Learning in an International Environment

I’m five weeks into my year at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. The initial shock, hectic administrative responsibilities and the euphoria of a new school in a foreign country are coming to an end. Life is settling in and I’m feelin’ like a Rotterdammer!

I’ve been able to measure my comfort in the Netherlands by how comfortable I’ve felt in Albert Hejin, their large supermarket chain. I enjoy cooking and I’m a Trader Joe’s gal. So, the TJ’s to Albert Hejin was a big shift for me. (I miss the seasonal specials!!)

But aside from the groceries, I am appreciating my education here so much as we get further into the term. There are many differences in the styles of education and the environment. In comparison to what I’ve grown accustomed to, it’s been great to learn in a different way. It shocked me out of my routine studying and usual expectations of how courses will go.

A few surface differences include:

  • the term system schedule
  • being assigned multiple readings from scientific journals every week
  • how almost all of my assignments are done in groups with very loose instruction and freedom
  • and how my classes are seminars in which students lead the discussions.

It’s too soon to say what methods I personally work with better, but what I do know for sure is how much I value learning in an international environment. The discussions I’ve had with my new classmates range from differences in tuition prices and class sizes to their traditions at home to really interesting perspectives on the topic at hand.

Erasmus University is known as an international environment. I’m able to speak English and get by quite easily. Although, I do feel a bit illiterate when my partners in class speak German, Dutch and English interchangeably, like it’s normal. So I’m really inspired to pick up some Dutch for the year that I am here. I am taking a class I found called “Erasmus Language Sharing,” which I definitely recommend because it is taught by fellow students in a relaxed environment, there are multiple levels taught for each language and it was only 45 Euros for 10 weeks of instruction!

I’m currently in a course “Cultural Identities and New Media.” I am the only American in my class alongside students of 16 other nationalities. At times I feel pressured that if I speak in class, my classmates will assume I’m speaking for all of America, which we all know is completely impossible! So with a course subject like cultural identity, answers, thoughts and ideas are coming from so many perspectives. This isn’t only based on their nationality, but to all that intersect and affect culture. This includes age, sex, sexuality, social class, religion or spiritual practice, etc. The subject matter has added to my fascination with the dynamics of culture and identity.

Another course I am taking is called “Popular Music: Industry and Society” (which is great to take in an international environment) One chapter was about authenticity in artists. To my surprise, my lecturer turned on a “Noisey” documentary on the American trap music group, Migos. The discussion began on whether or not the group is authentic. I noticed everyone chuckled at the images of the group in the documentary for their behaviors. Many of them admitted they had never heard of Migos. Since I know plenty of people who get hyped and dance to trap music, I loved hearing what others thought about it.

These are a few examples of how I’ve felt within the last four weeks. Going forward, I’m motivated and engaged to learn more about not only the subjects of the courses, but also the people I’m sitting next to in class. It’s my most valued form of education!

I hope this gives perspective to anyone curious about the the type of education they’d be getting at Erasmus University while abroad!

Kelsey Deguia is media studies major. She will be studying at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands for the 2016-17 academic year.

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