Student Life in the Netherlands

I can tell you student life in the Netherlands is not as hard to navigate as it is in other places. One reason is that the university facilitates some aspects of student life, which is not necessarily found in some of the other countries.

Slide 1: All About Netherlands – Lesson 5: Student Life

So we made it to Lesson Five. And in this lesson, we're going to be talking about Student Life. I can tell you student life in the Netherlands is not as hard to navigate as it is in other places. One reason is that the university facilitates some aspects of student life, which is not necessarily found in some of the other countries. And also, because the country has the best non-native proficiency in Europe. 

Slide 2: Orientation

  • Different types
  • Buddy Programs

So the first thing you want to look for is orientation. There is always, in the Netherlands, an orientation, and there may be more than one. There is often one specifically for international students at the school. There's often one specifically for the program that you'll be going to. Groningen, for instance, has a week for international students of the university. And then there's also something called a KEI-week, and this is for all the students in Groningen. And then there's an orientation at the program level for international students, and sometimes it's schoolwide as well. 

Leiden University has one week at the university level for international students. And then, if you're studying in their Hague campus, there's a week-long orientation there as well. Often, these things, they have a lot of social events, and will also often have things to help students that have bank accounts and all those logistics. 

There are often buddy programs offered by the school for international students. They're usually short term to help acclimate. Sometimes they’re a couple of weeks, sometimes they’re a couple of months, sometimes they're a big group. Sometimes there are regular dinners with the group that are monthly or quarterly. It really depends on the school as to whether they offer this and how sort of developed the program is. 

Slide 3: Associations

  • Study Associations
  • Student Associations through University
  • Student Associations through city
  • ESN

Then we have something called associations, and they're sort of like clubs. There are study associations at each university, and this is through your program. So if you're in, the International Studies program at Leiden, the study association for the International Studies students is called BASIS. So BASIS, or whatever the study association that you would be in, it provides academic-related activities like lectures and events, and also social activities. It's usually about 20 euros a year. And sometimes, there's mentor programs too through the study associations. So really important to join those, again, not only for academic, but social reasons. 

Then there are student associations. And so, these are more sort of the social groups and they're going to be around interests, usually. There are those offered through the university, and it might be, you know, an international students association. It might be about different interests, be it photography, or the arts, or religion, or specific ethnic background. And then, there are the student associations through the city, not the university. And so, it will be for students who live in Rotterdam, for instance. And they might be sports or social or around interests as well. And it's nice because it does help expose you and help you meet students from other universities who live in the same city also. 

So there's also ESN. It’s the Erasmus Student Network. And they are definitely seen as more of something for exchange students, but totally use them, especially in the beginning. It’s for all international students, and they often, you know, have ways to help you get through whatever obstacles you might be facing that first semester. These are other students who have studied abroad, usually just for a semester, but they definitely have the resources to help. They often have really cool social activities. And even trips, you know, that you can go on for discounted prices that are already organized. So check it out, definitely, even though it's seen as more of something for study abroad students for semester abroad. 

So what's cool is that – again, it's not just ESN who offers trips. Sometimes student associations will, sometimes study associations will. It's a great place to be because it's super connected to Europe. You can get most places in the country from anywhere in the country, as we talked about before, in under three hours. You can take a train to Paris from Amsterdam in three hours, Brussels to two hours. It's just a one hour flight to Berlin, an hour-and-a-half to Prague, two hours to Barcelona. So there's a major airport in Amsterdam, but there are also smaller airports in Rotterdam, Groningen, Maastricht and Eindhoven. So there's a lot of great ways to get around and explore the country and explore Europe as a whole.

Slide 4: Sports

  • Associations
  • League

So let's talk about sports for a minute. It's not the big collegiate sports like it is here, but there are definitely plenty of opportunities to participate. For instance, Groningen alone has over 55 student sports associations, lots of ways to get involved as a participant. There are also leagues. We actually work with a student who went to school, went to university in the Netherlands to go the route that would take him to be a professional soccer player. But there’s also for spectators, you know. You're not going to be going to an American football game and tailgating. But soccer is really big there. For instance, there are two professional leagues that have many teams. There's a semi-professional league, and then seven levels of amateur leagues. So you know, your town is likely to have a – or your city is likely to have a team that they root for, and you go to the pubs and you watch it. So there's still a sports culture, if that's something that you want. 

Slide 5: Working

  • Full time in summer OR part-time (10 hours) during school year. Not both.
  • 1 year residence permit to look for a job after graduating – can use anytime within 3 years of graduating

So in terms of working as a student, you can work either full time in the summer, or part time, 10 hours a week during the school year. But here's a really cool thing. You know, after you graduate from anywhere in Europe, you have a certain amount of time that you can look for a job, you know, on a different permit after graduating, usually around six months or so. In the Netherlands, after you graduate, you have one year, which is more than other countries, to stay in the country and look for a job. And here's the even cooler thing, you can use that year, anytime within three years of graduating. So let's say you graduate, and you think you're going to move back home, and you come back to the States. And you work for a year or two and you're like, “Boy, you know what? I really want to find a job in the Netherlands.” You can go live there for a year, even though you graduated two years ago to look for a job. 

Slide 6: Housing

  • SSH/DUWO – under 550 euros per month
  • Student hotel – around 750 euros per month
  • Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Groningen, Maastricht, Rotterdam, The Hague
  • Room Plaza

So now we are going to get on to housing, which is something I know you probably have a lot of questions about. I will say that this is probably the biggest problem with going to school in the Netherlands right now. Not insurmountable, but definitely requires a lot for planning.

So we already touched on how housing is required, thus provided and guaranteed, for at least the first year in almost all of the university colleges. Generally speaking, this is a little more expensive, and the type of accommodation varies. At Groningen, for instance, University College students have a room in a block of just the regular student residences. At Leiden University College though – that's one I pointed out before – there are floors of their building. The Leiden University students have one building that has all of their classrooms, student residence rooms, cafe, all of it is in one building. And again, that is super, super nice housing. 

  • SSH/DUWO – under 550 euros per month

So for everybody else, you don't have guaranteed housing. There's no guaranteed housing unless you're at a University College. So there are a couple of really big housing providers if – let me back up for a minute. Because what you might not know, if you haven't watched any of the other courses or webinars, in Europe as a whole, what's different is generally schools do not own their own housing, their student residences, but they are owned by private providers. And the schools sometimes contract with them, or have arrangements with them, and that's how it works. So there are a couple of really big housing providers in the Netherlands, there's SSH for certain cities, and then DUWO for other cities. 

So many schools reserve a certain number of rooms with these providers for first year international students. However, the rooms they rent certainly don't meet the needs of all international students. Usually, it's only about 25% or so. It's usually first come or first serve, so it's really important to follow the university protocol to get on the list. 

For the housing through DUWO and SSH, you can expect to find a single room for under 550 euros a month. Sometimes it's well under that, depending on the city and the accommodations and all of that. Single rooms generally share a kitchen and a common area with a certain number of other rooms, like three to eight, and either have a private bath or a shared bath. So if you're able to get a room through your school, that's great. This is generally the most affordable way to go for the first year, as many students end up renting an apartment their second year on, which is even more affordable. 

But let me tell you about a mistake that is easy to make. One of our members  knew that he could and should apply for housing right after he applied to a university, even before he got in. And so, he completed the application, and he was feeling pretty good about things. It wasn't until his mom was later on the site – she saw that you're not officially on the list until a 350 euro nonrefundable deposit is paid. Now she knew she hadn't been asked to pay that, and she knew that her son didn’t not have 350 euros in his account. So they weren't on the list until two months after they thought we were. 

So they paid the deposit and were on the list. And they sent a bunch of emails to find out where they were on the list, but that didn’t give them concrete answers. So they looked for Plan b housing, which we are going to talk about, but he was thankfully offered housing before it was needed. 

So the options outside of DUWO and SSH for student residences vary from city to city. Almost every school has a resource list on their website. I suggest not only looking at the website of the school you're looking at, but also other schools in the city. e. 

  • Student hotel – around 750 euros per month

So one option in a lot of the country is something called The Student Hotel. It's a chain and it's in the Netherlands. They have a few locations in other European cities, with expansions to a lot of other cities in the works as well. So usually somewhere around 250 students live there, give or take. They have a standard room, which is a — well, there are different room options. So the lowest room option, if you will, is a single bed, a private bath, shared kitchen. They do also have private – more of a studio setup too. Those are more expensive. But that standard room, it’s around 750 euros a month. 

So with that, there's a shared kitchen, there are a number of lounge areas, a study lounge, a gym, a game area. It’s sort of a general hanging out lounge. And it also comes with a bike rental, which is good. And they have options for meal plans. But I can tell you that they're not cheap. It's about 10 euros a meal, which is a main or a pizza, a side and a drink. So I could see us, if we end up doing the student hotel, just having a handful of meals a month that he could use, if needed. So anyway, it's not the cheapest option. But I think it’s a good solid option. 

We do have some members, we have a member who is living in the Student Hotel her first year in Groningen, and another one who is living in the Student Hotel in Rotterdam. If you're in our Facebook member group, their parents are both on there, so feel free to ask questions. 

  • Room Plaza

So there's also a service called Room Plaza in certain cities in the Netherlands, and there are a number of services that are similar. And they help you find furnished apartments. This one specifically, furnished apartments for students. And what's nice about this is that they have relationships with the landlords of the places that they list, and they kind of vet the apartments first so you don't get scammed, and you know what you're going into. 

And there are other ways to get an apartment. Certainly, there are rental agencies. There are lots of Facebook groups, and there are resources on the individual school websites. 

So for the second year though, students generally get a shared apartment with their friends.  Ideally, they will have a Dutch friend who can help navigate the system as there is a lot of noise about housing discrimination against international students. It’s hard to know how much of this is sort of the media stocking fears and how much is legit. Again, you can talk to parents who have or are dealing with this in the facebook group. Here’s what I do know-we have not had any members who have had to leave because they did not get housing. Is it a pain? Absolutely! But impossible, no.