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Journalism of Courage

Life in a Foreign University: How studying MSc in Communication and Information Sciences in Netherlands made me self-reliant

A student shares her experience of studying in The Netherlands, and what she has learned in this short span of time, especially how to manage everything on her own.

Life in a Foreign University, Letters from students abroad, Indian students abroad, Indian students in The Netherlands, study abroadStudying in The Netherlands has made a more independent person (Graphics by Dinkar Sasi/ Image background- Tilburg University)

(This letter is part of a series by The Indian Express where we bring to you the experiences of students at different foreign universities. From scholarships and loans to food and cultural experiences — students tell us how life is different in those countries and things they are learning other than academics)

Sara David Thottappilly

After working as an assistant professor in India for two years, I decided that I wanted to study at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands. Hello, I am Sara David Thottappilly and this is my academic journey. I am from Kochi and I completed Bachelors in English Literature from St Xaviers College, Mumbai. I went on to study MA in English Language and Literature/Letters from English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.

I worked as an assistant professor with Sacred Hearts College in Ernakulam, Kerala. Prior to that, I worked as a pedagogy expert for Venture Village. After three years of work experience I felt I should study further and therefore, I decided to apply for another Master’s degree but this time around, I wanted to explore the culture and life of a foreign country.

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I chose the Netherlands for my Master’s as I have heard great things about the country. My college is known for its social and behavioural sciences and humanities programmes. I am pursuing a degree in Communication and Information Sciences; here it is called an MSc and not MA.

How to apply

Once I decided where I wanted to study, the next step was to figure out the application procedure. To apply to colleges in the Netherlands, you have to register on a site called OSIRIS. It’s an information system that records all the data of the student. You can apply to three courses or universities at a time and then choose the college you want. For my college, I sent a Statement of Purpose and my CV along with the other regular documents that are required.

To finance my course, I applied for an education loan from a government-run bank but it was quite a task to get approval. There was a lot of paperwork which was required and we had to run from pillar to post with the documents. I took a loan against collateral which was provided by my father.

Facing accommodation issue

So far, my experience has been a mix of emotions – the university is great, classes are good but there is a residential crisis in the Netherlands which caused me a great deal of trouble. The university did not mention anything about it and said that they weren’t accountable for the accommodation. I stayed with an acquaintance for a couple of weeks till I found my own place, which in itself was a hassle. I currently reside in a shared independent house which is 11 km away from my university, and the rent is €900 per month.


Education in the Netherlands is different. First, you are not spoon-fed. Since I have taught university students, I know how much they depend on us. Here, you have to do your own research and be thorough with it. For every class, you have to be well-prepared in advance and only then would you understand what is happening. The education system tests your knowledge by application-based questions and not theoretical knowledge. Even the assignments and exams are application-based.

Speaking of culture, it is an independent society. People do everything on their own. Back at home, labour is quite cheap therefore, we get a lot of things including household chores done by domestic helpers. But here, one has to learn how to manage everything on their own. The good aspect is that it teaches you to become self-sufficient. I found it a little difficult at the beginning, however, it is liberating once you learn and achieve it. People here are straightforward, they aren’t rude but they say what they want to.

Food is fine, weather is cold

The weather here is colder than what I am used to. I miss home and the warmth of it. As a person who comes from the land of spices, I find the food here to be quite bland. And, as I don’t like the food outside, I usually cook.


The Covid-19 pandemic affected the study abroad choices of many students, however, it didn’t deter my plans. I was inclined towards the Netherlands for some time and the whole idea to reside here as a student was my motivation. I have been quite busy since I shifted here — from finding a house to managing things along the way. Thankfully, things are finally falling into place and everything is going well. In order to cover my expenses, I am working as a part-time employee in a warehouse.

To the students who want to apply abroad, I would say that be very sure and make wise choices as it is not just pretty landscapes and solo travelling as shown in movies. You will have to manage almost everything on your own, it might seem difficult at first but it will make you an independent person.

First published on: 03-12-2022 at 10:29 IST
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