7 reasons to study in Holland

January 10, 2020

7 reasons to study in Holland

By Carey Christie

One of my favorite aspects of the Honors Program is its commitment to diversity and cultural openness. Exemplifying this commitment are the ever-evolving opportunities to engage in problem-solving learning across different continents and subjects through study abroad.

Last summer I co-facilitated a trip with iSchool faculty leads Trent Hill and Rose Paquet, bringing 28 students (half in iSchool Masters and half undergrads from lots of different majors) to learn about cultural heritage innovation in The Netherlands, especially as applied to issues like historical colonization, violence against marginalized populations, and the activist work of “humanizing” spaces and services.

Meeting international thought leaders in intentionally designed spaces led to many unforgettable conversations. Design Innovations in the Netherlands is being offered again this summer, along with other exciting study abroad programs exploring population health in Zimbabwe, indigenous leadership on environmental and human rights in Ecuador, art & politics in Peru, literature about justice in Sweden/Iceland, conservation in Costa Rica and crisis narratives in Italy.

Each study abroad program is completely different from anything you’ll do at home. In case your imagination (or motivation) could use a nudge, here are a few of my favorite Netherlands-based examples of the cool, surprising experiences you might have when you study abroad.

#1: Tea partying in an urban edible garden

urban garden tea party - Amsterdam

I would never have found this place on my own. Featured here is a culture-building environmental justice warrior who’s transforming formerly ignored or unloved urban spaces into community-tended edible forests.

#2: Hanging out with awesome library geniuses

awesome librarians at oba

If you think libraries are just places to get books or print assignments, spend some time at Amsterdam’s OBA. It’s got all the good parts of a library, plus extremely playful, beautiful and pragmatic design and community programming.

#3: Visiting the North Sea

North Sea swimmers - Amsterdam 2019

For a short time each year it is actually fun to swim in the North Sea and there are several great beaches reachable by bus and train. There are also live shows and bars on the dunes, so you can make a long day of it.

#4: Charming outdoor cafes for days (and nights)

charming cafes are literally everywhere

I’m not alone here. Almost every student who came on the trip blogged about things they noticed, loved and wondered about during the time they spent at sidewalk cafes. In no time at all you’ll discover your favorites, and the hardest part will be forcing yourself to try the place your friend suggested.

#5: Learning how Dutch innovators grapple with colonialism, multiculturalism and displacement on lots of (nearly 20) site visits

street art mash up - Amsterdam

“Housed” in a neighborhood that’s actively coping with displacement, systemic racism and xenophobia, intergenerational poverty, and other considerable challenges, Street Art Museum of Amsterdam (SAMA) is one of many grassroots attempts by artists and community leaders to foster dialogue and equity. Their guided walk through an outdoor collection of more than 200 artworks draws visitors to care about an environment where tourists rarely tread. The art at SAMA continues to evolve and disappear…

#6: Seeing lots of live shows (you’re in luck, they’re in English)

Dutch people learn English by the time they’ve completed fifth grade (and several other languages, too). The upside for monolingual or even bilingual Americans is that the vast majority of arts & cultural options are easy to navigate. And there’s no shame starting conversations in English or French or whatever language you like best. So check out some concerts or other shows after class and make new friends.

#7: Visiting this real-life Minecraft level in “the Hollywood of Holland”

Hilversum archives or Minecraft level?

The national media archives in Hilversum are one of many weird and exciting buildings where designers have brought magic to life, because that’s what humans need to do good work and be inspired.

This is one of the best times of your life to travel

Bonus reason: Fulfilling academic requirements while living and learning abroad can be surprisingly affordable for UW students, since program fees are in place of tuition and the cost of getting there is often similar to living costs you might encounter in Seattle (or wherever you spend your summers). In addition to UW’s extensive study abroad support systems, Honors offers two International Access Scholarships each year to help adventurous students embrace this transformative experience.

If you haven’t already connected with a faculty lead to more about the programs, it’s not too late to get started! Our study abroad site has details about info sessions and also contact information for faculty leads.