Home Student Life Studying in Amsterdam in English – My Experience

Studying in Amsterdam in English – My Experience

by Micaela Zaslabsky

Between 90 and 93% of the Dutch population speaks English without any problem. This makes the Netherlands one of the best countries to live if you speak English: everything you need to will find in Dutch and English, including education, from elementary schools to university degrees and research programmes.

In Amsterdam you will be able to:

  • Do your BA degree in English
  • Do your MA degree in English
  • Find a parttime job in English
  • Follow up your career in English
Me studying at the Stedelijk Museum Library

Amsterdam is a city where students will be able to develop their knowledge and experience at any possible level and always in English. It is also one of the most popular cities to study in the world. There are some things to consider, but all in all from your BA until your first job you can do it in English. To learn more about this process and how it works, keep reading my experience.

Study in English: Amsterdam Edition

Even though Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands and it is spoken by over 30 million people in the world, you can live, work and study in the Netherlands without having much knowledge of the Dutch language than just saying Goeiemorgen!

In Amsterdam, there are two internationally ranked universities that offer hundreds of programmes in both languages: the Universiteit van Amsterdam and the Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam, both of them research universities.

The UvA is the second-best university in the Netherlands after Wageningen University || Photo Courtesy of the University of Amsterdam || Facebook Profile

If you are planning on studying in the Netherlands, there are a number of things you have to consider. Of course, you will be able to study in English but the whole way everything works, the system and the way they think it is different no matter what language we are talking about. All in all, it is a different culture! Here are some important points:

  1. English Proficiency: what are the expectations.
  2. Native English Speakers: easier to find a job and not so easy to find native English speaking professors.
  3. Dutch Ways: block system, autonomous work, dynamics of the class, using English instead of speaking it…

English Proficiency

Depending on what University you are applying to, and also depending on what programme you are applying for. In general, they accept three different types of English Proficiency tests:

  1. Being an English native speaker who has studied in English
  2. You have graduated from an English speaking high school (a full English programme)
  3. You have done a Dutch VWO programme and got an 8 or higher grade.
  4. TOEFL score (internet): 95 or higher
  5. IELTS score: 7.0 or higher
  6. Cambridge CAE: Grade A
  7. Cambridge CPE: Grade C or higher

These are some examples of the requirements for English proficiency in a Humanities Programme at the UvA. If you check the same requirements in an average American university or Irish university you will see that the requirements are much lower: for instance, a TOEFL 80 instead of 95.

Therefore, one can be sure that the level of students who are in the Netherlands right now is equally as high or even higher than the level you will be expected to have in other countries.

Studying in Amsterdam: for Native English Speakers

It is very different to be in Amsterdam as a native English speaker or a non-native speaker. In my opinion as a Spanish speaker, the others have many advantages!!! Here are some of the ones I have experienced:

  • Jobs: both during your studies and after your studies, there are many companies who are desperate to find a native English speaker. As well as the Dutch speak English, it is never the same. HOW TO GET A PART-TIME JOB IN THE NETHERLANDS? MY EXPERIENCE
  • Professors: sometimes your professors will be Dutch speakers who will ask you how to say something, if something is correct and you will start feeling the Dutch way of teaching, everybody can learn something new and teach something to someone!
  • Comfort: you will not have to use anything else but your mother tongue unless you want to. It is definitely a big advantage. Besides, Dutch belongs to the same family language as English, which all in all it is an advantage (if you want to know more about it, click here)

Non-native English Speakers

Even though I believe English Native Speakers would have many more advantages than non-native English speakers studying in the Netherlands, these are some of the advantages I have found out myself after many years studying in the Netherlands:

  • Dictionary: unless it is an English grammar class, you are allowed to bring your own dictionary even for exams. This is due to the fact that it is not fair for non-native speakers to have the same level of understanding natives do. Ask for it and there is a high chance you will be able to bring it along.
  • Making mistakes: yes! some of your professors will be native English speakers but some may not and your classmates may not. There is plenty of room for mistake, it is up to you to just speak, make mistakes, learn new words and things along with the professor himself.
  • Language Lessons: one of the best jobs for me as a Spanish translator was to give Spanish lessons in my free time and take advantage of that. If you want to know more ideas of parttime jobs to perform in the Netherlands, here I have written an article.

Things to Consider: Studying in Amsterdam

Well, I have been a UvA student myself and I could find dozens of reasons why it is a great idea to study there, of course, in English. However, here are some facts about why it is a great idea to study in English in Amsterdam:

Prestige and Popularity

Once again, I have already written a full article on all the advantages of studying in the two internationally awarded universities in Amsterdam (read here) but here are the highlights:

My Favorite spots for studying in Amsterdam -> Here
  • In Amsterdam, you can study in the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA) and the Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam (VU). Both universities are on the top 100 on international rankings.
  • Amsterdam is the number 24th on the world ranking according to QS Best Student City.
  • Two of the top 10 universities in the Netherlands.

English Speaking Programmes

Both the UvA and the VU have many BA English taught programmes, almost all their MA degrees are in English and all the PhD with some exceptions are also in English. The whole idea is to make the system more international and have higher publication chances, higher international impact, attract international staff and students that would contribute to the diversity and knowledge of the Dutch.

In the UvA these are the English-taught programmes:

  • BA degrees: 21 three-year English-taught programmes
  • MA degrees: over 200 one/two-year English-taught programmes.
  • PhD opportunities: currently over 30 vacancies (find out more here)

In the VU these are the English-taught programmes:

  • BA degrees: 30 English-taught BAs (link)
  • MA degrees: 175 English-taught MAs (link)
  • PhD opportunities: find out more about it here.

Exchange Possibilities

Having so many programmes and therefore so many lessons in English gives many students the chance to do an exchange programme. I was a translator had to choose a University that would have many different language options but mostly needed to find English-taught lessons that would allow me to do the convalidation of my subjects back at my university in Valencia, Spain.

TIP: find out more about it at YOUR OWN home university, then if they do you can check out the UvA and the VU requirements and application procedure.

Reasons to Study in Amsterdam

If what you have read is still not enough to convince you this is probably the best decision you will make in your life, these are some other reasons why you should at least consider studying in Amsterdam:

  1. TUITION FEES: if you are an EU-citizen, the lowest tuition fee applies to you automatically. This is the same type of help from the Government that Dutch students receive when they are studying their first programme. If you want to learn more about tuition fees, read my article.
  2. CAREER OPPORTUNITIES: Amsterdam is the place of many headquarters, international companies both national and foreign. It is a great opportunity for Art students, History Students, Diplomacy and Politics, Business and Economics, Engineerings, Tourism and Hospitality, Fashion and Design, etc.
  3. THESIS IN ENGLISH: An advantage I had after studying in the Netherlands was the creation of my BA thesis in English, something relatively hard to do in countries like Spain. In my case, this was an advantage to then apply for MA programmes who asks you to present a paper or dissertation in English, a proper paper that has been checked and that is ready to publish in order to assess your knowledge of both academic writing and the English language.
  4. CLASS DYNAMICS: if you like the autonomous work, you like to be heard and you think you can have something to add to the lecture, you have experiences and your opinion is just as valid, this is definitely a good place to start. Besides, since many lectures are seminars and you are encouraged to participate, you will also gain a lot of spoken fluency in English, a great advantage.

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