It’s hard to believe summer is ending, mostly because I don’t really remember it starting…From March until now seems like it’s been one long season called Covid.

It’s been a pretty good summer, all things considered. As I mentioned before, Sam hiked the Camino de Santiago with friends, spent some time with us here in Portugal, and then returned to the Netherlands to move from the Hague to Rotterdam. I was concerned that he would check out academically after deciding to change schools in the spring, but he ended the second semester with really strong grades in all his classes. I feel like he’s going into his year at Rotterdam with the confidence he needs for a great year. More on his program and experiences in coming weeks.

As I’ve mentioned before, Ellie spent the 2019-20 school year doing online school for 10th grade (intentionally…). We knew we would be moving midyear and this gave her the opportunity to do a lot of travel before settling down. She’ll be starting at in international school here in Portugal next week for her final two years of high school. She’s already getting a taste of the incredibly diverse set of friends and welcoming international community that many of our members have when they start at European universities. Several kids from Ellie’s new school reached out to her this summer. She’s made friends from Brazil, Denmark, India, Mexico, France, as well as an American who was raised in Singapore. Like our members studying in Europe, Ellie has connected with these kids based on their common interests as well as the shared experience of living outside their home country. She’s especially happy that she won’t have to worry about whether she will have anyone to sit with at lunch on her first day of school!

Because many of you are in a similar stay of the college hunt as we are with Ellie, I want to keep you updated on how we are approaching the process. One of our long term members has a daughter who is finishing up her thesis this semester at AAU in Prague and also has a son who is starting at Leiden this month. She talked about how very different the search process was for each of her kids and that’s something I’m experiencing now with Ellie! Sam’s areas of interest were all related-political science, international relations, area studies. It was easy to find many programs that combined these various interests. It’s not quite so easy with Ellie…

Ellie’s academic interests have developed over the past few years which, of course, is common. We have put less emphasis on exploring specific schools or programs over the last years, and more time thinking about areas of study that match her interests. I’ve sent her links of related programs to look at, not to decide if she’s interested in that particular program, but to get a better idea of what she does and doesn’t like about the areas of study. By doing this, she has been able to decide that, though she has related interests outside the classroom, she’s not interested in studying media studies or programs related to animal protection. The interests that have she has maintained relate to sustainability studies, tourism, possibly marketing, and possibly some areas of psychology. This exercise has helped her determine more specifically what she IS looking for in a program as well. For instance, by looking at various programs related to sustainability, she was able to explain to me that she’s more interested in those with a multidisciplinary approach and less science-based.

One issue that Sam had with his original program is that he realized that he was not a fan of economics. He had never taken an economics course, so didn’t know that in advance. Unfortunately, economics was a part represent in classes most semesters of the program, which is one reason he decided to change. We are trying to avoid that problem with Ellie. She took Environmental Science last year and this year will take Environmental Systems and Societies. This is a multi disciplinary class somewhat aligned with the type of sustainability programs she thinks are interesting. Since tourism is essentially a specialization of business, she is also taking Business Studies this year. This can help her learn now whether this is something she finds interesting and-if so-which aspects are and are not particularly interesting to her. She’s already taken psychology and at this point finds aspects interesting, but not enough for it to be the focus of an entire program.

Since she has a better idea of her interests, we have started looking at specific programs. Right now, there are a few Dutch university colleges that appeal to her. In case you aren’t familiar, let me take a minute to explain. Each Dutch research university has a self contained programs that is considered to be liberal arts. This is because students have a broad curriculum during the first year that often serves as an introduction to the different study choices and choose a major (or theme, depending on the structure) the second year.

Ellie is especially interested in Erasmus University College as they have majors in Sustainability Studies, Business, and Psychology (in addition to 15 others) which keeps her options open. She’s also interested in University College Fryslan, which is one of the university colleges with University of Groningen. The entire program and majors related to the UN Sustainability Goals with majors presented as themes like Responsible Planet (science focus), Responsible Governance (economics and political science focus) and Responsibility Humanity which is most aligned with her interests with global health and psychology focus areas. We’re also looking at other multidisciplinary programs that combine some of these interest areas, like the International Environmental and Development Studies program at Norwegian University of Life Sciences

We’ve discussed tourism and feel like, if she decides that she enjoys business, choosing a business program that potentially allows for classes in tourism will be a better fit for her than a specialized tourism program. NHL Stenden University of Applied Science was on her radar for their tourism program, so she is now looking at their Creative Business and International Business programs. She’s also looking at Toulouse Business School and will likely look at some schools in Finland if she decides on business as well.

Of course, we’ve postponed the school visits we were planning to take this Thanksgiving. Even if travel is doable in November, I don’t think she will get as good of a feel for the schools until covid has passed. We are (FINGERS CROSSED) planning on visiting this spring. By that point, she will be well into her environmental science and business classes and hopefully have some more insight into those areas of interest which will make the trips more meaningful. In the meantime, a lot schools are having many more online events for prospective students, given the circumstances affecting so many. Ellie will likely participate in some of these online events as well, particularly if her list of potential schools and programs grows.

So, that’s how we approached the initial aspects of our search. Having a strategy around admissions requirements, safety school, and related admissions issues is also key. More on that in an upcoming blog!

Interested in navigating the options yourself? Whether you need help determining study areas that relate to your interests or are ready to dive in and explore specific programs and schools our BACK TO SCHOOL SPECIAL is for you! Join Beyond the States now and receive access to both the Choosing A Major in Europe and Choosing a University in Europe self paced classes. The regular non-member price for these courses is $75 each. Join now and the courses will be unlocked and waiting for you in the portal-at no additional cost!