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I have enjoyed nearly every day I spent in University in the last 3 years" - Q&A on studying in Utrecht

A German student currently completing her degree in veterinary medicine in Utrecht (the Netherlands), talks to us about her experience as an international student.
BY Julia Regul Singh |   08-02-2019
 Ms. Julia Schacht

Ms. Julia Schacht is currently an international student at the Universiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands. Originally from a town only 220km east of Utrecht, Julia grew up on “the other side” of the border in Germany, in a town called Osnabrück, Germany.

As long as she can remember, Julia wanted to become a veterinarian. From the age of five, Julia spent a lot of her time riding horses - first as a hobby, later as a teenage member of the German team at European Championships.  For her tournaments, she travelled all over Europe, meeting people from across the globe and thus nurturing a love for other cultures and travels.

Despite her hard work and high scores in her Abitur (German high school diploma), Julia couldn’t find a University in Germany to study veterinary medicine when she graduated from high-school. Luckily, she had a Plan B!
 

Why did you choose to study abroad?

When I was really young I dreamt of becoming a vet one day. I worked really hard during my high school to achieve the points needed to get into my dream University in Germany. I finished with an average of a 1.8 (best is a 1, worst is a 6). Of course, I should have been happy with that but unfortunately you need only the best marks (under an average of 1.2) to have the chance to study medicine or veterinary medicine in my home country (It is slowly changing now, because we have too few doctors, but that's for another conversation).

The only thing I could have done was to wait several years, do some tests to increase my chances (which does not always work from what I heard and experienced) or to study abroad. Initially, I chose to wait for one year, but I wasn't sure about getting in this way, so I searched for a plan B (which is not as easy because there are so many sites, and everybody says something different). As I already said, plan B is often to start studying abroad.
 

Why and how did you choose The Netherlands?

After a lot of research, I found out that it was possible to study at a private University in, for example, Budapest, Valencia or England. Because in Budapest you have a lot of courses in German you can often transfer from there to Germany after a few years if you want to. For me this was not an option as I wanted to study somewhere, where I could still ride my horses on a daily basis. So actually I didn't choose Valencia for the same reason (Valencia is great though - unbelievably beautiful, nice people and the foooooddd.....).

For me England, wasn't an option either because of the high study fees they ask for, but if that’s no problem for you, why not have a look!

So, after these three private university options I learned that you can start studying veterinary medicine in Belgium without any recommendation letter, without any expensive fees and without doing tests to get in. You "only" have to learn Dutch and voila - you are in. After I got this information, I was curious about how difficult it would be to learn Dutch and I saw a lot of courses in Holland.
 

How and why did you choose the University of Utrecht?

No sooner said than done, I packed my stuff, moved to Holland, started to learn Dutch and found out that they also have a Veterinary University in Utrecht, which is also a really good one and ranked the fifth best for veterinary medicine in the world (according to QS Rankings).

Because I loved Holland right away and I found a lot of loving and caring people around me I didn't want to leave again.
 

Tell us a bit about the Application Process and the Requirements to study at Utrecht as a foreign student

I wrote several e-mails to the University and this is what I had to do to get in:

  1. You have to finish your A level (Abitur)
  2. Biology has to be a primary course (Leistungskurs)
  3. You have to have chemistry, mathematics and physics until you finish school
  4. You have to have proof of language skills in Dutch from the Dutch government

Because I didn't have the right profile in school I had to do all of the courses AGAIN in the Netherlands - which was, looking back, not a bad thing, because I learned a lot of Dutch during the courses. But during that time, I was devastated because I thought I could never finish all of these courses in a language I just learned for a couple of weeks.


Tell us about your course: What degree will you get at the end of the course? How long is the course? Will you be able to work in Germany if you chose to?

To become a veterinarian you have to have your bachelor’s and master’s degree. Both the degrees take up to 3 years, so in total I will have to study 6 years. In Germany this would be the same.

I can go on to work in every European country as well as in the USA, Australia or New Zealand. This is actually one of the advantages I have because I study in the Netherlands. With a German degree I would have to take some extra courses and exams to have the possibility to work in the USA.
 

What is the plan once you have your degree in your pocket?

I would like to earn my PhD once I finish my Master’s. I don’t know yet whether I want to do so in the Netherlands or somewhere else. The University of Utrecht tries to help its students to study internationally, so it would not be a problem if I wanted to do so somewhere else, or in cooperation with another university.
 

What is your student life like? (All work or some fun too? Do you meet many international students?)

As I am studying in Dutch I have to admit that the majority of my friends are also from the Netherlands. However, there are many international sororities, student clubs etc. so it is easy to get to know new people.

Veterinary medicine is a lot of hard work, but it is also much fun. Dutch people love their free time activities outside their house so (mainly in summer) there are many things to do. Because Utrecht is quiet a students city there are a lot of pubs and cheap party palaces (don’t tell my parents).

 

How international is Utrecht? – Are there many students from abroad? Will you study or intern abroad during the duration of your course?

I think Utrecht is quiet international. There is the Utrecht University College, which is mainly for international students, and there are also other great English courses you could take.

Also I never really felt as a “foreigner” because in my opinion Dutch people are really open minded and they don’t mind to have an entire conversation in English with you. So there will be no problem making new friends – even from the Netherlands.
 

Any regrets? Tips? Or thoughts - for students to follow into your footsteps?

To learn Dutch - I took a one-month course which was a great start. I really would do that just to have the basics. Afterwards I tried to only speak Dutch, which was hard sometimes, but it really helps.

For veterinary medicine I still needed some more courses from my A levels. Therefore I enrolled at an institute called Boswell Beta to get my physics and chemistry degree on a higher level.

So, after some hard months, I got in and I can tell you that this was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life so far.

I love the Netherlands, I love the people, I really do love Utrecht. And I have enjoyed nearly every day I spent in University in the last 3 years (of course I had struggles sometimes, especially in the first year, due to the language struggles. But no pain no gain, hey?)
 

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