Slowly turning windmills, endless seas of vibrant tulips, and the clip clop of wooden clogs are some of the first things that come to mind when thinking about the Netherlands, but the small European nation is also much more than its most recognizable features. Boasting one of the highest quality of life indices on Earth, the Netherlands is a progressive, highly educated and highly interconnected nation. Therefore, high school programs in the Netherlands are an excellent choice for students seeking both short and long term stays abroad.
Full-year high school programs in the Netherlands will take students to a wide variety of communities across Holland, both large and small. However, it is important to keep in mind that the Netherlands is a relatively small nation. Regardless of the permanent residence of a student in-country, no other location is more than a few hour’s train ride away. Still, there are three main cities spread across Holland that are considered the economic, political, and cultural hubs. These cities will all be points of interest for students participating in full year high school programs in the Netherlands and are also likely to be the main points of interest for short term programs.
Amsterdam is both the most populous Dutch city and its constitutional capital. Also one of the more famous cities in Europe, Amsterdam is a tourist hub and its airport is likely to be the point of entry for most students in the Netherlands. Founded in the 12th century, Amsterdam still features historic canals and narrow streets that one might expect to find in a classic European city.
Amsterdam may be the official capital of the country but The Hague is where the actual governing gets done. Home to the buildings of the Dutch government and parliament, The Hague is a modern city with old world charm. Also located here are the 150 or so foreign embassies to be found in Holland as well as the official United Nations World Court. Those interested in history and politics will need to make visiting The Hague a top priority during their high school program in the Netherlands.
Rotterdam is the last of the three largest cities and is arguably the economic hub of the Netherlands (and perhaps Europe as well). The port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, and until recently was the busiest port in the world. Economics compliment a long and storied history in the city, and its cultural and fine arts attractions are well known throughout Europe.
High School Programs in the Netherlands
High school programs in the Netherlands take on two distinct forms. The first is the well-known semester or year-long study abroad experience. While participating in a high school study abroad program, students may spend six months to one year living in the Netherlands and attending a public high school. Students can expect to have all of the amenities of a first world nation at their disposal during this time, including reliable, high speed internet which will be incredibly useful for completing schoolwork and for staying in touch with family and friends back home.
Still, an experience like this is far from simply a vacation as the education system in the Netherlands is among the best in the world. International students will be placed into high schools in the communities where their host families live and will have the opportunity to take almost any course offered so long as they are qualified.
A major part of the international experience, especially in a non-English speaking country, is language learning. Many short-term high school programs in the Netherlands do not require students to be fluent by any means when they first arrive, but full-year students will need at least a working knowledge of the Dutch language. Between formal courses in school and conversing with local host families, the year-long experience makes for an ideal learning environment for studying Dutch.
A second type of high school program in the Netherlands exists for students who want to travel, but don’t have a full year to spend abroad. Cultural trips typically last two to four weeks and expose students to the highlights of Dutch culture and history. The nation’s major cities are often the primary destinations for these programs, with language and cultural exposure being the main focus of the trip.
Scholarships & Costs
The costs of high school programs in the Netherlands will depend greatly on the length of the program and the type of placement or activities. Short term programs (two to four weeks) are often fairly strictly scheduled and organized, meaning that students and their families are able to pay for a large majority of the costs pre-departure in the form of packaged program fees. Even if some expenses aren’t included in the initial costs of the program, program providers almost always give students an estimate of the total amount they will need to bring with them for additional spending, based on the planned activities and typical spending habits of students.
Longer high school programs are a bit more difficult to estimate a budget for, since a much larger percentage of expenses will be based on your personal decisions and spending habits. For example, will you be taking trips every weekend? Will you eat out regularly or will you dine at home? These kinds of expenses and decisions can play a large role in determining the costs of high school programs in the Netherlands. Outside of packaged program costs, it will be your responsibility to manage your finances, and how well you do so will determine whether or not the costs associated with high school programs in the Netherlands make or break your budget.
If the costs of high school programs in the Netherlands exceeds your available budget, there are scholarship opportunities available to help offset general program costs. Scholarships for high school programs abroad are typically based on a combination of academic achievement and financial need; additionally, there are also scholarships offered to specific populations of students, usually because they are traditionally underrepresented in high school programs abroad.
Accommodation & Visas
Accommodations for students participating in full-year high school programs in the Netherlands are almost always courtesy of host families. The experience of living with a host family is a wonderful opportunity to engage with the culture and everyday life of any country being visited, and the Netherlands is no exception. Learning the Dutch language, while not a strict requirement of all high school programs in the Netherlands, is made infinitely easier by having a household full of conversation partners. Add to this the benefit of having a comfortable home in which to live and a solid support network for dealing with any issues that may arise, and it is easy to see why host families are such a great option for international high school students.
Visas in the Netherlands are relatively simple to obtain, especially for high school programs; since these programs are typically arranged by agencies that consistently send students abroad, most are highly experienced with the visa process. Most high school program providers will be able to walk students through the process of obtaining their visas and any applicable residency permits, as well as assist in enrolling in the Dutch education system.
Dutch visa applicants should be prepared to submit financial evidence that they are able to support themselves while in country as well as evidence of a departing flight at the end of their stay. On top of this, students under the age of 18 will need to submit signed letters from the school in which they will enroll, their parents giving consent for them to study abroad, and the host family they will be staying with acknowledging responsibility for the student while in country.
Benefits & Challenges
Exposure to the Dutch way of life can be invaluable in broadening students’ understanding of the Netherlands. The culture and long history of the Dutch people provide an excellent learning opportunity that will make itself evident regardless of the length of each student’s stay.
Full-year exchange students will deal with their fair share of challenges, but homesickness and the language barrier are two of the most daunting. However, for those with a working knowledge of Dutch, high school programs in Holland will be a way to experience a world class education system while simultaneously making memories and friends that will last a lifetime.