Cosy student city
Laura: 'Leeuwarden is nice and conveniently arranged. You can cross the city in an hour, everything is conveniently close together. You don't get lost easily. And it is a cosy city with its beautiful canals, cafés and historic buildings. 'Finding your way around Leeuwarden is easier than on campus,' Olga adds, laughing. Laura already had a law degree, but was looking for a combination with politics and administration. 'I really wanted to go to the Netherlands and the Thorbecke Academy study programme really stood out for me. As far as I could check, it is the best there is.' Olga was especially keen to study outside Italy for a while, especially also to improve her English. In the UK, she could not find an affordable and suitable course. She was looking for something at the intersection of politics, governance and diplomacy. For her, in European Studies, these come together just fine.
"I wanted to study politics and public administration in the Netherlands. This course at NHL Stenden was, in my eyes, the best there is."
Different way of teaching
For both Laura and Olga, the biggest difference is the educational concept. In both Latvia and Italy, teaching is much more classroom-based and one-way. The lecturer is speaking and the students are listeners. Laura: 'Here at NHL Stenden, there is much more interaction. We work in groups on assignments and learn from the teacher but also from each other. The students offer help if you ask for it.' Olga: 'In Italy, you have to learn a book of a thousand pages by heart and then you get an exam on that material. That is very different here. With the educational concept Design Based Education, you link theory to practical assignments.' Both find the education system in Leeuwarden a lot nicer, although it took some getting used to.
"Teaching at NHL Stenden is much more interactive than at home, where it is mainly one-way traffic between teacher and student. This is much more enjoyable."
Close international student group
The fact that an international group of students has formed within European Studies is something the ladies really like. 'The great thing is that we all come from very different countries,' says Laura. 'And not one country dominates: we come from Latvia, Germany, Portugal. It's a good mix,' Olga believes. 'We are also very close to each other. During the introduction week, we immediately got to know each other well. We go to parties together, on excursions or explore Leeuwarden. Sometimes we also seek each other out to study.'
"We have a very diverse class with all kinds of internationalities. We are very close and do a lot of things together."
The European Union and rise of the conservative right
The subjects during the course give a good insight into how difficult it is to not only create the European Union, but also make it work. 'That involves a lot of consultation and negotiation,' Olga now realises. 'There is no easy way to move forward together.' The election victory of the conservative-right in Italy saddens her. 'I actually prefer not to talk about it.' She puts her hands in front of her eyes. 'Many young people in Italy feel we are taking steps backwards.' She takes a breath. 'But who knows, better times may also break out again for us.' From the upcoming government, she expects little. Laura also thinks that for Latvia, the European Union is the best option. 'We need each other, although a common union is not an easy task. It takes time.'
Want to know more about the European Studies programme? View the study page.