The academic year has passed! Last September, more than two hundred anxious internationals gathered in Kriterion, to meet their soon to be friends, lovers and enemies for the first time. Little did they know that SPSS and statistics would make quite a few drop out and drive the rest of us crazy, or that Dutch lecturers could be so incredibly bad at translating their slides to English (why did they keep on writing how as hoe?).
We were excited; studying in Amsterdam, that must be the dream for sure! Or has that impression changed during this past year? Our international reporter Kajsa spoke with a some who have left their home countries to study the English communication science bachelor. Meet Begoña del Hoyo (Spain), Jeremy Sung (China), Annie Fritsch (Germany) and Beatriz Daim (Brazil).
As I explained what the interview would be about, Begoña exclaimed: “Ah! You want to talk about us being the guinea pigs!”
Yes, that’s a way to phrase it. This year was the first time the Communication Science track was held in English. I asked my fellow students: What was the biggest surprise when starting your studies here at the UvA?
Annie: I was really surprised how hard it was to find housing. (hums of agreement all around)
Jeremy: I thought it would be a lot more relaxed than the Asian system, but that’s not the case. Especially because we need the mandatory 48 credits to pass the year, which puts a lot of pressure on us international kids.
Begoña: Yeah I thought they would be a bit softer on us internationals (everyone laughs), but they’re as harsch with us as they are with the Dutch track.
Beatriz: I was very surprised that all the tutorials are mandatory! I’m used to the German system, where you basically only have to pass your exams. Here, if you skip one tutorial, you’re out.
My next question was what their best experience, educational wise, has been this year.
Annie: The courses are really up to date! Entertainment this year is different than entertainment last year, and I feel it’s all really relevant!
Beatriz: Looking back at what I knew a year ago and what I know now – it’s mind-blowing! I have learned so many things…
Begoña fills in: Even though we have been suffering! (everyone laughs)
Jeremy: I feel like I’m a lot more analytical. When I’m watching a movie, I can tell if it’s badly produced and stuff, and tell you why.
Sometimes it feels like I’m in kindergarten!
So, what would they change if they could change one thing?
Begoña: I would improve the exams. Sometimes, the questions are really poorly worded, and I think the quality of the questions in the exam does not match the quality that they demand from us in our answers.
Beatriz: I would make less stuff mandatory. Sometimes it feels like I’m in kindergarten! I’m a university student and I can take care of myself. If I want to skip one tutorial and catch up later, it should be my decision.
Annie: The dates of the resits are so inconvenient for internationals. Dutch students can easily retake stuff in the summer months, but for us, I mean Jeremy lives in China, is he supposed to come back here for one resit?
Jeremy: I would improve the communication. (Everyone laughs.) No pun intended! I think we’re kind of thrown in the water, especially since we’re internationals. I would really appreciate more information flowing between the university and its students.
It’s been a hell of a year. And some things you simply can’t learn in a strict university setting. We’ve learned how to bike drunk, to avoid psychopathic scooters, to appreciate Dutch cuisine (bitterballen en frikandellen broodjes!). We’ve compared backgrounds, been amused by cultural differences and travelled to each other’s home cities together. We have loved, laughed and cried (sometimes in lecture halls). We have cursed SPSS, found strange comfort in educational clips on Youtube and sprinkled references in our assignments (by the way, when do you stop doing that and actually start reading the papers you’re quoting?).
Merci Amsterdam, graçias UvA, it’s been a blast. See you in September.
Cover: Thomas Korver