The most common question I’ve been asked since arriving here has got to be “why did you choose for Utrecht?”, a question often accompanied by a subtext of ‘what’s wrong with the UK?’ and a general incomprehension of why a seemingly quiet girl from the north of England would want to live in the Netherlands. Recently, I was even contacted by the university who wanted to better understand why international students chose Utrecht, and how they could help make the decision making process even easier.
I suppose that one of the biggest and most obvious reasons for coming here was tuition fees. I’ve always been a fairly money conscious person and the low fees really sparked my interest. With Dutch universities jumping up the global rankings in recent years, the increased publicity helped to put them on my radar. After the government raised the fees in the UK to £9,000 per year, the thought of only paying a sixth of the price-£1,500 per year (the same as the Dutch students because of EU membership) for the same (or even better) standard of education, made it a very appealing option.
Lots of international students also have relatives or friends already in the Netherlands. For me this wasn’t exactly the case, although I had a few contacts through school and family friends, there wasn’t anyone I really knew here. However, having other English students with first hand experience who I could ask practical questions to was really helpful. They all encouraged me that choosing to study in the Netherlands was one of the best decisions they had ever made, and one that I would not regret. They were right.
For me, as for most students, the location wasn’t my only consideration. I also wanted to find a course that I could enjoy. I knew that I wanted to study Economics, and struggled to find a university in the Netherlands that didn’t offer an English taught programme, so I had a lot of choice. Utrecht School of Economics really stood out to me because of their ethos- “The Real World Perspective”, something that I found lacking in many other courses both abroad and in the UK.
I have always loved city breaks, and nobody makes a better tour guide than my dad. Our trips around Europe in recent years made the thought of being based in continental Europe, and the ease of travelling, often without even having to board a plane, another big reason for studying here. Recently I travelled to Antwerp in Belgium, a drive that in the same amount of time would usually only get me halfway from Sheffield to London.
Anyone who knows me very well will know that I hate making decisions. I’m also a big fan of making decisions slightly outside the box, instead of choosing ‘option 1’ or ‘option 2’ I’ll often opt for a ‘third option’ or some kind of combination of the other options available. For me, doing my whole bachelors degree abroad was a good combination of ‘go to uni in the UK’ or ‘do a gap year and go travelling’ which I had previously seen as my only choices. I developed a kind of stubbornness about doing something a bit out of the ordinary meaning I missed the deadline for applications to universities in the UK and focused all my energy on figuring out studying here. Because the application procedure was a bit different I only applied to one university, but I think that the expected appearance of some Dutch universities on UCAS could make applying to the Netherlands much easier and more appealing. Of course there are other countries to consider when thinking about studying abroad, but few with as many courses offered in English.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a year since I visited the open day in Utrecht. I spent a weekend here with a friend in November 2014, I remember thinking that it was a lovely place and somewhere I could see myself living, and now I do! The Dutch people we met couldn’t have been more welcoming or helpful all weekend, which reinforced all of the good things I had heard. I had also visited the University of Amsterdam earlier in the year, and I really liked both the city and the university but decided that maybe it was a little too touristy for me and after discovering Utrecht, sometimes referred to as “Amsterdam’s cool little brother”, I realised it was a much better fit for me; a big city feel with a friendly atmosphere.
It may have taken me a whole semester to completely figure out how or why I ended up here, but it’s something that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for an adventure or just something a bit different.
Until next time, tot ziens!