have allowed me to learn and strengthen my hands on skills and taught me various techniques I hope to be able to utilize in research in my future. Below are some pictures from various practical/lab days I have experienced. (The picture on the right was taken on an outdoor excursion to a natural park in Northern Limburg while the other 3 images were taken at our lab facilities.)
The other periods, periods 3 and 6, are considered project periods in which students partake in research projects in groups of between 4 to sometimes 10 students on a given topic. During the project period the students have an advisor/supervisor who aids when complications or questions about the project arise, but otherwise do not intervene too much. These projects require us students to (usually in higher project levels) come up with their own specific research question, methods to address the question, and to finally create a research paper with their methods, results, and discussions/findings.
During these project periods I have, for example, been able to conduct research into invasive species in and around the natural parks in Limburg, specifically in the Grensmaas region of the Netherlands. Not only have I written reports, but this last academic year (around June of 2021), my project period team and I created a documentary video about the nature reserve in our city to help spread awareness, and we even got the video published and shared by various organizations in Maastricht. Below are some pictures taken during our many excursions for gathering data and shots of the park!
Since the teachers and staff allow us as students to choose our own academic paths, and advising us along the way, we are given the opportunity to study whatever (within science) we want and even try out courses we might not realize we will enjoy. Ultimately, I personally recommend programs like MSP which allow students to find which topics truly interest us, and let you explore your future opportunities while teaching you necessary skills.
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 🙂
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.
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.