Why the Netherlands?

Given the choice of nearly 200 countries, why did you choose to study in the Netherlands? Tilburg University has thousands of international students who travel to the Netherlands from all continents of the world – although I haven’t met someone from Antarctica just yet.

Image: Ton Toemen

International students come from vastly different backgrounds and experiences, but we are united in the shared circumstances of being an international in Tilburg. In the spirit of exploring these shared circumstances, I asked international students why they chose the Netherlands. I found the responses interesting in how they differed from my own reasons for choosing the Netherlands. 

As an international student myself, it is interesting to compare the journeys that led us to meet at TIU. Personally, the Netherlands was my choice for a messy tangle of reasons. TIU’s international rankings certainly helped, but so did the shared cultural ties between the Netherlands and South Africa – my home country. As a former Dutch colony, South Africa, and especially Afrikaans culture, sometimes seems like a mini Netherlands.

While I thought of this, I realised that this is unique to me as a South African. I also chose the Netherlands as a European country for the better life opportunities offered here, in comparison to South Africa.  

The choice to study in Tilburg is informed by entirely different reasons for other students. Sandra Vettikattuvalappil, an LLB Global Law student living in Qatar and from India, was motivated by the course options available to her. Vettikattuvalappil explains that the Netherlands offered an exciting course in a field that “doesn’t exist in a lot of places”. She also adds that the Netherlands is “known among people in my country to be very peaceful and friendly”, with “such beautiful pictures” of the country, like the world famous tulips.

This motivated Vettikattuvalappil to choose the Netherlands and to “study in such a pretty place”. Serafeim Liakopoulos, a law student from Greece, was also motivated by the “unique program” offered at TIU. He also mentions the “modern facilities and beautiful campus” as a draw card for Tilburg University. 

Many students chose Tilburg for similar reasons, but some found themselves in the Netherlands by circumstance. Elise Walsh, from Dublin, Ireland, is a sociology and information technology student who is studying in the Netherlands “randomly, as there weren’t many options with Covid”. Liakopoulos also included the Netherlands’ location as an attractive choice as it is “much closer” to his home country than other options, such as the USA or UK. 

Regardless of the reasons for choosing the Netherlands, international students share the unique perspective of experiencing Tilburg as an introduction to the country as a whole. Walsh offers a relatable summary of a new life in the Netherlands that I think all international students have experienced. It’s certainly been my experience, and I leave it here: “I love the people here, I find them extremely friendly and helpful. I really like the ethos of how the country runs with the bikes, train transport and especially cheaper rent and living costs in general.” 

Why did you choose to study in the Netherlands? Let me know on social media @universonline!

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