Most international students I started with left the Netherlands after graduation (see this article about the ceremony ) to continue their studies elsewhere (or to travel and work and think about life before continuing). A few class mates are sticking around though. Be it because they like Leiden Uni, felt in love or just out of convenience, those people might actually stay much longer then they planned. And there is a clear, positive correlation between learning Dutch and staying in the Netherlands: those who stay also learned some of the local language along the way. Reason enough to convince you to learn a bit of your host country’s language:
Here are my top five reasons to learn Dutch (most certainly if you speak German or one of the Scandinavian languages!):
- Internships: they are just much easier to find if you speak the local language. Even research internships (at least in the field of Clinical Research) are easier to find, because you will be expected to talk to patients at some point. And if you are in a Dutch-speaking research group (yes, those exist), it is nice if you can follow work meetings in Dutch. That being said, there are lots of international Master students that find their internship and thesis positions without speaking a word of Dutch.
- Jobs: for the same reason, walking into a student “uitzendbureau” or work placement agency doesn’t make much sense unless you speak Dutch. If you learn it you stand a better chance to get a student job.
- Get to know the locals: Language is important if you want to leave the international-academic-bubble you might find yourself in. Volunteer work is a great way to get in touch with life outside the university buildings. Check i-doe.nl (or pepdenhaag.nl for The Hague) for volunteer positions that are available for people that still have to practice their Dutch. This is probably one of the cheapest and most efficient options to pick-up some Dutch.
- Information: All important uni information is given in English, at least in the English taught programs. That doesn’t mean that everyone at the faculty speaks constantly English though. It will happen that a Dutch student will discuss something in Dutch with a Dutch teacher. Something that happens to me rather often is that I grasp some mathematical concepts better if they are not only rephrased by another student, but also rephrased in another language.
- Fun stuff: Sport, student and study associations are way more fun if you understand some Dutch and once you are part of a soccer, rowing, basketball or judo team your team mates will make sure you learn enough of the language to follow a match in Dutch and discuss the referee’s last decision.
I hope I convinced you that learning a bit (or some more) Dutch is pretty useful, even if you don’t intend to stay for too long! (and once you learned it you might stick around)
PS: the Mathematical Institute organizes language courses for their international staff members and students