Who Studies in the Netherlands?

Posted on 18. Sep, 2014 by in Culture, History, Travel

When I was living in Texas, people wanted to study abroad in very particular places: Paris, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome or Berlin. My first encounter with the Netherlands was with my now-boyfriend Riccardo. His university, Maastricht University, had an exchange with mine, and he went for a semester to study. I must admit that I knew very little of the Netherlands. I probably only knew about Amsterdam, perhaps a bit about tulips and windmills, but that was it. I hate to admit that I didn’t even know the Dutch language existed. Ironically enough, now I live in the Netherlands, speak Dutch and know there is much more to this country than tulips and windmills (although I love buying fresh tulips and my favorite restaurant is besides a windmill).

As I researched for a university for my masters, I learned a lot about Dutch universities. The university I chose, Maastricht University, is a very young university. It was founded in 1976 to help with the shortage of schools of medicine. Limburg was in need of economic stimulus after the mines in the region had closed down, and a top quality university was a great opportunity. Maastricht University distinguishes itself from other universities because it uses Problem Based Learning for its study programs. Through PBL, students learn to solve real-world problems, and become much more engaged in their studies. The university now has over 16,000 students studying a variety of bachelors, masters and PhDs in Business, Arts, Law, Medicine and Psychology. Most, if not all, of the programs are taught in English, which attracts a lot of foreign students.

Utrecht University is probably the most recognized Dutch university in the Netherlands. It is the top Dutch university and holds number 16 in Europe and 57 worldwide according to the “Academic Ranking of World Universities” by the University of Shanghai. Unlike Maastricht University, Utrecht is a very old university founded in 1636 and has almost 30,000 student registered. Twelve Nobel Prize winners have had some sort of connection with Utrecht, in short or long-term positions as professors or researchers.

Groningen University is another old university founded in 1614. This university had the first female student in the Netherlands, first female lecturer in the Netherlands, first Dutch astronaut and the first president of the European Central Bank. That is a lot of firsts! The university is very involved with the local primary and secondary schools hosting annual events where professors and students from the university hold lectures, projects and classes for students. This is another large institution with about 48,000 students.

If you want to know more about Dutch universities, Nuffic is the Dutch organizations in charge of promoting and informing about universities and scholarships in the Netherlands. Perhaps you can pursue a university degree AND practice your Dutch all in the same trip!

Useful Vocabulary:

de universiteit- university

de ranglijst- the ranking

de opleiding- education (but more on a training aspect)

het onderwijs- education

de lezing- lecture

het schoolgeld- the tuition

Prinsjesdag 2014 – instability, but also hope

Posted on 17. Sep, 2014 by in Culture, Dutch Vocabulary, News, Politics

Yesterday, September 16, was Prinsjesdag (Prince’s Day)! It is held every year on the third Tuesday of September. This year is special, but only in the sense that the Koninkrijk exists for 200 years, and thus all traditions of this day were held for the 200th time. Koning Willem-Alexander read out the troonrede (throne speech, or speech from the throne) in the Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) in Den Haag (The Hague). The day is about the begroting (budget) for the coming year, and the long-term ideas of the regering (government). However, in the troonrede, the koning also emphasized the unstable situations in the world, and that they should not find roots in the Netherlands. After the speech, as tradition so desires, the speaker of the Eerste Kamer (the First Chamber: the Dutch Senate) shouts “leve de koning!” (Long live the king!) upon which everybody present responds “Hoera! Hoera! Hoera!) (hurray!).

The 2014 Troonrede:

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The miljoenennota (budget memorandum, literally memorandum of millions), which found its name back in time when the government was handling millions instead of billions, draws up the financial plans of the government for the coming year. Along with it comes the begroting (budget). Just like in the past few years, it had leaked before Prinsjesdag. On the day itself, the minister van financiën (secretary of finance) takes the miljoenennota to the Parliament in the (in)famous koffertje (case) that says “Derde dinsdag in september”. There, the minister explains the miljoenennota before the Tweede Kamer (the Second Chamber: the Dutch House of Representatives). The main points are that the gemiddelde Nederlander (average Dutchman) will have a bit more money to spend, and that defensie (defense) will have a higher budget as well.

Apart from the political and financial importance of this day, it also shows a lot of glamour and splendor. Willem-Alexander arrives at the Ridderzaal in the Gouden Koets (Golden Carriage) together with his wife Máxima in the vintage fashion of centuries ago. During their tour through Den Haag, people are standing along the road, waving and cheering for their king. And at the end of the day, the balkonscène must still happen. After the koning left the Ridderzaal, he traditionally stands on the balcony of Paleis Noordeinde and waves to the crowd.

Leve de Koning!



De Gouden Koets (Image by FaceMePLS at Flickr.com)

Happy Songs that Make you Want to Dance

Posted on 15. Sep, 2014 by in Culture

Every morning at 7:30am, the Dutch radio station 3FM makes it a point to cheer people on as they head to work or to school. Chiel Beelen, a DJ at 3FM, calls a listener, usually someone nominated by friends or family, and they must sing the song Begin de dag met een dansje. There are all sorts of singers for this song: sleepy people who just woke up, cheerful singers happy to be on the show, shy singers wanting to hang up, etc. Even if you do not like the song, which is pretty awesome, hearing someone sing it on the radio for all the listeners to hear is very entertaining.

So sing with me!

Begin de dag met een dansje!

Begin de dag met een lach!

Want wie vrolijk is in de morgen!

Die lacht de hele dag!

Ja! Die lacht de hele dag!

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There is another very cheerful song sang by Alfred Jodokus Kwak who is a wonderful and happy duck. He is from a children’s cartoon show. Alfred’s song is the first Dutch song I learned, and I get very happy as I sing it!

Ik ben vandagg zo vrolijk

zo vrolijk

zo vrolijk!

Ik ben behoorlijk vrolijk

zo vrolijk was ik nooit!

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 So next time you are starting your morning just a bit too early and need a cheerful song, practice your Dutch and sing along!