Ellen Wilson

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University: NHL Stenden University

Course: International Teacher Education for Primary Schools

Which year you are in: First year

Home Town in UK: Torpoint, Cornwall

1. Why did you choose to study abroad?

I wanted to study international teacher education at university level and as this is not currently available in the UK, I then explored other avenues and ultimately came across the course I am studying now, here in The Netherlands. Also, the lower cost of tuition fees appealed to me and as a lover of travel I am always wanting to move onto the next place and felt like I had lived in rainy England for too long! (although I did not know at the time that the Dutch weather was just as bad).

2. How would you rate the assistance of the university before you arrived (the application process, finding accommodation, sorting out financial matters)?

As I was overseas volunteering in a remote school where I had very little internet access over the summer holidays, I had to greatly rely on my mum to help me prepare for university. I landed back in the UK on August 30th and had to catch the ferry to The Netherlands on September 1st. This quick turn around meant that my poor mum was left to organise my accommodation and finances etc, however I understand that she was in good contact via email with the university and Ton, who is head of the course, was a brilliant help in providing all the information to my mum.

3. How would you rate the assistance of the university when you arrived (orientation etc)?

As stated above, I was away till the very end of summer, which then meant I therefore could not attend the orientation days. I was at the university for the first day of the academic year however and the teachers were very welcoming in assisting in my arrival. Even though I missed out on the initial ‘get to know one another’ activities, I was treated the same as everyone else and made to feel at ease which was a great relief.

4. Did you feel prepared when you arrived and/or what surprised you?

I felt prepared in terms of home/student life as I think I had packed a life times supply of Weetabix into my case, although with reference to studying and work load, I was reasonably surprised it's fair to say with the volume of work involved. I think there is an impression given in the UK that perhaps Universities of Applied Sciences aren’t as well established or as creditable as say a Russell Group, but I would very much challenge those people to reconsider their judgement as there is so much hard work and dedication required – although of course I can only speak on behalf of my course. The surprise is not a complaint may I point out; the challenge is very worthwhile as the university really recognise the hard work involved and it feels really rewarding after accomplishing every assignment, teaching practice etc.

5. How would you rate the learning environment (teaching style, studying with other international students, non-native English speaking lecturers)?

The learning environment is extremely positive. The fact that all students at Stenden in Meppel are enrolled in the same course means that we can all help one another out and share ideas. Furthermore, the small class sizes mean that lectures are often quite informal and involve group activities and debates; this is something that I love as there are very few dull sessions. When I visualise what a lecture is, I often conjure up an image of a great theatre filled with hundreds of students consisting of half furiously scribbling notes and the other half asleep. In my classes we all participate, and our teachers vary our lessons and create fun activities to suit all of our different learning styles. For example, many of our teachers encourage ‘energisers’ halfway through a lesson, whereby we take 5 minutes to play a game/sing a song, just to refresh and regain our focus.


Studying with international students took a while to get used to as often during break times for example, many choose to communicate using their first language but during classes everyone is required to speak English. It’s really interesting to find out about everyone’s backgrounds and see during class discussion how differently we all think about certain topics due to our cultural identity.

6. Would you recommend studying abroad to someone your age who might never have thought about it before?

I definitely would recommend it is the simple answer. People think that studying abroad is a leap too big to take but then consider how many UK students live in Cornwall for instance and go to university in Glasgow or Leeds. It takes one hour from my local airport to Amsterdam – much quicker than travelling by any British train across the country.

7. Is there anything you wish someone had told you at the time you applied?

Although the tuition fees are much lower, be prepared for greater living costs. Food for example, is much more expensive. 

8. Would you recommend your course, university, city to British students?

I would only recommend my specific course to people who are genuinely interested in pursuing a teaching career and are willing to travel far distances for many weeks at a time. Likewise, as much as I personally love Meppel, I think you have to be happy living in a very small community. If you want the big student life that is typical of the UK, then I would still suggest to consider studying abroad but would say cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam would be better options. I would certainly recommend my university. Stenden offers a completely unique course. The teachers are amazing and dedicate so much time to answering questions, the small classes allow for some great discussions and the fact that people come from all areas of the globe has really opened up my eyes to other cultures.

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