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Is Holland a good Erasmus destination? Part 1

Although many of us associate Holland with the Low Countries they aren't really the same. The Low Countries, the Netherlands, are made up of 12 provinces where we can find Northern and Southern Holland (which together create the area known as Holland), but there are many other areas such as Utrecht or Limburg, where I am currently.

My Erasmus started one week ago in Maastricht, the southernmost city of the Limburg province and of the whole country. The first thing you normally hear when considering Holland as a possible option is "careful, you'll have a mountain of work". The first time that I heard this I thought it was only directed at people who did Erasmus for tourism and didn't wish to take classes all year. After arriving here, and even though I've only had 4 days of classes, I see that they had a point.

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You have to bear in mind that, if you are thinking about coming to Holland with Erasmus, the school system here is very different to that in Spain, Italy, Poland or Austria. There are fewer contact hours here. To give you an idea, I tend to have one or two hours in class at most, and there are days where I don't have any classes at all. However, you receive a lot of work to do on your own at home. You receive exercises to read and solve by yourself (depending on your area of expertise), and afterwards you have practical classes with fewer students. In these, you debate and discuss what conclusions you reached after reading and completing the exercises. Remember: if you haven't done the work and don't take participate then you will be asked and, if you don't know or answer, you will be kicked out of the class. You will make a fool of yourself and you will be seen as lazy, since students here take the practical classes very, very seriously. Also, you cannot miss more than two of these classes, called "tutorials as if you do you will fail the subject in question.

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Contrary to the tutorials, there are other classes, lectures which are theoretical, in bigger lecture halls and are not compulsory. To study these you will have a book and the lectures are recorded as well, then uploaded to the student intranet to be used (the lecturer's voice as well as the slides), so you don't miss any details whilst taking notes.

Thinking about it, it's a very good way to learn. You are made to stay up to date on your work and you can't study at the last minute; quickly, poorly and from memory.

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Of course, I know that an Erasmus student who only wants to go out to party, would, here, fail all of the classes as a result of missing the tutorials, or for not taking part, or for all of these reasons together.

Even so, if you enjoy your course, you are mature and want to learn, this system is the ideal fit for you and you are going to greatly enrich your knowledge and your CV, because Dutch universities are very prestigious.

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And don't worry: if you prepare well then there is time to learn and to enjoy yourself, because the Dutch don't cut the party short. I'll talk about this in the next post ;)


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