Fields of windmills, hills of green pastures, fairytale like castles, tulips, and wooden shoes in part captures the essence of the Netherlands’ culture. While loyal to most of its traditions, the Netherlands today is entertaining, lively and modern. From soccer (association football), and beer to gourmet cuisine, you will find everything and more in this European country. Moreover, different parts of the Netherlands have varying characteristics. The capital, Amsterdam, is home to grand architecture, charming canals and many famous museums; the well-preserved medieval city, Maastricht, reflects the culture of Southern Netherlands. The small city, Leiden, is known for founding the Netherland’s oldest university, and “the judicial capital”, Hague, is the residency of the Netherlands royal family.
Why the Netherlands?
In addition to the Netherlands biking experience, tulips and nightlife, there are many opportunities that draw students to study in the Netherlands. The extremely progressive culture is a main attraction.
The Netherlands offers many programs for your study abroad experience from art, culture, history and health to canal cruises. Many great artists come from the Netherlands, Van Gogh and Rembrandt, and the city of Delft have the best light for art lovers! The Netherlands is one the top countries in Europe with the lowest consumption of medication, including antibiotics, so for those interested in health and psychology, it offers a new perspective. Choosing to study abroad in the Netherlands could also be a chance to immerse into a new and very interesting culture. Dutch is the language of the Netherlands, but English is spoken almost everywhere in the Netherlands.
There are always opportunities to enjoy the day and nightlife in the Netherlands, especially in its capital Amsterdam. Amsterdam is known for its appealing canals and the large Red Light District. The center of Amsterdam is catered toward a college-age crowd, and tourists from around the world. Belgian fries, waffles, gelato, stroopwafels (Dutch waffle cookies) serve the crowd day and night. The unique Amsterdam canals become the backdrop of many photos taken by tourists and locals. Dam Square is known for having street performances during the day and at night, and often viewers may be asked to participate. It is not uncommon to see a wide range of people of all ages walking through Amsterdam, as its sights appeal to many. Amsterdam is also home to notable museums such as the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House.
Things To Do
Outside of Amsterdam, the Netherlands has many cities and must-see locations. Leiden is a very small Dutch city that still has the “Dutch” feel, it resembles pictures found in a storybook. The city also houses the oldest university in the Netherlands, Leiden University. Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands and has the largest seaport in Europe. Cubed houses are a must see and the Saturday market in the city center is quite the experience, especially for foods lovers. In Utrecht there is a real castle that was built for a French family from Nice. Half of the castle is open for spectators to experience and see the elegance and beauty of the castle, Kasteel de Haar. There is beauty found in every Netherlands city and there are many beautiful beaches. For example, Scheveningen in Den Haag has a pier that has free entry to the top and it has a beautiful view. The Netherlands has amazing public transportation and bike routes so getting places is not a problem, especially from Amsterdam.
There are many scholarships to fund your study abroad experience. Here is a list of Diversity Abroad scholarships available for study in this country:
For more scholarships, visit Scholarships for Study Abroad in the Netherlands
A couple of important links to help you stay healthly and secure while traveling to the Netherlands
If you have studied abroad in the Netherlands, consider creating a profile and sharing your experience. What you have to say could help inspire another student considering studying abroad. You can also submit an article to be considered for publication on our website.
Also, here are some links to potential opportunities for students who have studied abroad and graduates interested in work opportunities in the Netherlands.
"I studied abroad in the Netherlands for 5.5 months from January – June 2016. While I am African American, I often got asked where in Africa I was from even after stating that I am from the United States. American history, including the history of slavery, may not be taught in many parts of the world, which could explain the lack of understanding of the concept of African American and not having direct “roots” in Africa. I attended Leiden University (Universiteit Leiden) in Leiden, but I lived in Den Haag, a 12-minute train ride from Leiden. I found the Dutch don’t interact with foreigners much outside of businesses, and I also learned in my cross-cultural psychology course that they aren’t really open to foreigners. I chose the Netherlands because I had been learning Dutch for 1.5 years and wanted to continue learning in a native setting. I do not have a Dutch accent and often found that when I spoke Dutch to people they would respond in English. I was not able to experience the Netherlands during their Christmas tradition that includes Zwarte Piet (Black Pete, Santa’s Jolly Slave, or whatever one would like to call it), but as a Black person and taking many Dutch courses prior to my arrival being Black in the Netherlands, living here can be a bit uncomfortable at times, even though it’s a “progressive” country. The idea of discomfort and learning and growing from that is another reason why I chose the Netherlands. Through my experience I realized that even one of the most progressive countries can still grow in its understanding of race". – Mylaica, a Diversity Abroad Fellow
Note: These tips are intended to serve as an overview and are not exhaustive. Be sure to research your destination thoroughly as your identity can have a significant impact on your experience abroad.
The Netherlands is home to many different ethnicities, including a large Surinamese population. Non-Dutch are always easily identifiable among the Dutch. While the country is considered progressive in many areas, students have occasionally encountered subtle micro-aggressions. Major cities, such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam are accustomed to welcoming Westerners and have a high tourist crowd. Den Haag has greater racial diversity than less populated areas of the country, as it is a common destination for immigrants and migrants to live.
In the Netherlands a wide range of gender identities and expressions are visible and accepted, as well as different sexualities. The Netherlands, being a very progressive country, offers activities and safe spaces for LGBTQ students to have a good time. Many of the restrooms around the Netherlands are gender neutral and freedom of expression is widely seen across the country.
In the Netherlands, Article 1 of the constitution prohibits any form of discrimination, including discrimination towards individuals with disabilities. The Netherlands has developed acccessbible travel opportunties throughout the country by implementing accessible ways to explore the country. Public transportation, restaurants, museums, and tour companies have expanded their accomodations. There are many organizations that support students with mental and physical disabilities to help them have access to assistance. Many can be found in the following article:
The largest religious group in 2015 was Roman Catholic at 11.7%. The Netherlands was once predominantly Christian, but now many religions are openly practiced across the country and 25% of the population identifies as Atheist or non-believers. Since the Second World War, immigration introduced many religions to the Netherlands. Post-colonial immigrants from Indonesia, Suriname and the Caribbean and immigrants from Turkey and Morocco laid the groundwork for the current mix of religions. The Netherlands, especially its capital, Amsterdam, remains a popular destination among immigrants and asylum seekers from all over the world. The practice of different religions in the Netherlands is generally free.
It is not uncommon for women to travel alone in the Netherlands. Normal safety precautions are recommended (i.e. avoid traveling alone and don't walk in unlit areas). When traveling with handbags and purses, try to avoid walking too closely to bike lanes and there are some instances where bikers can grab your belongings. It may be reassuring to carry cash and passport in a money belt or bra pocket. Women can safely explore the red light district, but it is advised to travel with at least one person. In terms of hostels and hotels, follow normal safety precautions, and there are even some women-only hostels. There isn’t a dress code in the Netherlands; women are free to dress as they please, but be courteous of places such as restaurants and churches.
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