Everything You Need to Know Before Studying Abroad in the Netherlands

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Studying abroad in the Netherlands should be your next move.

You’ve heard a lot of stories from your peers, your friends, or your friend's friends how they went and studied in Europe, how much fun it was, and how much they learned and experienced. And now you want to do it too! Given the fact that you dislike mountains and you reeeeally like cheese—plus (slightly) more serious stuff, like you appreciate progressive politics and equality—we’d like to highly recommend you consider studying in the Netherlands.

Canal boats in Amsterdam

Embrace the beauty, the lifestyle, and the Dutch pancakes. 🇳🇱

You want us to prove our claims? We’re game. 1) The “Netherlands” actually means “lowlands,” as a third of this magnificent country is lower than sea level, with its highest point being just over 1000 ft high. 2) There are no less than 15 unique cheeses that hail from here. 3) They are famous for secularism and even have a governmental policy on gedoogbeleid (tolerance), not to mention 4) they were the first country in the world to legalize same sex marriage. BOOM.

Pumped as we are? You’ve come to the right place, as this article will teach you all there is to know before studying abroad in Netherlands.

FAQs on Netherlands study abroad

Let’s get to know this faraway land, long dreamed of and little known. Read on to get all your questions answered: what to study and where, and how to party like a Dutch (hint: it doesn’t include tulip fields and wooden clogs).

Is it safe to study abroad in the Netherlands?

If you’ve been wondering if it’s safe to study abroad in the Netherlands, rest easy knowing it’s basically as safe as a country gets. The crime rate in the Netherlands is pretty low, and it’s regarded as generally safe for female travelers. In fact, it ranks 16th on the world’s safest country list. You shouldn’t be (too) afraid of being scammed or mugged, nor getting into any kind of traffic accident. 

However, a little caution doesn’t hurt when it comes to the most common of crimes, such as pickpocketing. This is not something to be anxious —it takes place even in the safest of towns. As long as you keep your wits you and practice basic safety precautions, you’ll have little to be afraid of while studying abroad in Netherlands.

Anne Frank House

Uni trips to the Anne Frank House? Now THAT’S an experience. 

When's the best time of year to study in the Netherlands? And for how long?

You should absolutely consider summer study abroad in the Netherlands—it’s the best time of the year, clocking in with average temperatures around 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Even on the hottest of days, you’ll still be able to enjoy many outdoor activities, like drinking pale lagers on rooftops with friends or going for long bike rides. 

Rainy season strikes in the fall, so if you’re planning on spending football season on a semester program in the Netherlands, be sure to pack your raincoat and boots! On the bright side, you’ll have premier access to neighbor Germany’s Oktoberfest. Winter is absolutely gorgeous here, so if you can get your hands on a short-term winter break program, you’ll be 100% charmed in no time—especially if you catch the Christmas markets or go for a quick ski trip to the Alps.

Overall, short term programs give you a taste of the Dutch way of life—you can try out their cuisine, peek into their magnificent museums, get sticky fingers from stroopwafels. However, if you’re someone that reeeeally enjoys scenic bike rides along the coast or wants to learn a LOT Dutch architecture, culture, and history, you should opt to stay a bit longer. You can get a closer glimpse of their lifestyle, and maybe even learn the language. Ja? Ja!

What are popular subjects to study in the Netherlands?

Many international students flock to the Netherlands to study economics and business. Wondering why so many students decide to come to Netherlands to learn these subjects? It must have something to do with the fact that Phillips, Heineken, Shell, KLM and ING are all Dutch multinationals. Those Dutch know biz on a global scale!

Other popular subjects to study in the Netherlands include social sciences and engineering. STEM students will love studying in the Netherlands, as the Dutch were among the first nations to combat the effects of climate change using science. 

Bicycles in front of canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands

No better way to get to class than bikes and canals! 😎

Where in the Netherlands should I study abroad?

The most popular cities amongst international students are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Utrecht, but Eindhoven and The Hague aren’t too far behind. 

  • Amsterdam is famous for its red light district, but there’s so much more than that. There are idyllic canals, more bicycles than you can count, incredible museums, and a modern transport network that can get you just anywhere in the Netherlands and Europe. 
  • Rotterdam is an absolute must-see for any student in the Netherlands, as no other city captures the innovative spirit of the modern Dutch. After being bombed in 1940, this city has rebuilt itself boldly. You’ve gotta see it to believe it. 
  • Utrecht is a longtime favorite of students, no doubt in part due to the presence of Utrecht University, a highly reputable university around the globe. If you want your experience abroad in the Netherlands to feel more intimate and student-centered, this city is your jam.

The most popular universities for international students in the Netherlands are Leiden University, Utrecht University, Maastricht University, and the University of Amsterdam, as their degrees are widely recognized. Leiden, with it’s centuries old architecture, is the oldest university in the country. Utrecht, positioned in the center of the country, boasts a medieval look and a bell tower that overlooks the city. Maastricht has a vibrant cultural scene, complete with cobblestone streets. And finally Amsterdam, the world’s darling when it comes to visiting Holland, needs no introduction.

No matter where you choose to study in the Netherlands for your year, semester, or summer abroad, know that it will not be a mistake. The 2018 World University ranking list proves that 13 Dutch universities are ranked top in 200. Their well-known student-oriented system is highly valued at both national and international level; the academic approach is participative and aims to promote analytical creative thinking that enables you to solve practical problems.

Picture of self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh at Van Gogh museum in Netherlands

In the words of Van Gogh himself, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything”? #Justgo

How much does it cost to study in the Netherlands?

The enrollment fees and tuition fees are lower for EU students studying abroad in Netherlands (around 1,700EUR/year) and can range from 5,000EUR-15,000EUR/year for non-EU students based on the programme you apply for. There are options for foreign students to get a part time job or partial/full scholarships to help them cover these expenses. More on that later. ;-)

If you’re rethinking studying abroad because you might not be able to cover the expenses, think no more. This  will offer enough possibilities for financial aid during your year abroad. Be mindful the deadlines.

The cost of living in Netherlands is not as high relative to other countries of Western Europe. Most students studying outside of Amsterdam can cover their monthly expenses with ~1000 EUR, but if you’re planning to live in Amsterdam, you’ll need to budget a few hundred more EUR/month. 

How to keep your costs low. Choose housing that is out of the city center and in shared accommodations. Keep in mind that before renting a place, the landlord will request a deposit that’s often worth one month’s rent. Food costs will ultimately depend on your lifestyle—we recommend cooking for yourself primarily, but saving some money to put towards nights and meals out (average 10-15EUR in a budget resto). Budget around 200 EUR/month for internet and utilities. If you want to save on transport, make like the locals and buy or rent a bike! 

Save money for souvenirs, exhibit admissions, and extra helpings of patatjes (thick, handcut french fries) with curry ketchup. If you love museums, we highly recommend investing in a Museumkaart, a museum card that gives you access to the best spots.

What are the best weekend student trips from the Netherlands?

We’re glad you asked. The Netherlands is well connected, both inside its borders and internationally. You can take day trips within the Netherlands to places like the adorable town Groet or the friendly city of Nijmegen, rich in microbreweries. Explore using a free made by locals. If you’re a celebratory kinda person and LOVE holidays, try to plan your studies to be in Amsterdam during the or .

You can go for a weekend getaway with friends by train to Berlin or by bus for less than 40 EUR. If you want to practice your rusty high school French, visit Lille, a border city with strong Flemish influence. Brussels and cultural-powerhouse Bruges are only a few hours away, and hell, you can put the cherry on top of the Benelux cake with a quick visit to Luxembourg.

Want to go even FURTHER or have a longer break to fill with fun? Hop on a budget flight (Ryanair might give you headaches with their luggage policies, but you can’t argue those prices!) and head out to Malta, Barcelona, Dublin… the possibilities are basically endless. 

What are some cultural tidbits I should be aware of?

Don’t be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone! No one is going to make you wear wooden clogs during your Netherlands study abroad unless you want to try a pair yourself (which we do recommend, haha!). Let’s start!

In the classroom:

  • Here’s what you need to know the academic culture when it comes to your studies. The professors are approachable and there's little hierarchy in the professor-student relationship. Don’t expect feedback if you did a good job on your essay. Receiving one is not a good sign. Don’t expect compliments either. You are expected to be independent in your work, even during the project work. The Dutch put a strong emphasis on the process of problem solving; simply come up with a reasonable solution and defend it. It doesn’t have to be the perfect one. 
  • Besides traditional lectures, expect to have workshops and discussions. Discussions in the class are encouraged, as you learn the best from your peers. You are expected to apply active learning methods: to ask questions and answer them through studying, to reason whether you agree or not with the topic you are reading, to think of alternative solutions and the consequences. 
Windmills surrounded by tulips in Netherlands

Windmill, windmill for the land! 🎶

In daily life

  • The Dutch are quite straightforward and sometimes they can come off as rude. It’s in their culture to be open and direct the topics they wish to discuss. Be patient and excuse yourself if they cross the line. They will appreciate the honesty.
  • The Dutch like their coffee and they take time off every day from 10.30 to 11 to take a cup and socialize. This is called koffietijd—coffee time. The Dutch have their work life and their leisure life, and you’re not supposed to mix those two. If someone asks you to join them at the break, please do. This is how you’ll learn that in the Dutch culture you’re supposed respect the right order of things. This entire idea is summed up into one Dutch word, nette (neat): Work when you should work, party when you should party. 
  • People in the Netherlands love to stick to their schedule—don’t be surprised to hear you’ll need to schedule a hangout with classmates weeks in advance.
  • If you’re invited into a Dutch house for dinner while studying abroad in Netherlands, you should bring a gift for the host/hostess. The usual ones include flowers (odd number), a book, or a box of chocolates, but never a bottle of wine. The host/hostess will already have selected a bottle that goes with the dinner. You should also know it is considered rude to leave the table for any reason before the meal is over, especially to take a phone call.

Bonus: Studying abroad in Amsterdam tips 

If you choose Amsterdam for your Netherlands study abroad, you’ll make a great choice! 

You’ll make friends easily over a pint or two of craft beer. If you’re a beer lover, these will be perfect for a night out with classmates. Don’t forget to visit the in the nearby Zaandam only 30mins by train. Be sure to avoid big tourist groups and take your time in exploring the all shapes and sizes of the Dutch shoe in the Clog museum: the wedding, the Sunday, and the everyday clog being just some of them.

Every Sunday, at big squares, you can find a “second hand everything” market. If you hang out long enough, you’ll surely dig out something interesting. There’s something that fits everyone’s taste: old postcards, maps, books, dolls, old clocks. 

The last studying abroad in Amsterdam tip is the most valuable. Try to always remember to be yourself and be kind to people. The greatest kindness you will experience from strangers that will help you no matter where you are when you need it the most.

Colorful red Tulips in Netherlands

Frolick amongst the Land of Tulips (and no, these aren’t plastic!) 🌷🌷🌷

Tulips aren’t my favorite flower. Should I be worried?

Alright, let’s be honest here: There’s so much more to Dutch culture than just windmills, clogs, and weirdly pronounced cheeses. There’s art. will teach you the Dutch history, arts, and explorations. Van Gogh museum will tell you the story of the artist’s life and work. There are sports, like field hockey and volleyball. There’s activism. Explore new lifestyle getting to know people that squat or learning how to . There’s community. and learn from their experience. 

Accept the challenge of living in another culture that is so similar, yet so different. Embrace the adventure. Seek a new sense of self! It will shape you into an open-minded, loving, independent future self. And there’s no better time for that then now.

What are the best programs for studying in the Netherlands?

So, now that you’re certain it’s safe enough to move to the Netherlands and you’ve chosen when to go, let’s talk the study programs. 

Let’s list the programs for those of you who are a bit more adventurous. Applying for these programs will teach you organizational skills, respecting deadlines, and filling out the paperwork. You will have to go through whole process on your own, but that will only make you more resourceful. 

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1.

Besides studying Cell Biology and History of Psychology, you will have a chance to learn so much more the Dutch culture, art history, and gender rights. This programme starts in fall and lasts a full academic year. Start collecting all the documents you need, the application period is close. 

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2. AIFS Study Abroad: European Art and Architecture

Earn 3 credits travelling through 5 European countries and studying Arts and Architecture. Sounds interesting? How spending 5 nights in London, 4 in Rome, 4 in Florence, 4 in Paris, 3 in Amsterdam, 2 in Venice and one night in Lausanne? If you’re answer is: Sounds like a plan, click on the links below to find out how to apply.

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3. USAC THE NETHERLANDS: The Hague - Undergraduate Courses

Explore The Hague, the third largest city in the Netherlands, one of the greenest European cities and the center of international politics and justice. Study anything from IT to European studies at undergraduate or postgraduate level. But besides studying, explore the festivals that happen on the streets: King’s day in April, Prince’s day in September, Flag day and Tong Tong Fair. Never heard of them? No worries. Explore international Arts and culture through fun activities. 

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4. Study in the Netherlands with IES Abroad - Social Sciences & Humanities

This program is one of the oldest and the most trusted. By deciding on it, you get the opportunity to explore Amsterdam’s streets and canals for the duration of a semester or a year. You will be studying in the heart of Amsterdam and you will have the freedom of structuring your own study programme. If you choose IES Abroad Amsterdam, you will not have to worry a thing. IES Staff will support you 24/7, every step of the way. 

Browse ALL Study Abroad Programs in the Netherlands & Find the One For You

Now’s your chance to study in the Netherlands

Vondelpark entrance in Amsterdam

There’s no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than eating Stroopwafels in Vondelpark!

There are no more excuses you can make. You know how much this experience will enrich you as a person and how much it will broaden your international network of friends. We showed you all the possibilities to learn culture, arts, and travel to near and far destinations. Now it all depends on you.

You learned everything there is to know before studying abroad in the Netherlands. What are you waiting for? Start sending in those applications!

Get 5 FREE Program Matches in the Netherlands

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