International Student Perspective

Coming to study International Business Administration (IBA) at Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University in the Netherlands is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

- Miguel Angel Alcolea Sesse

It is a very friendly country that is tailored to international students, so you shouldn’t be afraid of starting this adventure. Moreover, the fact of not needing Dutch to study here, as there are many degrees in English, is a big advantage. On a personal level, studying abroad is such an enriching experience, it allows you to meet people from all imaginable places which opens your mind and gives you a concept of the world that you wouldn’t get staying in your country of origin. Not only that, you get a massive dose of learning experience and growth as an individual, especially in the first few months after coming.

However, not everything is as nice as it sounds, apart from the weather, as if you come from a warm climate you might find it terrifying. This adventure brings with it many challenges, both academic and extracurricular. As IBA has the highest number of applicants in the country, the level of the students and the expectations that are placed on them are quite high and this is reflected in all areas. For example, the correction criteria for the subjects are quite strict and sometimes frustrating: the grades for an essay assignment do not usually reach higher than 8.5 despite the quality of the research paper. It is an educational style based on self-study, which means that you have very few classes per week and a lot of free time to organize yourself, but requires many hours of individual study, and a great ability to build your schedule and not lose track of classes and assignments, which is the first big change compared to what was in high school. 

Courses are usually divided into lectures and workshops. Lectures are large rooms where the professor teaches theoretical content and where usually there is no possibility to solve doubts on the spot. Workshops, on the other hand, are smaller groups of about 30 people where the class has a much more practical approach and is given by a teacher assistant (TA), usually a student from a higher course than yours. The teaching pace is quite high, with blocks of 2-3 and even 4-5 subjects that last from 7 to 11 weeks maximum, this is so because the content of such a broad degree is taught in 3 years, which practically reduces to 2 because the third year is composed of exchange or internship and complemented by minor subjects and a thesis.

About extracurriculars, there is a huge catalog of opportunities that can be overwhelming at first. Focusing on what the university has to offer, apart from sports clubs, associations are a great attraction for students and one of the driving forces of the university. There are all kinds of associations, mainly multicultural, which help students to integrate more easily into this new environment, as is the case of International Students Rotterdam (ISR), of which I am the officer of the International Business Fair Officer. There are also others for finance, photography, marketing, consultancy, entrepreneurship, etc. 

How associations work is quite simple, in the first year you as a student can choose between being a passive member, by simply enjoying the activities organized by the association without responsibilities, or on the other hand if from the beginning you want to gain experience and build your CV you can apply and become an active member which involves working on a committee within the association. Already during the second year, you can apply to be part of the board, which is a group of 4-6 people who are in charge of the smooth running of the association.

The fact of having so few class hours and so much free time means that you can occupy your time with different activities based on your interests, especially in the second year when people usually look for part-time jobs, get deeply involved in the associations, where, for example, I am on two different boards, the aforementioned ISR and Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship (ECE), or also the possibility of looking to do an internship during your studies, which is something not that common in many other countries.

The Netherlands is a relatively small country with great train connections between cities, which makes it easy to get around quickly. Nightlife in general tends to take place during the week, here in Rotterdam mainly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the clubs organize the most popular parties for students. However, the biggest party to look out for is every April 27th, King’s Day, when everyone dresses up in orange and takes to the streets to celebrate.

Overall, I would recommend any student to come and study here, not only because of the high level of the universities, but also because of the safety, quality of life in the country, and the opportunities it offers. 

Your international family!

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