My roommate spent hours on the phone this week with parents, fellow students, and admission offices. Through the thin walls, I heared her soft voice becoming increasingly desperate. A German psychology student, studying to be a therapist. But she recently found out that this is not possible.
Many Germans do not find a study space for psychology in their own country. The subject is in high demand and universities have strict requirements for admission due to limited capacities. Studying in Amsterdam is an appealing alternative – the psychology program enjoys a good reputation, and the city is only a train ride away. But the German system changed their requirements, so that the Dutch degree does not meet the conditions for the license necessary to become a therapist in Germany anymore.
When I wake up, my roommate already sits in the kitchen, an open laptop and coffee that went cold, trying to find German universities that let her join in the middle of her studies. When I come home at night she is still up, drawing up a cost-benefit analysis of her options. Even though she is half a semester away from a bachelor’s degree, she cannot put it to use in her home country. Neither does she speak Dutch well enough to become a therapist in the Netherlands.
My other roommate and I are both political science students. She is from France; I am from Switzerland. We join her at the kitchen table, reading the news of our respective home countries. Our roommate’s worry becomes ours when we think about our future. The English political science degree is taught for internationals from all over the world. Even though some courses take an in-depth look at a specific region, we lack an education of our own political systems. While I am reading Hobbes, political science students in Switzerland are discussing the latest pension policies. That sort of knowledge might just be what is most relevant for political scientists, who often look for employment in the public sector.
Context-specific knowledge is less relevant for other studies, but it is especially the social science programs that are popular among internationals. The UvA recently decided to implement a numerus fixus for political science, next to the one already in place for psychology.
Whether it is the high academic reputation of the university or the appeal of the city that attracts students – an increasing number of internationals choose to study in Amsterdam. They end up with a good academic degree but without an education embedded in their own national system. If they are neither integrated well enough to stay in the Netherlands for work, this creates difficulty to fit into any employment sector. Countless student flats like ours exist - internationals torn between staying and leaving, looking out for a context that they fit into.
Céline Zahno is a Political Science student at the UvA. She is from Switzerland.