During my four-month exchange in Wageningen University in the Netherlands, I took four courses relating to my specialisation here in Kyoto University. I chose courses that I was interested in and also related to my thesis research.
The number of students enrolled in that programme was large; therefore, classes were quite big compared to classes in Kyoto University. Because of this, they used lectures, seminars, tutorials and group work to learn. Thus, the courses I took in Wageningen were very new to me and at first proved to be difficult, but other students also had the same problem because they all have different academic backgrounds.
It was also interesting because the courses I took were not only taught by one professor but sometimes by five or six different professors or guest lecturers with different specialisations. As a result, you learn different perspectives on the topic they are teaching (i.e. political, economic, scientific, sociological, etc).
Through discussions and group work, I improved a lot in understanding the readings and the teaching style at Wageningen University. Also, they focus on critical thinking and creating or discovering new ideas about the subject to allow the students to flourish and foster fruitful discussions.
Most of the time, we were evaluated through group work, presentation, participation in class, and the exam. In hindsight, it was challenging but my experiences were incredibly helpful for learning new skills and also being open to a new learning environment. I am very happy and satisfied with the results of my study abroad since the skills I have learned can be applied to my own research and for future work or other purposes.
After my exchange application was accepted, the main preparation was to apply for the residence permit if you intend to stay in the Netherlands for 4 months or more. For the residence permit, you need to show you have enough money to live in the Netherlands by presenting your bank account balance or paying the required living fee for each month beforehand; after you arrive it Netherlands, they will refund the money per month. In addition, I had to apply for a Dutch bank account beforehand to receive my living fees, pay my rent and others. Luckily, the application was prepared and handled by Wageningen University and I just needed to fill in details on the form.
Living in the Netherlands, especially at Wageningen University, it is most convenient to have a bicycle because everyone uses one and it is very safe.
There are many social events and societies especially for international students, so there is always a chance to make many new friends, have fun, and experience Dutch culture. For example, the society/club for exchange students or international students will organise dinners or trips to other cities in the Netherlands or other nearby European countries. When I arrived at the university, I was designated a ‘buddy family’ who will help me settle in and enjoy my student life. In my dorm, I lived with 20 other international and Dutch students. However, this varies depending on which dorm you live. Mostly we would have a dorm night for socialising, playing games, or cooking together to try each other’s cuisine every Thursday.
Every Wednesday and Saturday, there is a market in the city centre and many students go there to buy groceries.
Wageningen is a very student friendly city with many international students and the people are very kind.
My main problem in the beginning was the heavy load of reading materials for the courses so it required many hours of self-study after class. Eventually, you will get used to it. Required readings differ depending on your course.
At Wageningen University, it is very common to have group work as part of your grading requirements (sometimes 30-50% of your grade); therefore, it may be difficult if your groupmates are very different or not motivated. Luckily, all my groupmates were very good at working together, listening, helping and being open to each other especially when we faced any problems.
The exam for one of my courses was quite difficult because of the exam question style and the necessity to remember the main points and contents of all the required readings. Also, the Dutch grading system is a little bit different so grading might be different from Kyoto University.
当初の目標と達成度、これから留学する人へのアドバイス -achievement and advises-
My original goal was to study other courses that are not available in Kyoto University, especially to help my thesis research. Also, I wanted to expand my knowledge and learn some critical thinking skills. In the Netherlands, many people are very direct and express their opinions very freely which was good for class discussions and to learn about other people’s opinions about certain topics. I think I was able to achieve this during my study abroad and now I am using what I learnt from Wageningen University for my thesis research theory and methodology.
My advice for others studying abroad is to be open to the new ideas and ways of learning and teaching, culture, language, and others. Don’t be shy or scared, it is challenging, but you will definitely achieve something and gain a sense of satisfaction!!!